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TWO months ago, a fleet of hydraulic
trucks of a private company started collecting
garbage from homes in many
areas of Nagpur. The trucks transport
the garbage directly to the landfill site
managed by another private company.
This privatization of garbage collection
has alarmed some 5,000 ragpickers who
earn their living by rummaging through
the city's bins and dump yards. They are
likely to lose income.
The new garbage management system,
Bin Free City project, is meant to
reduce the litter on the streets by doing
away with municipal bins. Already, the
number of bins has been reduced from
300 to 200. "The bins will be retained
only in commercial areas once the project
becomes fully operational over the
next 18 months," said M R Ganvir, head
of the municipal corporation's health
department. According to rough estimates
400-700 ragpickers retrieve recyclable
waste from the city's main dumpyard
at Bhandewadi, another 4,000 people
sift garbage in the bins, a few collect
garbage door-to-door and 800 dealers
buy recyclable waste from the ragpickers.
Most are migrants and their income
is Rs 2,000-Rs 6,000 a month. Privatization
would mean they would be barred
from entering the bins and the dump
yard. Municipal commissioner Aseem
Gupta said the ragpickers can be diverted
to other sectors through requisite
training. "It isn't good that they earn a
living by picking up refuse."
But the ragpickers demand their
share in the garbage business. Savita
Marware who set up her own garbage
dealing business after working as a ragpicker
for 10 years said: "Garbage is
most profitable today. Why should we
be pushed out of it?"
A US-based non-profit Community
Housing and Finance International
recently helped 500 ragpickers get work
at the city dump yard. But their jobs
may not last long as the companies plan
to use machines for all the tasks, from
recycling to treatment.