Sadashiviah 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.
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.
Business is running, not walking Sadashiviah
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. And the future, at last, promises hope.