The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) has decided to send a group of safai karmcharis (sweepers) and beldars (diggers) on an official trip to Japan and South Korea next week so they can learn about sanitation, cleanliness, waste disposal as well as upkeep of local markets, residential colonies and townships.
The week-long trip has been approved by the Ministry of External Affairs. “We were surprised when we saw the list of group members. I’m seeing such a proposal to send ground-level staff for the first time — otherwise most foreign trips are taken by senior officials,” said an MEA official who did not wish to be named.
Incidentally, when the Department of Expenditure issued a new format for clearance of foreign trips on July 2 last year, it had said, “Why cannot the purpose be served by deputing officers at the functional level viz. Director/Dy. Secretary, instead of deputing officers of higher level(s).”
Explaining the decision, NDMC chairman Naresh Kumar said, “We took the decision to boost their morale. They must know how cities abroad are maintained by ground-level staff.” The 10-member group will have four safai karmcharis, three beldars, one sanitary inspector, one junior engineer and a director-rank officer who will lead the group. All of them were issued official passports recently.
“I never dreamt I will have a passport. I could never imagine I would go abroad one day,” said Lalit Kumar, a safai karmchari.
The group will leave for Tokyo on November 22 and head to Seoul on November 26. Before the trip, they will be briefed by the East Asia division of the Ministry of External Affairs on November 17.
Sources said that during the trip, they will visit a local market in Tokyo, a waste and garbage office in Sumida, an incineration plant, a bioenergy plant as well as several other facilities related to cleanliness and waste disposal.
In South Korea, the group will visit a landfill management centre, a river park as well as waste collecting and recycling sites before returning on November 29.