Originally published in The News Minute
Thirty-eight-year-old Lakshmi has been working as a waste-picker in Bengaluru for five years. “We are called thieves when we are collecting waste. Some have even gone to the extent of calling the police,” said Lakshmi lamenting the state of waste-pickers in the city.
However, all that changed when Hasiru Dala, a social enterprise that organise waste-pickers came forward and provided Lakshmi with an ID card. “The green card from Hasiru Dala helps us avoid such problems,” she said.
Hasiru Dala, an organisation that turn waste-pickers to waste professionals aids the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) in managing Bengaluru’s massive waste production by providing waste management services for homes, apartments, commercial set-ups and events.. From a family wedding to a city-wide marathon, Hasiru Dala (Green Army in Kannada) provides waste management services for all kinds of events.
Along with recycling waste, Hasiru Dala has also managed to recycle the livelihoods of thousands of waste pickers in the city like that of Lakshmi. Shekhar Prabhakar, Managing Director of Hasiru Dala said, “Waste-picking is a job totally dependent on luck. It is not an easy job. Waste pickers bend down hundreds of times in covering a 10 km stretch. We are aiming to create dignified labour by providing waste-pickers with ID cards.” Hasiru Dala has helped around 7500 waste-pickers obtain an ID card.
Uma (25) credits Hasiru Dala for securing her an ID card and an education loan for her daughter. “I do coolie work. Hasiru Dala gave me a green card and helped me get an education loan for my daughter. They also taught me how to prepare manure,” she said. Lakshmi (38) meanwhile has been working as a waste-picker for 5 years. “We are called thieves when we are collecting waste. Some have even gone to the extent of calling the police. The green card from Hasiru Dala helps us avoid problems,” she said.
Many waste-pickers in the city are migrant labourers who come to Bengaluru in search of work. Ali (30) migrated from Kolkata to Ramamurthy Nagar in Bangalore and works as a waste-picker in the city. “I came to Bengaluru a year ago. Like me, there are around 500 Bengalis who work as waste-pickers in the city,” he said.
Shekhar Prabhakar, alluding to the influx of migrants in the city, said almost 60% of waste-pickers were migrants. “They come from places in Karnataka or from as far as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar. Securing green cards for migrant labourers has turned out to be challenging as many do not carry ID proof with them but we have managed to provide them work in apartments,” he added.
According to the BBMP, Bengaluru generates 3000-3500 tons of solid waste every day. The organisation creates awareness about segregating dry waste and wet waste. Dry waste is sorted and recycled while wet waste is sent for composting. Hasiru Dala monitors 33 of the 198 dry waste collection centres in the city.