Krishna

krishnaKRISHNA is the youngest sibling of an 8 member’s family of 6 females and 2 male children.  He lost his father when he was 3 years old and he has vivid memories of his mother’s struggles to keep her family, together.  Krishna’s childhood was filled with dreadful stories of hunger and deprivation and how his sisters used to pool together their meal to keep him alive. He fondly recollects their affection and his own cranky tantrums. Despite their hardship, his mother was determined to send all her children to school especially the males.  Thus after school Krishna accompanied his mother and helped her in her work to and get tit bits to eat.

Their shanty was located close to a large market and a slaughter house in Bangalore.  Apart from odd jobs in the market, Krishna’s family used to pick up bones from the slaughter house and sell it to the traders who used to convert this material as bone meal for crops.  The repulsive settings these bone meal shops haunts Krishna of these which are dark, dingy and filled unbearable stench which lingered throughout the day on a person. As the city grew, the slaughter house was removed and shifted to the edge of the city, the buyers moved away and along with that the earnings of the family disappeared.  It was then the family discovered life could be made up with picking from garbage.

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This new job placed Krishna in an independent turf and money in hand at the end of the day.  He dropped out of the school and made waste picking full time job.   When he reached his teens, no longer was garbage picking exciting, there were issues of shamefulness associated the work  and disgust people expressed when he went close to them in tattered clothes and a huge sack slung over shoulder.

It was in this critical period of transition from street life, vice and unruly behavior, he met with personnel’s from Waste Wise – a non profit organization that worked for improvement in the livelihood of waste pickers.  Initially, Krishna was doubtful and suspicious of Waste Wise’s intentions, but soon, interactions, casual get together,  exposure visits and training enabled him overcome his fears.  He volunteered himself to be one of the young brigades that accompanied Waste Wise in its advocacy and job placement events.  Soon a break came in his life when he and his friend were connected to a five star hotel to clear dry recyclable waste on a daily basis.  With that induction, Krishna’s life dramatically changed.  He had to wake up by 3 am and rush to the hotel and clear the garbage by 5 pm. He had to borrow money, hire vehicle and pay the hotel on a monthly basis.

Though the job was tough, Krishna has entered into new settings that demanded punctuality and regularity.  He began to understand the value of routine and reliability in service that was drilled into him during training.  Though the earnings he and his friend made was meager but steady income kept them going, gave them respect in their community.  Krishna yearned for more, he did not want to succumb to the habits of his peers, his family binding and commitments were large for a young person and he wanted to find his niche for himself, in the scrap market.  He was encouraged to find hotels/companies on his own by his mentors and they helped him by becoming his front in all dealings with large generators of waste.

Now at this point in time when his story is written, Krishna is 27 years old.  He has ensured all his sisters are married as well as settled and his mother well cared for.  He owns a vehicle through a loan linked scheme of Waste Wise with 75% of the loan paid back.  He has given employment to 8 people as drivers, loaders and sorters.  He has established a network with the help Hasirudala (a non-profit engaged in livelihood improvement of waste pickers) collects from 24 different locations in the city on an average 10 metric tons of post-consumer tetra pak cartons in a month.  His band of workers service garbage clearance of 3 star hotels and manages a dry waste collection centre that retrieves 15 tons of dry recyclable waste every month.  Krishna confidently says, “After all my expenses, my earnings per month is around Rs. 20,000/= but, I cannot take this money in one shot at a time.  Meaning, I do not get a regular salary, but I am worth that kind of money and I can take that amount in a staggered manner from my business”.   Krishna’s dream is to own an Industrial Warehouse, where sorting is done through a mechanical conveyor belt, bailing is fixed by couple of  hydraulic press, where forklifts zip past with bundled materials and  minimum one or two trucks on the move with loaded materials.  He would like see a group of 50 to 60 Waste pickers regularly engaged in his warehouse, with fair wages as their share, insurance, medical and retirement benefits.  He would also like to see his lost childhood regained through proper crèche and schooling facility for the members of his work force.  Long live Krishna, the undying Micro Entrepreneur!!!

(Compiled by Anslem Rosario, Waste Wise, Bangalore, India on 19th September 2014)


Mansoor

MansoorMansoor is 33 years old. He has thin, wiry frame and a beaming smile.

He has six sisters and two brothers. He is the oldest.

