The ongoing expansion of the Namma Metro network has attracted widespread criticism and concern for Bengaluru’s already-stressful traffic conditions and its precious tree cover. But its effect on the lives of the city’s economically-disadvantaged families hasn’t received enough attention. One such story that deserves to be known is that of Arpudom and Sagai Mary, a couple who had been managing the dry waste collection of Ward number 170, 171 and 177 for the past 7 years. The Dry Waste Collection Centre (DWCC) had provided them with an automobile for collecting the waste as well as a centre under the Jayadeva flyover for the purpose of waste segregation and storage. They collected about 800 kg to 1 metric tonne of waste every day from about 700 to 800 houses. There is also a small team of women and men that works with them.
It was tough going, but the couple was managing well despite the difficulties. This was until a notice for evacuation was issued to them by the BBMP – they had to vacate the centre within two days on account of the new Elevated Metro line that is being built to pass through where the centre is. The notice has thrown the couple into a state of despair and panic because waste collection and management were their only sources of income. They managed to find another space but it is smaller and all the segregation needs to be done outside the centre’s main structure – a potentially grievous issue for the residents in the neighborhood. The new place has also not been confirmed to be rented or acquired either.
The BBMP’s rightful support could have eased the couple’s suffering twice, but that help hasn’t come through. Firstly, the couple was not granted the funds they had been promised. As a result, the couple today is in debt and is desperately awaiting the promised funds. Secondly, the couple was not provided any aid to help move the collected waste to the new location. The shift will require transportation costing ₹3,000 per trip, and it would roughly require 9 trips across 3 days to complete.
Given the amount of waste in their possession and with no centre available to store it, the couple had to stop collecting new waste. People in charge of a different centre now collect waste from Ward numbers 170, 171 and 177 using the couple’s automobile. The couple are in a state of limbo as they have no direct source of income and are being forced to give off the remnants of their resources to a third party.
Arpudom and Sagai Mary say that the centre wasn’t just a source of income or a place to stay for them. It served as a source of shelter for a homeless couple and their waste was a source of food for pigeons and close to 15 dogs. The centre was a little ecosystem on its own. It is deeply unfortunate that the Metro line is breaking apart many such ecosystems without providing for any alternative or relocation measures. The question remains – where will they go?
Vishwanathan has been working with Hasirudala for three years. This NGO acts as a bridge between the BBMP and the operators of Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCCs). They are currently working with over 36 DWCCs.
The operators were collecting dry waste twice a week, which was met by criticism from the residents – they were finding it troublesome to store the segregated waste. After providing them with an effective alternative, however, the work went on. In order for the DWCC operators to work, they need a, what is known as, ‘Work Order’, which is equivalent to a permission letter. This order usually comes in very late. When the operators work without the Work Orders, their work is nullified. However, a few BBMP officials, along with Health Inspectors as well as the members of Hasirudala, always stand by the operators to get them what they deserve. The team worked with DWCC operators Sagai Mary and Arpudom recently to help them find an alternative center after they had received an eviction letter.
Sagai Mary and Arpudom were promised a center either at Dairy Circle or at Delmia Circle. However, they were not provided with a center at either of these places because the center might become an inconvenience in these already traffic-heavy areas. When the dry waste collection was stopped, the residents of J.P. Nagar started complaining. The complaints reached the area’s MLA, who did what he could to ensure that Mary Sagai and Arpudom started collecting dry waste again and got a new center as well.
A place was finalised at East End, on the way to Banashankari from Ragigudda Temple. The problem with this place, however, is that it is very small, with no place to segregate, while the daily collected dry waste can be transported only on a weekly basis, making the work very inconvenient. Because of the lack of communication and the growing uncertainty, Sagai Mary and Arpudom have been struggling to continue their work. The center had stopped door-to-door dry waste collection due to lack of space but had to pick it back up due to complaints from residents. The collector and the driver of the collection vehicles at their center quit their jobs ten days later.
Vishwanathan reveals that while they’re grateful for the support they are already receiving, what these DWCC operators require the most are well-planned alternatives after their evacuation so that they do not have to struggle under so much pressure. “They already have very little to make two ends meet
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