Guest column | Being with my safar karamchari friends | punjab | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Guest column | Being with my safar karamchari friends

I hate the word ‘kachrewale’ (garbage collectors) because it is we who create ‘kachra’, and they are the ones who clean it.

punjab Updated: Mar 10, 2018 22:40 IST
Col RD Singh (retd)
I hate the word ‘kachrewale’ (garbage collectors) because it is we who create ‘kachra’, and they are the ones who clean it.
I hate the word ‘kachrewale’ (garbage collectors) because it is we who create ‘kachra’, and they are the ones who clean it.(HT File)

I hear that familiar sound of the whistle and call-out to our maid , “Amma kachra dedo.(amma, please give the garbage).” This is the time for my friends from the Ambala municipal corporation (MC) garbage collection party to arrive in style on a tractor for house-to-house garbage collection.

Whenever I hear their whistle, which they blow to signal their arrival, I rush to the gate and offer them water and sometimes something to eat. I feel these boys are the real children of God — helping keep our homes and environment clean. I love the smiles which I get from them.

Today at about 11am, when I had come back indoors after cycling and gardening, I heard that whistle and rushed to the gate. There they were, on the tractor — Baljinder, Bhupinder, and Sanjay — my safai karamchari friends. I hate the word ‘ kachrewale’ (garbage collectors) because it is we who create ‘kachra’, and they are the ones who clean it. First, I offered them water and a soft drink, exchanging greetings. Then, wanting to see what it felt to work like them and to make them understand that theirs was not an unimportant job, I requested Baljinder, who drives the tractor, to give me the steering wheel. I know how to handle a tractor, having driven one in our fields as a young boy in the Pilimandori village, Haryana.

All the three boys were very happy and charged now. As I moved the tractor slowly from house to house, Sanjay enthusiastically blew the whistle to herald our arrival . We would wait in front of each house for a minute or so and someone would come out with the bucket of garbage. I could see the amusement on their faces when they saw me on the tractor. I smilingly waved to our familiar neighbours and also joined the boys in collecting and depositing the garbage in the tractor trolley.

Then we arrived at the Vermas’ home - their son had just got married two days back. The lady of the house came out and gave the boys sweets. So thoughtful and sweet of her. We all conveyed our blessings to the couple and the family.

It was becoming an eye opening and enriching experience for me. I realised that standing in the pile of garbage, collecting and segregating it, was not an easy or pleasant job. One has to bear that foul smell, moving from house to house. You are handling all sorts of objects, some sharp and pointed, broken bottles, and even the famous ‘used pads’ (sanitary napkins). Some people make you wait, and if you move ahead without collecting garbage, complaints follow you.

So, I was convinced that what Baljinder, Bhupinder and Sanjay were doing was no mean job and it meant being tolerant and tough. It was real service to the society. Think of how unclean and unhygienic our homes and surroundings would be if their were no cleaners and garbage collectors?

Totally humbled after being with these boys for about an hour, I saluted them and departed. As I was walking back home, I thought about our Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which was launched on October 2, 2014. Why has it not progressed as expected? Why are we still finding garbage strewn all over the place? There can be many reasons for the problem but primarily it is our lack of civic sense. We will live in muck but do not make an effort to clean it. The authorities also need to be more proactive, and make provisions for adequate resources and disposal systems.

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is an ongoing and collective process. It is like voluntary blood donation — we have to make it a habit, and part of our life. We have to love cleanliness, and live it.

( The writer is an Ambala- based freelance contributor)