He attended a small Government school near his home. Mansoor had no interest in school but would regularly attend informal tuition classes conducted by Mythri Sarva Seva Samithi. He dropped out of school in 5th grade when his father passed away. As the oldest son, the burden of responsibility to take care of his brothers and sisters feel upon his tender shoulders.

He joined the informal waste sector with his mother to help supplement the family income. His parents ran a small scrap shop near their home. All the wastepickers from their slum would bring their daily collection to the shop. Mansoor was responsible was sorting, segregating and weighing the scrap. They would manage around 500kgs of waste each day.

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Their slum is a community of wastepickers. Since their scrap shop was in their slum, they were insulated from the police. Mansoor shares that all scrap shops located on main roads have to pay a mandatory fee to the police each week to avoid unnecessary harassment. But in the slum, all the wastepickers would stand as one and refuse to give in to the police. And so, they would return empty handed.

And thus, they lived modestly for many years.

The scrap shop is closed now. At one point, they were the only business in the area and would receive the scrap from all the wastepickers. But once people started to realise the huge quantities of money to be made from waste, scrap shops started to mushroom. Their market share dropped dramatically. Their woes were compounded by labour who would skip work every other day. When asked, they would brazenly reply that it was not a Government job that they should provide notice of leave. And so, as the problems got more severe, the shop was shut with a heavy heart.

Mansoor met Soubhagya from Hasirudala three years ago. She explained to him the benefits of receiving a BBMP issued ID card. But it was not until six months later, on the word of his friend that Mansoor would attend a Hasirudala meeting. The meeting provided him with an opportunity to network with other scrap dealers and NGOs including Namana Foundation, Gilgal Trust and Recycle Guru. He began to attend the meetings regularly. Through his new found network, he received an opportunity to provide waste collection services to the Commissioner’s office in Shivajinagar. This increased both his brand visibility and his confidence.

Mansoor attended the Scrap Dealer Training Program conducted by Hasirudala in early 2013 where he learnt about business development strategies and work etiquette to manage relationships with the labour and with customers. The greatest benefit of the certificate, he shares, is the authority of government sanctioned legitimacy.

Meanwhile, the DWCC in 168 was struggling to make ends meet. The manager of operations could not maintain a clean centre and frequently had trouble with the labour. So when the question came up of who should replace him, Mansoor was the ideal choice.

The DWCC opened in March 2013. The centre was in a poor, run-down state. The walls were low and broken. The centre suffered two robberies and Mansoor lost valuable equipment. Mansoor suspects that the robberies were intended to scare him away from doing business. But Mansoor did not give up. He built up the walls around the DWCC and installed metal grills along the roof. With the full support of Hasirudala behind him, Mansoor decided to stay on and work.

The DWCC is open from 7a.m to 8p.m. Mansoor employs 7 sorters.

When the DWCC opened, Mansoor went door to door in the area around the Centre to encourage residents to segregate their waste and drop it at the DWCC.

The daily collection of the DWCC is about 120kgs from wastepickers.

Mansoor collects waste from 5 apartments including Shoba Opal, Adarsh Palace and Brindavan in South Bangalore.

The DWCC receives 1 tonne of waste from apartment collection. Mansoor uses a rotating fund of Rs 3000 to buy waste from apartments.  Each apartment has been allotted a specific day for collection. The apartment has a specific space created for the storage and collection of scrap. The supervisor writes a receipt for the collected waste and makes the payment. Mansoor takes a small tempo and two labourers, including himself to collect waste from apartments.

Mansoor speaks three languages: Tamil, Hindi and Kannada. With his language fluency and contagious smile, he has built excellent relationships at all the apartments where he provides waste collection services. On occasion when he is not able to make it on the decided day, he calls and informs them a day in advance. Alternatively, if apartments have extra collection in any week, they call Mansoor to make an extra trip. Two of the apartments, Shoba Opal and Charter Brigade pay a nominal monthly collection fee for the quality service.

The relationship is quid pro quo. Mansoor says that no one can fault him on his work ethic. It is a matter of great pride he beams.

Mansoor used to have some trouble with women’s sanitary waste being mixed into the dry waste. Then he spoke with the apartment supervisors and created awareness about proper disposal methods. The problem is mostly solved now. Mansoor says people want to do the right thing but just don’t have the time.

There was a problem of collection because of the expense of hiring a vehicle each day to collect and transport scrap. It would cost him almost Rs 1,000 to hire a tempo each day, plus extra for labour. The first six months, the DWCC lost Rs 60,000. But Mansoor was resilient and determined to make it work.

