A woman rummages through the flowing amounts of garbage at a landfill, and finds a few items after hours of work. She carries her rare treasure to sell when suddenly a mob surrounds her. There has been a theft and she is their first suspect. Such is the dismal fate of waste-pickers in India, a community that has been given very little in terms of basic human rights. Yet in Bangalore, Hasiru Dala Trust and Hasiru Dala Innovations have spelt hope for this community by fighting to give them an identity, appreciation in labour and livelihood opportunites to earn a better living.
The core focus of the Hasiru Dala Trust, is to focus on their social security, providing them with social justice and training to be able to offer professional services in waste management. Hasiru Dala Innovations Private Limited focuses on livelihood and services including total waste management services, event management and sanitization services. Hasiru Dala engaged with the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) which was the first municipality in India to provide work based identity cards to waste-pickers for their contribution to diverting waste away from the landfill.
Identified Labour: The identity cards spelt hope for various reasons. Not only did it grant them access to social security benefits, that had been alien concepts to this community but also helped eradicate harassment on the community from the general public and police. It allowed them liberty to travel freely, without fear, to do their job. During this inception, seven thousand waste-pickers were issued identity cards that set a precedent for the country. Today, even the solid waste management rules address and include the waste-picker community, with awareness having seeped into almost every state and local government body in Karnataka and rest of the country. The greatest boon was that they now have access to pension, health insurance, scholarships and loans which before Hasiru Dala’s intervention was not even a dream for this marginalised community.
Dry Waste: In 2017, waste-pickers were given the onus of fully managing Dry Waste Collection Centres as well as organising door-to door dry waste collection which was earlier managed by external agencies. Hasiru Dala also introduced the donate your dry waste concept where people were asked to donate all items of dry waste to the Waste-picking community instead of throwing them out thus prohibiting the struggle of waste-pickers from rummaging in landfills and dump sites.
Two Bin One Bag: Today a people’s movement, this concept was introduced and later voted on by the Karnataka High Court as the simplest way to segregate waste. One of the main factors behind the colour-coded concept was that many of the domestic help who handle the waste cannot read and write. The bag took all the recycled and dry waste while the green bin was for wet waste and the red for sanitary/residual waste.
Total Waste Management: Hasiru Dala enabled waste pickers a larger role in the field they know best by integrating them into the mainstream system. Bangalore Municipality was the first to empanel Hasiru Dala Innovations to provide services to bulk waste generators. During covid-19 they were part of the essential services and cater to a little over thirty-five thousand households while diverting, on an average, anywhere between 300 to 350 tonnes of waste from reaching landfills in a month.
Zero Waste: Their zero-waste initiative focuses on segregation at the source in three ways: intense citizen engagement, decentralised waste processing and by formally integrating waste pickers into the waste management process. The overall aim is to reduce the amount of waste that exits each ward, and is slowly spreading to other parts of Karnataka state. Hasiru Dala’s efforts have made a huge mark in ensuring a life of dignity and security to a community that has never been acknowledged by India, until this clean evolution.