By Rohit Bidkar
India, with aspirations to become a developed nation from a developing nation, still faces some cruel problems like manual scavenging, manual cleaning of sewers, and manual segregation of enormous waste in unhygienic conditions. The list can go on and on. I don’t know any people who chose to be waste collectors or manual waste segregators at landfills. They do this to feed their family and educate their children. Many of these people have taken this because their parents belonged to the same profession and this is all they know.
Considering the current lifestyle of a middle-class person and thanks to the digital age we are living in, everything can be ordered online, from a matchstick to stationery, clothes, gadgets, and groceries. But all these products bring along with them layers of “necessary” plastic which hardly catch our attention, so long as they are “protecting” the orders. A lot happens after we open the item in the package which is contained within multiple layers of plastic.
Currently, there are millions of waste collectors in every city and town acting as invisible warriors handling enormous amounts of lifestyle waste created by us. They are working round the clock to provide the necessities for their families. The byproduct of this action is clean homes, neighbourhoods and cities.
Waste collectors not only keep our cities clean but also reduce our ecological footprint. But, their work rarely gets the acknowledgement they deserve from the citizens whose waste they are handling. Children of waste collectors should get educated and find themselves in a different job rather than landing themselves in a dhalav collecting and segregating waste. I believe that education is an effective tool in transforming the lives of the children of waste collectors to ensure that they don’t land up in the same profession as their parents.
This compels one to answer a new set of questions: what will waste collection look like? How will it get segregated? Should it be my responsibility to keep my house and country clean by taking care of the waste I am creating? If we do not become waste conscious now, we will not be in a position to take responsibility for our own waste and head towards more sustainable lifestyles.