With the help of a Rs 20,000 loan from MSSS, and his personal savings, Mansoor was able to buy a small tempo for waste collection. The last three months have been smooth sailing for the DWCC.

The DWCC has received lots of encouragement for its good work from the BBMP officials, local residents and college students.

Working with waste is the only job that he knows. It has provided for him and his family. Mansoor has three children: two boys and a girl. They are all enrolled at Oxford School in J.P Nagar. Mansoor wants to give his children the benefit of a solid education and thus, the freedom to follow their dreams.

In the future, Mansoor hopes that all wastepickers and Scrap dealers will be associated with Hasirudala. His dream is to see a DWCC in each ward and zero waste on the streets. Mansoor says: just like people write the address on letters to ensure it reaches the right destination, so also must all streams of waste reach its appropriate destination. But it is only possible if everyone takes collective ownership of the problem.

Mansoor wants all of Bangalore to know his name. He wants to be known for the services he provides. He proudly shows me his business card. It reads: Clean City Recyclers Association. It is a newly formed association of scrap dealers. Their mission is to promote collective strength and provide quality waste collection services. Maybe 10% of Bangalore knows my name now, but one year from now over half of the city will recognise me and my work, he smiles proudly.


Sadashiviah

SadashiviahSadashiviah has light green eyes. The hair has left the top of his head and circles the perimeter like a crown. He has light stubble and a salt and pepper moustache. His wife is petite. She supports her husband in business operation and in conversation. Sadashiviah has 4 children. His oldest two daughters are married. His sons work in the DWCC; one of them is studying in 2nd PUC.

Sadashiviah never went to school. His parents worked in construction. They worked long hours and earned barely enough to provide food and shelter for the family. When he was still a small child, he began Wastepicking. It was the only avenue for him to earn a few rupees to help his family. He would earn Rs 100 a day.

At the age of 19, Sadashiviah had entrepreneurial dreams. He bought a second hand cycle and fixed it up. He would cycle from 8.30 a.m to 5 p.m in the neighbourhoods around his home and collect recyclable scrap from roadside dumps. With his cycle he could cover longer distances during the day and collect more scrap. At the end of the day he would sell everything he had managed to collect to a scrap shop. He would collect 100-150kgs each day and earn 250-300Rs.

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 He says he did not enjoy being a wastepicker because of the working conditions. Wastepickers have to deal with rotting food, flies, stray animals, foul odours, broken glass, infections and a whole host of occupational hazard to maintain a meagre livelihood. At the age of 22, he got employment in a scrap dealership earning 250-500 Rs a day. The work involved sorting and loading dry waste. Slowly, and steadily, Sadashiviah prepared to climb the ladder to a better life.

At the age of 25, he believed that he had gained enough experience to open his own scrap show. If they could do it, so could he. So, Sadashiviah began to look for capital to start his shop. But the formal banking sector is not forthcoming with loans to the informal labour sector. Informal sector labourers, due to lack of Government approved ID and financial collateral, are unable to get loans from banks. This makes it impossible for them to set up small businesses and expand existing systems.

Then he found an angel investor who offered him an interest free loan of Rs 5000 with the expectation that he would repay it in 2 months.

The shop hit the ground running. They received scrap from PKs, BBMP contract autos and homeowners. They began to receive high quality waste. But it was mixed. They would segregate it and sell it to wholesale scrap dealers.

Business mushroomed and soon Sadashiviah and his wife had opened 3 scrap shops. Sadashiviah faced many problems from the police. He had to pay an unofficial ‘protection fee’ of Rs 350 per shop each month. Plus a special fee of Rs 20 on Sundays.

One day the police came to Sadashiviah’s scrap shop which is operated by his son. They accused him of buying stolen copper wire spools among the scrap. He was taken into custody and asked to pay a ‘fine’ to be released. Sadashiviah says that scrap dealers have no choice: they must pay the bribes, at the right time to the right people. Else, the police will slap them with a false case and threaten them with imprisonment. So the fine was paid, and the son released.

Sadashiviah was introduced to Hasirudala by Archana. Hasirudala explained to Sadashiviah to benefits of a BBMP ID card and how it would improve the quality of his work.

