Skip to main content

Ahmedabad zero waste by 2031? Report is silent on plight of sweepers

The report
By Jitendra Rathod* 
“A Road Map for Zero Waste Ahmedabad City – A Visionary Document to Guide Ahmedabad towards Becoming a Resource Efficient and Zero Waste City by 2031”, a recently released official document, is an evidence of the casteist mindset of the Ahmedabad Municipal Commission (AMC) administration. The document has been financed and commissioned jointly by the AMC and the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD). The document addresses several concerns of waste and waste management – except the safety and better health of the sweepers!
The title page of the document is sufficient to prove the casteist mindset of the AMC administration. The document claims to be “visionary”, but the sweepers will continue to collect the garbage, dust, filth of the city by unclean way. The title page itself has photographs of sweepers without any safety devices – and no eyebrow has been raised on this. Landfill sites and handling of garbage have been shown to be carried out by bare hands without even one safety device. It is evident that the AMC is not concerned about the sweepers, and intends that city must be waste free, but at the cost of the sweepers.
Sweeping is done in India by the scavenging community (the valmikis) manually. In fact, sweeping is the only occupation which is caste-based in India today. The sweepers in AMC clean, collect, handle the dust, garbage and filth of the city every day and keep the city clean to make it livable for other city dwellers. But no one cares for the health and dignity of the sweepers. The sweepers are prone to various occupational hazards.
A Janvikas-sponsored sample survey, in association with Manav Garima, in western Ahmedabad found that most of the sweepers are facing one or other occupational disease due to lack of safety devices. The survey found that most of the safai karamacharis are exposed to serious hazards like cancer, paralysis, tuberculosis, different types of fevers, asthma, headache, unbearable pain in hands and feet, and so on, due to the want of protective and secure equipment.
The so-called visionary document mentions that almost 1,10,667 metric tonnes (MT) of solid waste is generated in the city on a monthly basis. Out of this, most of it, 1,08,454 MT, is collected manually by sweepers. The document itself accepts that these wastes are collected by sweepers in an unclean way to keep the city neat, clean and a better place to live in.
Many a time volunteers from Janvikas and Manav Garima have raised the issue of safety equipments for the sweepers with the AMC officials. To this, the AMC administration’s explanation has been that the sweepers are provide with the all necessary safety devices but they do not use them. This made the two NGOs to select 50 private sweepers in western Ahmedabad as a role model. They were motivated and provided with safety devices like masks, aprons, gumboots, caps and gloves. What should surprise the AMC rulers is, all wear these safety devices and feel better.
It is shocking that, when Dr Tejas Shah, health officer, Western Zone, AMC, was told about the NGOs’ decision to provide safety devices to 50 sweepers employed by the AMC, he seemed reluctant to give a permission, asking, “Who would provide such equipment to rest of the sweepers?” What he did not realize was, it is the AMC’s responsibility to provide safety devices to all the sweepers and look after their health. But contrarily, the officials are not willing – even when the NGOs showed its readiness to bear the cost of the safety devices. This is the mindset of AMC officials.
Naresh Rajput, director, Solid Waste Management, AMC, is responsible for providing safety devices to sweepers. Janvikas and Manav Garima have advocated with him frequently, but he and other officials have refused to take any action on this. The cost of the safety devices for a rich institute like AMC is quite minimal. The AMC must provide safety equipments to the sweepers to make the occupation clean and dignified. It should ensure that all sweepers are provided training on occupational health hazards, motivate them to use on a regular basis, and set up monitoring mechanism for ensuring that all use them at work places. Only then the “roadmap for zero waste for Ahmedabad” will become appropriate!

Senior activist with Janvikas, Gujarat

Comments

TRENDING

There is need to distinguish between RT-PCR positives and clinical cases of Covid-19

Insisting on the need to distinguish between RT-PCR positives and clinical cases of Covid-19, an open letter by 20 doctors and medical professionals: *** Firstly the virus has gone through the Indian population enough and is now well established as an endemic infection which shall keep causing flu like illness in only few people as most will not even develop severe symptoms. The ICMR had already called for the suspension of testing anyone not having any symptoms (Jan 2022). Children have been shown to tackle the virus much easier than adults. Children also do not pass Covid infection to others that easily as adults do to children. Schools have opened and no single outbreak or incidences of severe disease have been documented. Therefore healthy children must not be tested for Covid anymore unless the treating doctor in hospitalised cases requires it. Calling people (children or adults) with RT-PCR positive report as “cases” is faulty. A “case” is a person who has disease and presents wi

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Define Dalit not by caste but action, belief; include all who oppose inequality

By Ajaz Ashraf* Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan’s endeavour has been to redefine the term Dalit and delink it from caste, best exemplified by the headline to this interview. An academician of repute, he financed his studies by working as wage labour. During his college days, he joined a group of non-Dalit intellectuals, comprising a professor each from the Christian, Parsi, Muslim and upper caste Hindu communities, to work with Dalits. Their work invited a backlash. On 25 January 1986, the reactionary landlords of the Darbar community in Golana village, Anand district, gunned down four of his colleagues, wounded another 18 and set houses on fire. This prompted Macwan to establish the Navsarjan Trust, which aims to skill Dalits and expand their consciousness regarding the systemic oppression of which they are principal victims. On 25 January 2002, on the anniversary of the Golana massacre , he led a march through rural Gujarat. His experience of the march had him write a book wherein