The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
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10-11 December 2012 in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Following the opening of the Indian economy in early 1990s, Indian cities have been going through monumental changes which have serious implications for the lives and livelihoods of working people. Although India has been experiencing GDP growth of 6-7 percent per year, poverty and inequality have risen significantly. The Government of India reports that 80 percent of the population lives on less than twenty rupees a day, even as the wealthy are becoming wealthier. Much of the growth under the current neoliberal regime has been jobless growth and whatever jobs are being created are in the informal sector of the economy. Currently about 94 percent of the workforce is in the informal sector working in hazardous conditions with absence of minimum wages, social security or health benefits.

Waste collectors are among the most marginalized even amongst the informal sector workers, who live in the daily grind of poverty, ill-health and harsh working conditions. Despite the fact that waste collectors recycle 20 percent of the city’s waste saving the municipalities millions of rupees every year, they are unrecognized in legislation, criminalised by the administration and ignored by society. They sacrifice their own health and recycle resources that wealthier people recklessly consume, and yet they are made insecure because they have been refused the right to their livelihoods. This is despite the fact that, in the era of jobless growth and climate change, they have crafted viable green livelihoods for themselves; thereby contributing significantly to economy, society and the environment.

The All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (AIKMM) was established in 2007 to advocate for waste collectors’ right to legal and administrative recognition, livelihoods security and social benefits. There are currently over 17,000 waste pickers who are members of AIKMM in Delhi and the National Capital Region. The AIKKM has organized a number of activities, from seminars to protest demonstrations, in the last five years, to press for waste collectors right to safe livelihoods.

Carrying the struggle of waste collectors forward the AIKKM is organising its First National Conference on 10-11 December 2012 in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. The Conference will be attended by the waste collectors and their organizations from 12 states in India. The National Conference is being organised in the context when state governments and municipalities across the country are seeking the solution to solid waste management problem in privatisation of waste collection and disposal and ‘waste-to energy’ plants. AIKKM firmly believes that privatisation and incinerators are deeply flawed answers to urban India’s waste problems. These so-called solutions would exacerbate environmental degradation while rendering millions of waste collectors in the country jobless. 10 December is International Human Rights Day and therefore an opportune moment for us to reflect on the strategies needed to counter the twin assault of privatization and ‘waste to energy’ plants on the lives and livelihoods of waste collectors.

We would like to invite you to participate in the National Conference and help us devise appropriate response to the multiple challenges faced by waste collectors in Indian cities. The Conference would be preceded by a Public Rally on 10 December and followed by a National Seminar on 11 December. The seminar topic will be, “Whose Waste, Who Profits: Impact of Waste Privatization on the Informal Sector,” and will include national and international experts and public intellectuals speaking on urban solid waste issues. We request you to take time out of your busy schedule to participate in all the three programmes on 10-11 December. Your participation and support are crucial for taking forward the struggle of waste collectors for dignity, recognition and safe and secure livelihoods. We would send the details of the seminar separately closer to the date.