Life   Exclusive
All waste is not waste

An autonomous enterprise, SWaCH provides front-end waste management services, Savita Narayan reports

SWaCH (Solid Waste Collection and Handling)—the institutional outcome of the trade union Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat—is authorised by the Pune Municipal Corporation to manage waste right from collection at the door-step to sustainable solid waste management. It effectively merges the interests of the waste-picker in increasing livelihood, the household in waste disposal and the municipality in waste management. SWaCH is India’s first wholly-owned cooperative of self employed waste-pickers and other urban poor.

About 3,000 waste-pickers from SWaCH reach 0.25 million Pune households every day. Organic, kitchen waste is composted (70%), waste-pickers sell plastic, paper, etc as scrap (15%) and the remainder is sent to the landfill at Urali (15%). “In 2000, Municipal Solid Waste Rules came into force due to plague in Surat and the perseverance of RTI activists. Municipalities were bound to manage waste. In Pune, putting thousands of existing waste-pickers out of a job was not considered the solution. They need flexible timings due to family commitments. Our model ensures that women have ownership of the waste. The family segregates it and gets paid daily. If we privatise, households will go without pay while the private collector gets paid by the tonne,” says Malati Gadgil, CEO, SWaCH.

SWaCH believes the waste-picker must be co-opted into the process, not removed from it. She will work only when it’s worth her while—earning from user fees and the sale proceeds of waste. SWaCH ensures receipt of user fee from households and regularises her attendance. Waste-pickers reduce the burden on the municipality; lessen transportation, land filling and disposal costs. However, waste-pickers figure very low on the social scale and face brutality by the police and the public. Nearly 95% are illiterate; many are from dysfunctional homes. They garner skills and knowledge to earn minimum rates.

Low mobility workers such as the elderly and mothers of infants can supplement their income by selling second-hand clothes in vastis. In 1989, SWaCH organised the waste- pickers, providing a photo ID that offered them much-needed dignity and authorisation. SWaCH has held sensitivity classes for the police. The Jana Arogya policy offers medical coverage up to Rs5,000. An LIC policy, partly paid for by the waste-pickers, is available. The education of waste-pickers’ children is important. SWaCH does not condone school-age children picking waste. The photo passes of mothers are confiscated for non-compliance. “It’s an uphill task generating awareness that child labour is unacceptable when even movies like Kahaani glorify it,” says Malati Gadgil.

Waste-pickers want their children to study. The trade union offers scholarships, pays for books and has a free loan scheme for higher education. E-waste management rules of 2011 specify the way in which potentially extremely hazardous substances are to be handled. SWaCH offers training in collection, sorting and some dismantling of such waste which fetches additional income. The Pune model works with the participation of waste-pickers, SWaCH, citizens and the municipality nagar sevak. The waste-picker puts back about 5% of the user fee into SWaCH, which also raises funds independently. The municipality pays for semi-formal staff in SWaCH and for equipment: push carts, buckets, coats, I-cards.

SWaCH imparts training such as driving tempos and cycles, and holds  song workshops, English speaking classes and yoga. Waste-pickers have been to conferences globally as public speakers. A half-hour film on client interaction trains these women who live and work in rough public areas. Improving the livelihood of waste-pickers is Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of dignity of labour in practice. SWaCH welcomes volunteers to the organisation. Cheques made out to Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat for donations to SWaCH can be sent to the address alongside.

SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha Maryadi

Kothrud Kachara Depot,
Kothrud, Pune-411 038
Mob: 9765999500
E-mail: [email protected]

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    8 years ago

    sustainable future = decentralisation and localisation and community driven - i.e. away from govt control. govt shud only act as custodians and regulators. nothing more. get rid of the fake bloated govt machinery first.

    vasanthi narayan

    8 years ago

    SWaCH is doing yoeman service taking care of waste management and concurrently helping those involved in the project. Other cities need to learn from this enterprise and follow in their footsteps .
    The author has done well to enlighten the readers on this subject

    Life   Exclusive
    Protecting Childhood

    Samatol Foundation saves children from straying into crime and tries to send them back to their homes

    Mumbai, the land of opportunities, attracts many in search of employment and glamour. Among them are innocent children, who run away from home and dream of making it big. Unfortunately, their dreams are short-lived and often, a railway station is all they find  as a resting place. Often they become victims of drug trafficking and sexual abuse.

    To give a fresh lease of life to these abused children,  Samatol Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), was founded by Vijay Jadhav in 2006. Its objective is to rehabilitate children who are five years old and above from railway stations and unite them with their families. ‘Samatol’ means ‘balance’. Samatol tries to restore respectability and thereby create balance in the society,” explains Mr Jadhav, who gave up his job to devote time for social work. Samatol Foundation started its work by raising awareness on the importance of rescuing and rehabilitating children found on railway platforms. It required sensitising all the stakeholders, like railway police, passengers and railway’s accident helpers. “Accident hamals (helpers) were our first active volunteers as they were quick to identify newly arrived kids and those who have returned,” says Mr Jadhav.

