Waste-pickers get no protection from the rain

Waste-pickers work under pouring rain without raincoats, which the PMC had promised them before the monsoons

The heavy rains, although much welcomed, are causing a lot of problems for city dwellers. However, while most of the people have the option of either using a raincoat or an umbrella, or taking a day off; there is a section of people who are forced to work under the deluge day in and day out. These are the SWaCH waste-pickers and segregators who are working on the Pune city streets daily without a raincoat or a sheltered area.

SWaCH had entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pune Municipal Corporation which entailed that PMC would enlist the SWaCH workers as waste-pickers and provide for them. However, these promises haven’t yet been fulfilled. According to Aparna Surulekar, the head of SWaCH, “PMC has been continuously delaying. There promised date was June 25, before the monsoon. Now that it’s raining cats and dogs, there are still no raincoats for the workers. These people are working so hard, without really caring for their health. In fact, even if they fall sick, they have to go to work or else the societies start heckling them. So, we have to worry about their health along with the cleanliness.”

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While most of them are forced to work without raincoats, some work voluntarily to clean the premises they are supposed to. “What sort of a smart city are we living in if we can’t provide for these waste-pickers without whom life would be difficult in this season?” she said.

However, Pune Municipal Corporation is taking the easy way out. When asked, first they completely negated that there is an agreement as such in place. However, they later agreed that the agreement existed. According to Suresh Jagtap, Head, Solid Waste Management Department, “Yes, there is an agreement in place. We have provided them with excess raincoats last year. There were nearly 2400 raincoats given then. This year we will give in the next eight days.”

SWaCH is not buying it however. According to Aparna, “They have been doing this for a long time now. First there was a delay in the suppliers. Then they told us that the raincoats are not up to the mark. Right now, we want something, even if it’s of bad quality. We need to work together and help those who are trying to work.” Meanwhile, all the waste-pickers are still forced to work in the continuous rain.

gargi.verma@goldensparrow.com

Originally published on The Golden Sparrow

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