Chandigarh is a proud city when it comes to the top performing Indian cities in terms of their sanitation and cleanliness standards. It ranked 6th in the Swachh Survekshan 2022. Riding on a strenuous, collective and sincere effort by Chandigarh's SafaiMitras (sanitation workers), well supervised by the parent civic body, Chandigarh has won several accolades for its cleanliness and waste management efforts.
The City Beautiful has emphasized Information, Education and Communication (IEC) bid on Swachhata among common citizens, students, teachers, traders and various state government departments. Through its initiatives, Chandigarh has ensured proper segregation of dry and wet waste, witnessing almost 100% waste segregation in the city. The civic body has put strict solid waste management bylaws in place, violation of which attracts penalty. It is also focusing on community toilets/public toilets, their operations & maintenance and asking citizens for their feedback on improvement and other requirements. The city’s SafaiMitras have also been equipped with smartwatches so that they can finish cleanliness work on time. Hundreds of garbage collection vehicles have been mobilized for door-to-door garbage collection. In addition, the MCC has launched several campaigns that have boosted the city’s sanitation process.
The MCC initiated the ‘Ek Saal Swachhta Ke Naam’ campaign. Under this initiative, events and campaigns were run each month throughout a whole calendar year, focusing on urban swachhata.
Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh launched a unique initiative to ensure ‘Zero Waste Wedding’ events in the city. The ULB offered a 20% concession on the booking amount for community center, open space and other areas. The amount would be credited in the bank account of the applicant subject to a ‘Zero Waste’ clearance of the wedding venue by the civic body’s inspection team. This could prove to be a precursor for other Indian cities, who have been making sincere efforts in their quest to be tagged as #GarbageFreeCity.
In January 2022, Chandigarh launched the ‘Hamare Parks, Hamari Pehchaan’ campaign in a bid to clean up all the neighborhood parks in the city. The campaign involved area councils and local citizens in their respective areas. The residents got to learn about and were inspired towards the need to keep their surroundings neat and clean and make such public place beautiful and enjoyable.
The Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh decided to take steps to formalize women, who were working as ragpickers. Through their entry in the mainstream, they would receive stability of income, access to government welfare schemes and recognition for their work. Thus, MCC launched first of its kind material recovery facility (MRF)-cum-garbage transfer station in Chandigarh run by an all-women team and christened it as “Pink MRF.”
The Chandigarh municipal body incorporated woman power to propel its mission. The MCC has initiated an all-women material recovery facility called the PINK MRF. The woman SafaiMitras have now earned respect, they are leading a dignified life and are proud of themselves working at these centers. This is something they were earlier deprived of.
“एमआरएफ सेंटर पर काम करने से हमें सम्मान मिला है और अब हम अपना सिर ऊँचा करके चल सकते हैं. यह हमारे अपने परिवार की तरह है. यहां हमारा अच्छा ध्यान रखा जाता है और कई सुविधाएं भी हैं. इसके अलावा 40 लाख रू. का बीमा होने के बाद हमें काफी राहत मिली है, क्योंकि हमारे पीछे हमारे परिवार के गुज़ारे की चिंता अब नहीं है.” (Santra Devi, PINK MRF)
The PINK MRF is the first unit of the MCC to have only female workers. For the implementation of the idea, a survey was conducted across the city to identify potential ragpickers who could benefit from the scheme. The pink workforce includes 20 helpers, data entry operators and security guards. The helpers were earlier working as ragpickers. They would now perform the duty of segregating dry waste on a conveyer belt. The work for such SafaiMitras is more streamlined now.
SafaiMitra Pushpa Devi used to work at a dumping site till some time back but did not like it there. But at the PINK MRF center, she has got much-needed respite from hardships. She says:
“डंपिंग ग्राउंड पर हमें काफी दिक्कतों का सामना करना पड़ता था. वहां कोई सुविधा
नहीं थी और हमें अपनी सैलरी भी टाइम पर नहीं मिलती थी. लेकिन एमआरफ सेंटर पर सुविधाएं अच्छी हैं और
सैलरी भी टाइम पर मिलती है. हमें समाज में अब काफी इज्जत भी मिल रही है. और हमें चंडीगढ़ कॉर्पोरेशन की
तरफ से 2.50 लाख रु. का एक्सीडेंट कवर और 40 लाख रु. का बीमा मिला है, तो अगर कोई दुर्घटना होती है तो
यह हमारे काफी काम आएगा.”
Pushpa Devi, PINK MRF
The “PINK MRF” has the potential of becoming a significantly crucial intervention in order to cater to the ever-increasing need for gender equity. The multifold impact of the initiative can be understood as an initiative that provides a sense of recognition and dignity of work to the women employed, who were earlier at the periphery of the social fabric of the city. The livelihood opportunity gives the women security of income and access to various government schemes, thus improving their economic status and standing. Also, the facility has improved the network of waste disposal in the city by ensuring segregation and recovery of waste.
