Civic activism, social work and social welfare stand deeply ingrained in Pune’s character and ethos. A number of illustrious names from our city’s rich history come to mind, of citizens who contributed immensely to social thought and action. If it was Maharishi Dhondo Keshav Karve and Mahatma Jyotiba Phule who strove for the uplift of women, there was Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Lokmanya Tilak who participated in the political movement and social life. It was the lion-hearted Tilak who gave popular form to the Ganeshotsav celebrations in Maharashtra. While those were the giants among men, Pune continues to be blessed, in small and large measure, with that same spirit of social welfare and activism. On the occasion of the first month of publication in Pune today, we present the profiles of citizens who have gone beyond the self to make a difference and light a smile in the lives of those around them.
SWaCH – Bringing dignity to the life of waste-pickers
SWaCH (Solid Waste Collection and Handling ) is India’s first wholly-owned cooperative of self-employed waste pickers or waste collectors. It is based in Pune and was started with an intention to provide livelihood to those working in this sector.
SWaCH is promoted by the waste pickers’ union Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP). Malati Gadgi, Treasurer of the union said, “This union was formed in 1993 and today it has 12,000 members from Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad. All the members of SWaCH are also members of the union KKPKP.
Speaking about SWaCH Gadgil said, “SWaCH was authorised by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to provide waste collection firstly on a pilot basis from 2005. This association between waste pickers and PMC was later formalized in 2008. Since then waste pickers from SWaCH have been working towards waste collection, segregation and recycling.”
Gadgil said that at present SWaCH has 3000 members who specialize in waste management services, door-to- door collection, safe disposal of e- waste among various other things.”
Since it was started SWaCH has come a long way in not just providing sustainable waste management services to the city but also with its efforts of providing a sustainable livelihood to many working in this sector. Since its inception KKPKP has ensured schooling for hundreds of children of waste pickers who earlier were either working in the same sector as child labourers or could not afford schooling. The union is also creating awareness to prevent child marriages and is encouraging girl education.
“Through the funds that we have, we offer scholarships to children of waste pickers for completing their education. Also the government gives a scholarship of Rs 1,850 to children of workers in unclean occupations. We fought for 8 years to ensure that this scholarship is also given to children of waste pickers and since the past two years these children are also getting it,” said Gadgil.
Gadgil emphasised that presently they want the system of waste recycling to be given importance and recycling plants to be set up for the same.
Gadgil also spoke about the red dot campaign started recently launched by the waste pickers and the corporation which promotes dumping of sanitary waste wrapped and marked with a red dot.