SWaCH, a cooperative of waste pickers engaged in garbage collection across the city, has warned the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) against hiring private contractors for door-to-door waste collection as an alternative to the waste pickers’ organisation.
“The waste pickers of Pune strongly oppose any attempt of privatisation of their livelihoods, and being pushed in the direction of demanding statutory worker wages and benefits available to PMC employees,” stated Suchismita Pai of SWaCH’s outreach team.
Pai said that the probable introduction of private contractors by the PMC under the guise of competition is a clear attempt to deprive waste pickers of their agency and is an attack on their atmanirbharta (self-reliance). She said that SWaCH is an extension of the solid waste management department of the PMC, adding that the waste pickers provide waste collection services to local residents against direct user fees.
SWaCH was established by the PMC, in 2007, in line with the state government’s directives to integrate informal waste pickers, pull them out of poverty and promote sustainable waste management. Waste pickers of SWaCH receive their remuneration directly from residents, who also supplement this income by sorting dry waste into various categories and selling such materials for recycling purposes. This ensures a 100 per cent transparency and direct accountability to the people who opt for these services.
“Around 3,500 waste pickers of Swach cover 70 per cent of the city, directly saving the PMC Rs 500 crore in the last five years alone. The idea of tendering the work to other organisations on the same terms, to prevent a monopoly, is akin to questioning the monopoly of the PMC or any government established body,” Pai said.
The existing cooperative structure ensures that waste pickers get the maximum benefits, have autonomy and fulfill the PMC’s requirements with respect to solid waste management. Individual profiteering, commission and corruption are absent due to this structure, which protects the waste pickers from exploitation or arbitrary removal, Pai added.
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