Jai Prakash “Santu” Choudhary
Jai Prakash “Santu” Choudhary is secretary of Safai Sena waste pickers’ association in India. Santu has been working hard to mobilize waste pickers in Delhi, where the Okhla landfill provided a livelihood in recycling for about 700 waste pickers until about a year ago. For the past year, since the waste-to-energy plant has been burning most of the 1,500 tons of waste that once went to the landfill, almost all of the pickers have been out of work.
Now, with the Ghazipur waste-to-energy plant on its way, there is a lot of work to be done to make sure that the nearly 400 waste pickers who earn their livelihood there do not lose everything. The impact of waste-to-energy projects on waste picker communities is clear. In the communities across India where plants are in effect, waste pickers whose children had to drop out of school to earn more money are now out of work – and unable to return to school, Santu said.
In Mumbai, methane collection at the Gorai landfill has put nearly 900 waste pickers out of work. Now, there are only 30 or 40 still working as waste pickers there, he said. In Kanpur, waste pickers were doing door-to-door collection. Two and half years ago, a private company displaced them, putting them out of work. When the waste pickers try to collect from garbage cans, the company’s workers beat them and take their recyclables, sometimes even their rickshaws, he said.
To help get the message across, Santu has been involved in the making of a film about the impacts of waste-to-energy projects on waste picker communities. The film is focusing on three cities in India that have experienced these impacts. Other campaigns Safai Sena is involved in include social security for waste pickers and other informal workers, he explained.