If cash is trash then the converse is equally true. Members of University of Pune’s management council recognised this recently on learning that the varsity was paying Rs 2 crore every year for garbage collection and disposal to an NGO. Out of the blue an idea to float a tender was mooted, endangering the livelihood of 128 women from weaker sections of society, who have been working on the project for the past three years under the wing of Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH).
So, while UoP has already decided to cut the NGO off, it is noteworthy that SWaCH is working with Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) since 2008 and the civic waste management department gives all credit of collecting and recycling 200 tonnes of garbage per day to the organisation and its 2,200 waste pickers, who are working for the cause of keeping the city clean.
Sources have told MiD DAY that some varsity officials are making a bid to have contractors of their choice handle the project. When contacted, UoP’s Registrar Dr Narendra Kadu said, “The management council has passed the proposal of initiating tendering process in waste management of the campus. Though SWaCH is working since three years, now if it wants to continue the contract it would have to participate in the new system.” While Kadu claimed doors are still open for SWaCH, the management council has all but made sure that the NGO is kept out by including the norm that those participating in the tendering process should have a minimum annual turnover of Rs 5 crore.
“SWaCH is a unique cooperative model of waste picker women representing weaker section of the society. So even if we decided to participate in the tendering process, it is just not possible, as we don’t have such huge revenue,” said members of SWaCH, who did not wish to be named.
When probed the UoP registrar on these lines he said, “I don’t know the details of the tendering process. I will consult the estate department and look into the matter.” “Since the last three years I have been working at the university. However, over the last few months we have been experiencing problem of late payment. As I am just a worker, I don’t know what happens at the top level, but this job means a lot to me as I am the sole breadwinner of my family,” said a woman affiliated with SWaCH. The last date of filling tender is September 16 and the new contractor would likely be appointed by the varsity in this week’s management council meeting. Representatives of SWaCH said they would come up with an official press release on this issue in the next few days.
Interestingly, taking note of the NGO’s unique work in the field of waste management, PMC had appointed SWaCH in 2008 without a tendering process. When contacted, Suresh Jagtap, head of the civic body’s waste management department, said, “Starting with 800 waste pickers, today the number of SWaCH volunteers has reached 2,200, and we are quite impressed with the way all these workers are performing. SWACH is helping PMC deal with 200 tonnes of garbage every day. The main benefit we find is that for all these women under SWACH, waste picking and separation is a livelihood. So, unlike other private contractors they take special efforts to segregate solid waste and separate plastic and metal garbage.”
When MiD DAY informed him about UoP’s decision, Jagtap said, “I am quite surprised hearing this. I witnessed how SWaCH started its work in the varsity and how the then vice-chancellor Dr Narendra Jadhav had supported this whole initiative.”
>> Total no of SWaCH’s female volunteers working at UoP: 128
>> The salary each of these women receive per month according to Minimum Wages Act: Rs 8,000
>> The total area of the campus they clean every day: 411 acres
>> The year when SWaCH began working with the varsity: 2010
No of female waste pickers working as volunteers with SWaCH
Amount of garbage the NGO helps PMC collect and recycle every day