'Waste pickers treated like dirt by university'

Sep 25, 2013, 05:11 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

NGO SWaCH, which is set to lose its contract of cleaning up rubbish from UoP's campus, reacted strongly to the varsity's decision of floating a waste management tender

A week after MiD DAY reported on how the University of Pune (UoP) abruptly decided to initiate a tendering process in waste management, the NGO Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH), which was earlier tasked with disposing of the garbage has strongly criticised the move.

The decision, according to SWaCH, endangers the livelihood of 128 women workers from the weaker sections of society. “The UoP has decided to treat waste pickers like dirt and discard them like trash,” stated an official statement issued by SWaCH.

What a waste! The UoP’s decision to issue a tender for a waste management system in its premises, according to NGO SWaCH, endangers the livelihood of 128 women workers from the weaker sections of society, who would be left in the lurch after the move. File Pic

“The UoP is supposed to be a temple of new ideas, a place where democratic principles are inculcated, a place of hope. Sadly, today, the UoP has fallen prey to ideas of business and corporatisation. Instead of promoting an inclusive and sustainable model of waste management, they have chosen to promote big profit driven companies,” it stated.

MiD Day’s report on Sept 16

SWaCH’s convener Manisha Desai said, “As an education institution it is the responsibility of UoP to promote new social model. But it seems that the varsity is more interested in opening its doors to the corporates. All the members of SWaCH are really disappointed by the varsity decision.”

The statement further adds, “Workers question what do big contractors have to offer that we don’t already offer? Why replace a system that is already running smoothly and is pro-poor? Hopes and dreams of waste pickers who have been working at the University lay crushed today.

Workers who have managed to support their families, educate their children and live a life of dignity through this work are now faced with a most uncertain future. The UoP has shattered their security in one clean sweep, leaving them to pick up the pieces.”

Meanwhile, supporting the management council’s decision of introducing the tendering process, UoP Vice Chancellor Dr Wasudev Gade claimed that SwaCH’s workings have professional limitations, as they do not have the required expertise. “SWaCH’s workers have the limited role of picking up waste. We have decided to issue a tender for the overall housekeeping of the varsity campus. In this regard SWaCH has professional limitations,” Gade said. According to a varsity source, four firms have already filled the tenders, out of which two have been shortlisted and a decision will be taken at the next management council meeting.  

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