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The unsung heroes of waste management

By Radhika Kukreja

“कूड़े में फेंकी पन्नियों को नोचते देखा है
मैंने कचड़े के ढेर में उन्हें सोना खोजते देखा है
जिस्म की गर्मी को बुझते देखा है
मैंने ठंड में एक अलाप के पास उन्हें सोता देखा है”

Isn’t this peculiar- a waste worker is called a “kachrawala” though he cleans loads of “kachra” every day. The empty bottles one throws in streets may be useless for one but has its value for someone else. Sometimes it becomes the only thing that one can pick from the garbage, which may earn them a little money. A waste worker collects and segregates waste and other recyclables from collection and landfill sites for further processing and disposal.

Garbage to the waste workers is gold. It is
their daily bread, a roof over their heads, even if it is a leaking roof. But for a child it is even more.For the
children it is wrapped up in wonder.The smile on these children’s faces never reflect their unfulfilled dreams, their energetic bodies never recite the story of their gnarled diseases.

In a city that witnessed almost no garbage segregation at source, there are around one crore fifty lakh ragpickers who manage up to 20% of 10,000 metric tonnes of waste generated every day.

Ever wondered what happens to the daily garbage?How trash is slowly destroying the world? Why waste workers become drug addicts? Not that you don’t care, but because the waste workers aren’t really a part of the society.

These uneducated are defining cleanliness when the educated are defying cleanliness. It is high time to standup and demand action. It is time to engage the disengaged.


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