Archana told him about the organisation and the upcoming proposal for DWCC. He attended the Scrap Dealer Training Program in 2013.  He learnt the intricacies of business development and the importance of collecting and processing dry waste in a neat and efficient manner. With his prior experience running scrap shops, he was the perfect candidate to manage the DWCC in ward number 44, Marappanpalya when the opportunity presented itself.

The DWCC was started on October 17th, 2012. The DWCC is open from 8am to 7pm. They use a rotating fund of Rs8-10,000 daily.

When the operations at the DWCC started, they received only large quantities of low quality mix road waste. Over 8000kgs! But Sadashiviah refused to break. With great tenacity they worked to slowly process all the waste they had received.

Now, the DWCC has a contract with Brigade Apartments which has over 1000 homes. Sadashiviah hires a lorry to collect the dry waste from the apartment on Friday. Friday and Saturday are spent loading the vehicle. Four to six people are employed in loading at Brigade. On Saturday evening when the loading is completed, the Supervisor from Brigade is telephoned. He arrives on site, checks the quantity of waste, writes the receipt and makes the payment. He issues a gate pass which allows Sadashiviah to leave the apartment complex. They collect 600-800kgs of scrap per trip.

The DWCC also receives waste from ward 44 and commercial waste from RR nagara constituency. Each day the DWCC receives and processes almost 1 tonne of dry waste. The best collection is on Sunday when the residents from the neighbourhood take the time to come and drop off their dry waste at the centre.

Dry waste is brought by Pourakarmikas and BBMP. The DWCC receives road waste as well which is segregated and a BBMP lorry picks up the rejects. The centre receives 60-80kgs of rejects each day.

The present monthly collection ranges from 27-32 tonnes. The DWCC sends four lorry loads of segregated scrap to the wholesaler each week.

He is now able to offer employment to 10 people. Sadashiviah takes good care of his employees.  On Dusshera he gifts all his employees and PKs new clothes and bonuses. He also provides medical expenses for his employees.

There are still challenges ahead for Sadashiviah.

The Health Inspector constantly asks for bribes at the DWCC. But Sadashiviah refuses to pay. This time he has promised to do things by the book. He refuses to bow to bureaucratic pressure.

The DWCC still does not have electricity or running water. The BBMP has promised to set up these facilities but the wait continues. They have safety equipment including gloves and masks but they have not been using them regularly. The sorters insist that the work is more comfortable and efficient without the gloves. And since they are used to the work, it makes no difference with or without the gloves.

During periods of financial crunch, he takes an interest free loan from a local money lender who is also the wholesaler where he sells his segregated scrap from the DWCC. The loan amount, which is usually collected in the morning, is deducted from the sale of waste to the scrap dealer in the evening.

Sadashiviah has greatly improved his financial situation and social standing within his community. In January 2015, a DWCC in Ward 98 Prakashnagar caught fire. The operator of the DWCC, another Hasirudala employee and former wastepicker suffered a loss of Rs 1lakh. Sadashiviah contributed Rs 3000 to the DWCC relief fund. He does not hesitate to extend help, monetary or otherwise, to fellow wastepickers and scrap dealers in their time of need.

The DWCC has received several commendations for good work including from the Health Inspector and BBMP employees. But, as Sadashiviah says business is not walking, it is running. And the future, at last, promises hope.


Annamma

anammaAnnamma, was a waste picker since her childhood and now in her forties she is a confident entrepreneur running a Dry Waste Collection Center (DWCC). She started in a very humble way with both her parents and her siblings being waste pickers. Got married at 20- together with her husband she continue to do the same work.

As a member of Hasiru Dala she got trained in managerial skills. She runs Dry Waste Collection Center (DWCC) as an operator and also employs four more waste-pickers in her center. Thereby regularizing the collective income.  Hasiru Dala changed her and her husband’s life. Both started saving little by little and desire better future for their wards.  In spite of having difficulties she has not given up her dream of educating her children. Her dream is on the verge of fulfillment with her son in 12th std. scoring A+ grade.

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Annamma remembers rainy nights spent under makeshift tents of sticks and plastic sheets, and scorching hot days spent in an endless search for scrap. She remembers being shunned by society, harassed by police, and viewed with suspicion wherever she went foraging. She never expected any better from life.

Occupational identity card facilitated by Hasiru Dala gave her legitimacy and a defense against harassment by authorities. The card also entitles her to benefits like health care and a scholarship for her children. But that’s only the beginning of the transformation Annamma has experienced. There is more waiting in the store.