The first step to a cleaner city is taken by the waste pickers, who collect garbage from your home every day. But these waste pickers – an informal sector in the solid waste management system – have no financial support and are not trained by the municipal corporation.
Manju Satvan, a 40-year-old waste picker in Chakala, has been collecting door-to-door waste for the past 30 years, but despite three decades into this service, she is worried about her financial security. “We are not paid by the BMC, each housing society decides how much to pays us. Each year, our pay is increased by just Rs 10 or Rs 20 per month,” said Satvan.
Unlike other section of labourers, thousands of waste pickers have no union or organisation to represent their issues. “We cannot even take leave because the societies could discontinue our services at anytime. We have our own local group of waste pickers, who do the job in our absence and later share the pay on a per day basis,” said Satvan.
She starts her day around 5.30am, begins with door-to-door collection of garbage in JB Nagar societies, sweeps the building premises, disposes off the collected waste in a municipal garbage collection van and then sells the scrap, if it has been a lucky day for her in collecting dry waste.
The BMC aims at complete segregation by 2016, but if you ask waste pickers who collect garbage from each household, you will know they have no clue about collecting dry and wet waste separately.
“We collect all the waste in one huge dustbin and dispose it the same way in the BMC’s garbage vans. The van drivers never tell us to separate waste, neither do they provide two separate vans for wet and dry garbage,” said Satvan.
Fiyaz Ali, a 55-year-old waste picker from Juhu, demands the formalisation of the sector. “We are the most important part in the BMC’s waste collection and disposal system, but have never been recognised. The BMC does not even provide us with a dustbin to collect waste,” said Ali.