    Samatol’s activities involve rescuing newly arrived children before they become part of the other kids already settled on the platform. After a detailed background check of the new arrivals, Samatol’s volunteers convince them to return home.
    The Foundation also conducts manaparivartan shibir (attitude change programme) a de-addiction and home-orientation programme for children who often work as shoeshine boys. Drug de-addiction forms an important and difficult part of the rehabilitation.

    “The 45-day programme addresses about 25 kids in the 8-16 years age group. They are physically examined and also counselled against drug addiction. We try to instil discipline in them and work on their self-esteem. We try to create an interest in education and concern for family in them. If the child is ready to go back home, we send him back considering his family’s financial position. In some cases, they are rehabilitated with other NGOs and are given education and vocational training,” explains Mr Jadhav.

    The Foundation conducts training programmes by experts on child psychology for police and government officials. It also conducts a survey of railway stations every two years.

    Samatol also helps in rehabilitation of kids at government observation/remand homes, who are willing to go back to their homes. Accordingly, legal formalities are completed at the Foundation’s expense. Since inception, Samatol has reunited around 3,000 children with their families. It has contacted about 7,000 children in six years. It has a large volunteer base, comprising professionals like doctors, engineers and IAS officers throughout the country who assist the organisation in case of children sent back home. They follow up on the cases so that the children do not run away again.

    Samatol funds its activities mainly through individual donations. Mr Jadhav says, “We seek help from individuals and thereby sensitise them to the problem. We don’t touch any foreign funding. Corporate donations are allowed partly; we never take funding from one company for an entire project. This allows us freedom to work.” One can volunteer for Samatol Foundation and also donate. All donations are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80(G) of the Income-Tax Act.

    1/ 4, Ahmed Umar Building,
    Dr D’Silva Road, Above Darbar Hotel,
    Dadar (W), Mumbai-400 028
    Tel: 022-25454838
    E-mail:[email protected]

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    Toys for all children

    Started in a small restaurant in Mumbai, Toybank aims to provide toys to under privileged children

    Toys are synonymous with childhood. They give children a reason to smile and to express themselves as well as to learn. Poverty pushes children into child labour and denies them their right to education. Learning from toys is a distant dream as they can’t even think of possessing a toy. It is to give every child a right to play with toys that Toybank, an NGO based in Mumbai, was founded by Shweta Chari, a graduate engineering student. It aims to give children a healthy and happy childhood.

    Ms Chari, who actively volunteered with many NGOs before starting Toybank, says, “NGOs give importance to issues like food, clothes, books or education, when they think of children. Nobody talks about toys and their importance in the growing years of a child. I noticed kids from financially deprived families playing with tyres, bottles, etc. I wanted to do something to give some joy to them.”

    In 2004, Ms Chari with the help of her friends started what was a successful campaign to collect toys for under-privileged children. On Children’s Day, 14th November in that year 2004, Toybank organised its first distribution programme for needy children. “I realised that so many children don’t have any toys to play with. It was then I thought that this can’t be an ad-hoc activity and needs to be done on a regular basis,” says Ms Chari, who later took up a corporate job while continuing the collection drives.

    Word spread and Toybank extended to four other cities, namely, Bengaluru, Pune, Delhi and Hyderabad, collecting and distributing toys to under-privileged kids. In 2009, Toybank was registered as a trust with the charity commissioner. Ms Chari quit her job to dedicate herself wholeheartedly to Toybank. The team grew and its work-base broadened.

    Currently, it collects toys by conducting talks in elite schools. “We do a 20-minute sensitisation talk to make students understand their own lifestyle and that of children on the streets. Our aim is to sensitise these kids to become toy donors. But we don’t use pictures of under-privileged children in our presentation,” she explains. Similar sensitisation talks are conducted in colleges and corporate offices.

    Toybank has collection centres across Mumbai comprising individual volunteers. Every month, toys from these centres are collected and brought to a godown where they are segregated. Many toys are recycled. Soft toys are washed, dry-cleaned and sterilised. These toys are then gift-wrapped and sorted according to age groups. However, Toybank follows a strict protocol on the kinds of toys it collects. Toys promoting violence (like guns, swords) or gender discrimination (like Barbie dolls) are not accepted.

    Toys are distributed twice a week. For this, Toybank collaborates with other NGOs especially those that work on providing access to healthcare and education for children either through the formal school system or on their own. “We can’t give a toy to a hungry child and say we are solving his/her problem,”
    Ms Chari adds. If they meet its criteria, Toybank sets up play centres at those locations. Toybank, through its volunteers, monitors the impact of its work. They regularly interact with the NGOs; and play with the children to understand their growth. However, it does not distribute the toys to street kids directly. “We find that this will encourage them to stay on the streets,” she says. Toybank has also created toy libraries in government schools where students can play more formal board games.

    Until now, Toybank has reached around 35,000 children. It has a presence in five cities and also in Bhutan. However, raising funds and getting volunteers on a consistent basis are some of its challenges.

    One can volunteer for Toybank’s activities, donate toys and can also make financial donations. All donations are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income-Tax Act.

    Toybank-2, Indira CHS,
    Shivaji Park, Dadar (West),
    Mumbai-400 028
    Tel: 022-24458235
    Email: [email protected]

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