Waste pickers of Maharashtra are in a celebratory mood. On August 27th, the Maharashtra Government finally conceded to their demand for inclusion under the centrally sponsored pre-matric scholarship scheme for children of those working in “unclean” occupations.
The significance of immersing the idol symbolizes the Lord taking our sorrows along with Him and returning again next year to protect us. But between this symbolism and merriment lies the bleak reality of ecological degradation that comes with immersing idols and Nirmalaya in our water bodies.
The idea of “equity in education” in India has unfortunately remained just an idea… And this is despite the fact that a large section of the marginalized in our country has been involved in its pursuit. Access to education continues to remain difficult for the children of waste pickers whose relentless efforts and petitions have fallen on deaf ears, and don’t find a place within the agenda of the Maharashtra government.
This report from the union of waste pickers, KKPKP, in Pune, India details the interventions of the union to improve the health of their members, including the setting up of a municipally funded health insurance scheme, health advocacy and the use of trust hospitals.
This petition urges the Pune (India) municipal government to 1. revoke the existing schemes offering cash rewards to meritorious students from privileged classes, and change the eligibility criteria to benefit marginalized children and 2. pay the welfare benefits due towards education of waste-pickers’ children for the period 2008-2013, and to pass a comprehensive welfare benefit scheme for them for the future.
SWaCH Cooperative in Pune, India, appeared on a national television show Satyamev Jayate in March. In the episode “Invisible Environmentalists”, the show’s host Aamir Khan interviews Laxmi Narayan, co-founder of SWaCH and SWaCH waste picker Saru Bai, who now runs a compost plant with her husband.
Through this latest 12-page issue of the newsletter, SWaCH shares the journey it has been on since it was founded five years ago – the excitement, the anxieties, successes and new ideas that have emerged for making Pune a better city for all in the years to come.
Pressure against the private contractors has been mounting since the Pimpri Chinchwad municipal government (PCMC) withheld payment from the company for violating labor laws. The new contracts proposed by the city government are supposed to ensure that workers will be paid minimum wages.
Currently wastepickers have to deal with this waste as part of household waste that they collect and also when they are picking from containers, dumps and landfills. In the recent years the amounts of this waste is also rising rapidly. As you can imagine handling this waste with their bare hands is particularly degrading and can impact the health of women who can have a compromised immune system from malnutrition and hardships.
SWaCH — a waste picker-owned cooperative that was responsible for recycling throughout half of Pune, India — has been fighting a battle since it was squeezed out by a private contractor hired by the municipal government.