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Ragpicker to environmentalist: Garbage's elevating tale
"Kashtana?" (Is it difficult?) "Parvagilla" (It is okay).
Pat comes the reply from 38-year-old R Annamma, who sits amid huge piles of
mixed dry waste at the dry waste collection centre in Kamakshipalya, West
Bangalore. The centre manager has several reasons to be content.
A ragpicker all her life,
Annamma rummaged around in waste piled on roadsides and vacant plots. She then
sold what she had picked to a local dealer. But a meeting last year with
volunteers of Hasiru Dala, an NGO, changed her fortunes.
Hasiru Dala believes the
cornerstone of any strategy to manage Bangalore's humungous waste should be to
give all waste managers of the city an identity and transform them into
It took days for Hasiru
Dala volunteers to convince Annamma to change her ways of managing waste. She
was first given an identity card reducing the conflicts she earlier had with
law enforcing authorities. She underwent a five-week training at Jain
University, where her business management skills were honed and she was
equipped with the expertise required to manage a waste collection centre.
Annamma was then put in
charge of the Kamakshipalya dry waste collection centre. Her job: To sort waste
generated by the ward, quantify the waste category-wise and sell it to assigned
dealers once a month.
A typical day for Annamma
now starts at 5.30am when she sets out for work. "It's a lot of hard work
but at the end of the month, I am assured of a fixed salary," says
Annamma, who clears 8-10 tonnes of dry waste every month.
With the waste burden in
front of her mounting, Annamma does not want to take chances. She goes on
segregating waste and putting them in earmarked zones even as she continues to
Her eyes light up at the
mention of her children. "I have three daughters," the proud mother
says. She hastens to add that her children too are proud of her.
Will they join her at
work? Highly unlikely given that the eldest, Jyoti, has written SSLC exams this
year and hopes to become an engineer. The second one, 14-year-old Manjula,
wants to join the police force while the youngest, Yashoda, aspires to become a
"What they want to
become is up to them. I will back them to the hilt," says Annamma, who
earns Rs 350 a day. Her husband, who also works as a waste sorter at her
centre, earns Rs 300 a day.
As a responsible citizen
of Namma Bengaluru, Annamma voted last week. Who did she vote for? "That's
a secret," she signs off.
burden of waste
There are 55 dry waste
collection centres in Bangalore. They are crucial in streamlining the city's
solid waste management strategies. Most of these centres are managed by women.
Though the target is to
have a dry waste collection centre in each of the city's 198 wards, operational
issues have restricted the numbers and some centres end up managing huge
quantities of waste.
I Ambika, who is the
waste segregation manager at the Vyalikava centre, handles 17 tonnes of dry
waste monthly. The class V dropout handles waste from four BBMP wards and
apartments at Malleswaram and manages accounts at her centre.
"We sort out
plastic, cotton, gauges, bottles and other things categorized under 22 types of
dry waste," says the mother of three children.Fixed working hours, a
regular monthly salary and proper scheduling of their responsibilities are what
make waste managers look forward to doing their job every day.
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