After attending six meetings of a Federation of RWAs over, I thought I’d scream if I heard the word “segregate” one more time. Nonetheless, I decided to attend their monthly meeting in February. And I did end up screaming—even before I got to this meeting at Sanjaynagar’s RMV Club where residents of ward nos. 18, 19 and 100 meet regularly.
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On the way, I passed by the road along ISRO’s east wall (where Ramesh Dutt, secretary of the Federation, and Kala Sunder, an active member, live) and saw two pourakarmikas pushing their garbage carts and converging on an eyesore-of-a-dump, and emptying their loads of rubbish—segregated biodegradable waste, plastic and paper waste that had been segregated—all into one heap, from where two men shoveled the lot into a truck. I asked the pourakarmikas if they shouldn’t be keeping the segregated rubbish separate. “It will be sorted out”, they replied curtly and went on mixing up the rubbish.
So, what is the point of the BBMP going on about “segregate” ad nauseum, even threatening to fine residents who don’t segregate, if their own pourakarmikas mix up the segregated waste at the dump? I raised the issue at the meeting, which was attended by local BBMP ward officials and MLA. The latter conceded that the garbage mafia is very strong, and “nothing much can be done”. That’s the reality.
The meeting went on to discuss suggestions—one from a women’s group called Durga which offered to conduct meetings for gender sensitisation (one of their alarm devices is being incorporated by BMTC on buses, for improving women’s safety) and another proposing that once a month, one of the side streets near Kalpana Chawla Road could be turned vehicle-free, so that children could play, and adults could get some fresh air and take walks without fear of being knocked down.
Good ideas. The Federation also decided to form a team of volunteers to go around the wards this month, with the garbage tempo staff, to create better awareness about eliminating black spots. This Federation, incidentally, was the one that initiated the ‘Rent-a-Bag’ project in Sanjaynagar to avoid the use of plastic carry bags.
After watching the garbage dump opposite the ISRO wall (next to the former Upalokayukta’s bungalow, and next to the high profile, high security Space Organisation, too, with the residential campus of the prestigious Indian Institute of Science, across the road) some of us feel strongly about some issues.
- It is pointless focusing on residents for segregation of waste, if the pourakarmikas themselves mix it all up together subsequently. (I have seen this happen in south Bengaluru too.) We need to tackle them too. Telephone numbers of the contractors and BBMP engineers were also shared at the meeting, so that we could call them up when rules are found to be flouted by contractors’ employees. Other wards could also try this out.
- No one seems to sensitise maid servants who are the ones taking garbage out of individual flats. Most of them, I found, do not understand the importance of segregation, and do not see the point in carrying out two or three bags. Especially if the tempo that comes round to collect mixes them all up.
- I have often seen men on two-wheelers drive up to this dump, toss a bag of mixed rubbish on to the heap and drive away. I took down the number of one such vehicle– KA04, HD879. As long as such violators get away, our segregation is not going to help. There should be volunteers or the pourakarmikas on duty noting down the numbers to penalise them later.
- A restaurant along new BEL road is known to dump its garbage on this site, late at night, after they were caught and warned during the day. How does one nab such anti-social citizens? The BBMP’s attention has been drawn to this problem, but again, they claim they cannot be monitoring the dump 24X7. But surely, the contractor and his staff can take action, since it is their job that gets harder if people dump unsegregated rubbish like this.
- The BBMP has listed sites for collection of segregated non-biodegradable waste, but has not followed it up with ward level awareness creation or publicity. “Not our job, we have outsourced the work to a contractor”—we are told—passing the buck is a major problem. Even if contracts have been awarded, the BBMP has the responsibility to monitor, pull up and enforce accountability. Corrupt nexus makes this ineffective.
- One pourakarmika also retorted that she had not been paid salary for three months. “No money,” says BBMP—but there is money when it comes to paying the salaries of the top bureaucrats and officers of the corporation, right? How many of them have taken a cut? How many have reduced the use of their official cars, because there’s no money?
- The Federation, which invites MLAs and officials from various departments (police, traffic, municipality) to its monthly meetings, has also decided that enough is enough, and that it is time to think of a mass mobilisation of volunteers to demand accountability.
That, is the crux of the solution—getting more of us into the act, to demand proper services, whether it is garbage or water or electricity supply.
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