What’s Bangalore’s biggest nightmare?
Those in mansions and bungalows can escape it once they are inside their homes. The roadside, slums, villages are filled with it. It is the city’s most dreaded enemy.
With rising piles of garbage across town, Bangalore is on the verge of saturation with added pressure on landfills and age- old technologies.
Solid waste management takes committed and responsible implementation of waste collection, handling and disposal. With the deep corruption and irresponsible officials, which includes regulators and engineers, it will be very hard to solve this crisis. All those contractors mishandling their contracts should be jailed and be kept away from getting such contracts, so future contractors do an honest job, hopefully.
But can anyone point out the exact reason for this crisis?
The success and failure of waste management can be attributed to several factors that may seem obvious such as proper disposal of waste, participation of the community, hiring the right housemaids, programs by volunteers etc. But a major factor that leads to the cycle of events which finally forms a “downward spiral” is the ignorance of the livelihood of truckloaders and cleaners employed by the contractors.
The plight of truck loaders and cleaners employed by BBMP contractors has been ignored. One might ask how it affects the waste management scenario in Bangalore. No one realizes that a whole cycle of events can sprout out of an issue that might sound worth ignoring but in reality it can’t!
A system of throwing garbage on the streets by citizens and local bodies collecting the waste from the streets and disposing it of in the most unhygienic manner is in vogue. The root of the problems lies in the attitude of both the authorities and the residents.
Every other person has a tendency to find fault in the way waste is being disposed off or they conveniently blame it on garbage collectors. What they don’t realize is there are several reasons lying underneath.
It all starts from how poorly the truck loaders and cleaners are paid by the contractors employed by the BBMP.
Imagine a situation where the soul bread winner of the family has to meet the entire family’s expenses with just Rs. 2500 a month. The helpless situation he falls into leads to an entire turmoil of events which eventually gives birth to the “downward spiral”. Over 70 percent of truck loaders are migrants from Andhra Pradesh, Cuddapah and Nellore districts while some are from Tamil Nadu and North Karnataka. Almost all are Dalits. Many leave their families back in the villages because meagre salaries do not allow for them to live together in a city where the cost of living is high. They would rather save the money to send back home.
The fundamental issue is the parallel corruption economy run by the political class which stems out varying amounts of tender money leaving very little for the work that actually needs to be done, in this case payment of the contractors and eventually the truckloaders. Watchdog posts like the auditor-general of accounts need to be strengthened and day-to-day management of the city should be left to technocrats who must be shielded from political influence if there is to be any kind of change within the system.
The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) contractors employ the truck loaders with the sole intention of having to save more cash in their kitty and getting the work done. They very well know that the work won’t be done once these employees are scantily paid. But getting the waste out of the roads is the last of their concerns!
The birth of a downward spiral is witnessed.
What is a downward spiral?
The term describes a depression state where the person experiencing the downward spiral is getting more and more depressed, perhaps due to causes unknown. It is called a downward spiral because there is no way to stop it, it is just going to get worse and worse until the person crashes.
The downward spiral is an example of how the truckloaders life deteriorates.
The truck loaders are poorly paid by the BBMP contractors. With hardly any cash left to make two ends meet the truck drivers resort to corruption. And how do they do that?
The waste that is collected is used by these loaders to sell it to vendors etc. themselves without making it available to the waste pickers. This results in waste getting accumulated, an unhygienic environment, diseases etc. Who are people internally affected? We the citizens!
The truck loaders often have to collect waste that is unsegregated and dumped mercilessly on the roadside. This results in them acquiring skin diseases and other health problems. Again a cycle is created here and waste doesn’t get disposed off on time.
Several other issues:
These truck drivers often become alcoholics and end up in depression. Their families suffer, the society suffers and the environment is affected.
The truck drivers don’t collect waste on time and residents are forced to throw the waste on the main road which then gets strewn all over by stray dogs.
What can be done?
Citizens do not realize that most of the problems are triggered by them. If waste gets segregated at a source daily and we think twice before littering needlessly or dumping garbage randomly a lot of issues can be taken care of. It doesn’t cost us anything but we gain a lot!
Recently The BBMP contractors took to the streets and staged a protest for not being paid for nine months. These contractors don’t employ enough Pourakarmikas whose job is to collect the waste, load them into trucks and also segregate them.
Advocacy in monitoring the usage of funds for the society and people should be exercised.
Providing training and licenses to the truck loaders will help them work more efficiently get an improved salary and also make them respectable and confident workers in the society.
Achieving a clean Bangalore is a combination of strong litter policies, laws that are enforced diligently, responsible citizenship, sincere civic bodies and better working conditions for people who work on the streets, cleaning them.
If we spare a moment out of the 86400 seconds that we get in a day and think about how it is like to wake up before dawn and get to a workplace that’s a dirty dump generated by an insensitive city, we would think twice, probably thrice before blaming everything else for the garbage problem in Bangalore. We should take the initiative and do our bit. “Keep your city clean” is not just a glamorous phrase to be flashed on dustbins. It is something to be put into practice!