In recent times, two newspapers (Deccan Chronicle and Times of India) have featured the Dry Waste Collection Centres of Bengaluru, in the guise of an ‘expose,’ leaving tan ignorant reader with a distasteful feeling with the use of dramatic phrases – to name a few, ‘Misuse by waste-pickers’, ‘Waste of public money by allowing the centers to become money spinners for private enterprises,’ ’Dark side of the DWCC underbelly.’ One of the articles has quoted the source as a study / report done by two citizens.
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As an SWM practitioner working closely with the BBMP and with the several NGOs /private enterprises that are running these DWCCs, I find the value judgment of waste pickers, scrap dealers, private enterprises, that comes through these two article features unjustified and unacceptable. This judgment denies the pragmatism of an economic view that an informal sector be provided a chance to bring their skills and experience to a formal sector, and be allowed to run them as a means of respectable self-sustenance.
The inclusion of waste pickers and the informal sector by the Municipality in solid waste management is in fact directed as necessary by the Government. The BBMP is the first Urban Local Body (ULB) in the country to issue ID cards to waste pickers and allow for their formal inclusion with the DWCCs.
Having been closely associated with a number of researchers and interns who have studied the changes in the SWM arena in Bangalore over the last few years, the approach of the report and the paper features leaves me to conclude that it ends up just posing a barrage of questions expecting someone to answer, while taking pot shots at those involved, the BBMP, NGOs and experts.
The conclusions seem more like cynical value judgments drawn from an experiential level – Can the BBMP do better..? Can DWCCs be operationally more efficient..? Can more be done on implementing the segregation at source..?
The answer is an overwhelming… Yes, of course!
However, we need more than provocative articles doing cosmetic reporting to set it right. The press serves an important role of scrutiny but in this case, the hidden insinuations and mischaracterisation are performing the almost exact opposite function of limiting a powerful social empowerment movement.
The journey that Bangalore has embarked on to clean up its act on SWM needs a deeper understanding that can only come through commitment, long term engagement to bring about solutions to a multi-faceted problem like municipal solid waste management.