The International Alliance of Waste Pickers is a union of waste picker organizations representing more than 460,000 workers across 34 countries
Supported by Logo WIEGO

Country India

February 29, 2024

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1st March is celebrated as International Waste Pickers Day in memory of the massacre in Colombia in which 11 workers were brutally killed at the University of Barranquilla. For the past 21 years since this tragic event, waste pickers worldwide have been fighting for recognition of their work.

This March 1st, two thousand waste pickers from Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Ahmednagar, and Wardha of Maharashtra took action by sending postcards to the Indian Prime Minister, advocating for a national law to protect waste pickers’ rights and the establishment of welfare boards to address their livelihood and social protection concerns.

This postcard campaign is an initiative spearheaded by the Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers, a national coalition of organizations working with waste pickers and other informal waste collectors.

Sangita Lakhe, a waste picker leader of Vasudha Kachra Vechak Cooperative Society in Kolhapur (an affiliate of the International Alliance of Waste Pickers (IAWP), emphasized the crucial role waste pickers play in waste management. “We collect and segregate waste for recycling, yet our work lacks recognition and dignity. It’s imperative that our contributions are acknowledged, and we receive social security,” Sangita remarked.

While the Solid and Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 acknowledge the contributions of waste pickers, their effective implementation at the grassroots level remains lacking. The influx of private players into waste management has left waste pickers vulnerable, jeopardizing their livelihoods. Through this campaign, waste pickers are urging the government to enact national law and establish welfare boards to safeguard their rights.

Rukmini Paul, a waste picker associated with the Parisar Sakhi Vikas Sanstha in Navi Mumbai (an affiliate of IAWP), highlighted the longstanding contributions of waste pickers. “We waste pickers have been doing this work for the last 30-40 years, yet we have not been issued occupational identity cards. The government should mandate the registration of waste pickers and the issuance of occupational identity cards. Waste pickers should be integrated into solid and plastic waste management, and these actions should be led by national law and waste pickers welfare boards.” Rukmini emphasized.

The news in Marathi.