PINK MRF worker Ranjana shares the same sentiments as her colleagues at the facility, saying:
“मैंने 5 साल तक डंपिंग ग्राउंड पर काम किया. वहां हमें तेज़ धूप में, गर्मी में,
बारिश में और सर्दी में भी काम करना पड़ा था और आराम नहीं मिलता था. कई बार तो बिना पैसे हमें घर लौटना
पड़ता था. काम करने के लिए हमारे पास ग्लव्स, या मास्क जैसी चीज़ें उपलब्ध नहीं थी और हमें गंद में हाथ
डालना पड़ता था. एमआरफ सेंटर पर हमें ये सब चीज़ें काम करने के लिए मिलती हैं. यहां छत भी लगी है, जिससे
बारिश, धूप और गर्मी में हमारा बचाव होता है. अब हमें अपनी सैलरी भी टाइम पर मिलती है और इसलिए घर चलाने
में दिक्कत नहीं आती है. अब हमारा काफी सम्मान भी होता है और हम यहां सुरक्षित भी महसूस करते हैं.”
Ranjana, PINK MRF
Women are not the only section of society and group of SafaiMitras, who is benefitting from the Chandigarh civic body’s initiatives. Male SafaiMitras, who are sewage cleaners with the Chandigarh MC, would earlier have to enter the sewer manhole to clean it up, having to risk their lives. Lack of latest machinery and proper training to work with it were the major causes of mishaps like SafaiMitras’ deaths while doing the sewer-cleaning work. But the burden of their filial responsibilities was heavier than that of that threat. That has changed now. The sanitation workers have all kinds of modern safety gears at their disposal. They have been provided with sets of modern machinery to be used while cleaning up sewage manholes and septic tanks, while more such machinery is on the way
Manhole cleaner Sandeep Kumar has witnessed his life change in a positive way owing to the introduction of latest machinery and the initiation of insurance policy for them. Sandeep says:
पहले हमें सफाई करने के लिए सीवर में उतरना पड़ता था, जो कि बहुत जोखिम भरा
था.गटर के अंदर ज़हरीली गैस दुर्घटना की बड़ी वजह थी. लेकिन अब कॉर्पोरेशन ने हमें सीवर साफ करने के लिए
आधुनिक मशीनें और सुविधाएं उपलब्ध करा दी हैं. कॉर्पोरेशन ने हमारा 40 लाख रु. का बीमा भी कराया है,
जिससे हमारे पीछे हमारे परिवार का पालन-पोषण हो सकता है.
(Sandeep Kumar, Chandigarh SafaiMitra)
The formalization of these sanitation workers has ensured an increased administrative convenience. In the longer run, the impact of formal livelihood to women ragpickers shall translate into a better access to opportunities, decrease the burden on healthcare system by reducing scope of work-related injuries and reduce the incidence of mortality arising due to lack of proper medical facilities.On the other hand, private organizations such as malls, hotels, hospitals, banquet halls have hired SafaiMitras. These SafaiMitras have been licensed by the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation to work for entities that do not fall under its aegis. Steps of this kind have created more jobs for SafaiMitras, especially for those who were not regular employees of the civic body.
The Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh realized that the SafaiMitras were the driving force in its quest for excellence and thus had to ensure their well-being through various initiatives.
Chandigarh Mayor Anup Gupta says:
“हमारे जो सफाई मित्र हैं, ये चंडीगढ़ को साफ और सुरक्षित रखने के हमारे मकसद में एक अहम
कड़ी हैं. जीवन बीमा और पिंक एमआरएफ सेंटर के अलावा हमने चंडीगढ़ के सभी सैक्टर्स में सफाई मित्रों के लिए
सैनिटेशन सेंटर बनाए हैं, जहां वे नहाना-धोना, अपना रख-रखाव कर सकते हैं और खुद अपनी सेहत का ध्यान रख सकते”
(Anup Gupta, Chandigarh mayor)
The Chandigarh civic body has decided that, apart from the life insurance, the SafaiMitras will soon be getting a health insurance along with technical skill development centres set up for their family members. The education of their kids will be aided with basic facilities provided through a trust as well. Many more welfare plans are in the pipeline. This implies that the Chandigarh MC is not willing to take a breather while on a mission for further upliftment and emancipation of its workforce. It has formulated a roadmap that it looks to continue working on. The civic body is committed to empower its workforce giving it the necessary push so it, in turn, propels Chandigarh’s ambition to become a Garbage Free City and rise to the top spot in the Swacch Bharat Survekshan.
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