Their shanty house, located between a large market and a slaughter house in Bengaluru, provided a source of income. Krishna’s family took bones from the slaughter house and sold it to traders who converted this material into bone meal for crops. The rank stench of the dark, dingy, bone meal shops, sank right into Krishna’s bones and still haunt his dreams today. As the city grew, the slaughter house was removed, an event that pushed the family into crisis, taking away their only source of income. It was this situation that forced Krishna and his family to turn to a life built on garbage.
Whilst the foundations of this new line of work were demeaning, it gave Krishna independence and money at the end of each day. Krishna dropped out of school and became a full time waste picker. By his teens, Krishna was faced with the disgust of a society that saw only his tattered clothes and sack, but not the conditions that had forced him into that life.
It was at this critical period, in which many fall into a life of vice and unruly behavior, that Krishna met with personnel from Waste Wise — a non profit organization that worked to improve the livelihoods of waste pickers. Initially doubtful of the intentions of an organization that did not share his circumstance, Krishna slowly put his trust in Waste Wise through casual get togethers, exposure vests and training. He became a volunteer at a youth brigade that accompanied Waste Wise at its advocacy and job placement events. Soon, an opportunity came his way in the form of a five star hotel that wanted to clear dry recyclable waste on a daily basis. Seizing this opportunity, Krishna took a loan, hired a vehicle and rushed to work at 3 am every morning, without fail.
Faced with a tough job, Krishna did what he had done his entire life when faced with tough circumstances. He adapted. He began to understand the value of routine and reliability in service. His new found commitment earned him a meager, but steady wage and gave him the respect that he sought after in his community.
It was not enough. Krishna wanted more. He did not want to fall back to the habits of his peers — faced with a family relying on him, he sought to find a niche in the scrap market. Supported by his mentors, he sourced hotels and companies that required waste management solutions.Read More
Krishna has come far. From humble beginnings, he has ensured that his sisters are married and settled, and that his mother is cared for. He owns a vehicle, bought with a loan from Waste Wise, and has paid back 75% of that loan. He has employed 8 people as drivers, loaders and sorters. He collects waste from 24 different locations in the city with the help of Hasiru Dale, and collects on average, 10 metric tons of post-consumer Tetra Pak cartons in a month. His band of workers service 3 star hotels and manage a dry waste collection centre that retrieves 15 tons of dry recyclable waste every month.
Krishna now manages the Domlur Kartavya Seva DWCC at ward 1112, employing fifteen sorters and drivers and managing the SWM collection of his ward. In 2016 Krishna was a part of the team that won the REimagiNEWaste hackathon at IISc in April 2016 with the concept of a Waste Samaritan app, which was pilot tested in Krishna’s ward for a month with positive results. The app allows DWCC collectors to rate the segregation efforts of the households, resulting in a positive improvement of segregating by householders. Krishna also runs his private enterprise K is Caring, which serves military institutions for solid waste management.
Krishna is not finished.
He dreams of an Industrial Warehouse, where sorting is done through a mechanical conveyor belt, bailing is fixed by hydraulic press and where forklifts move bundled materials onto trucks, loaded with materials. He wants to employ 50 to 60 waste pickers, with fair wages, insurance, medical and retirement benefits. Krishna lost his childhood – he intends to prevent that fate for others by providing crèche and schooling facilities for the members of his work force.
Krishna is an entrepreneur in every sense of the word.
Mansoor is the oldest of six sisters and two brothers. He dropped out of a small government school situated near his home, in the 5th grade when his father tragically passed away. As the oldest son, the burden of taking care of his siblings fell upon his tender shoulders.
With his mother, he joined the informal waste sector to supplement the family income. His parents had run a small scrap shop near their home, to which all the wastepickers from their slum would bring their daily collection. Mansoor was responsible for sorting, segregating and weighing the approximately 500 kilograms of waste that would arrive everyday.
As their scrap shop was situated in a waste picker slum, they were insulated from the attention of the police, who routinely interfere in the lives of these communities.
Years passed and their lives were modest. Faced with rising competition and with unreliable labour, the scrap shop was forced to close.
By a stroke of luck, Mansoor met Soubhagya, of Hasiru Dala three years ago. Six months later, Mansoor attended his first Hasiru Dala meeting, in which he was able to network with other scrap dealers, as well as NGOs including the Namana Foundation, Gilgal Trust and Recycle Guru. Through this network, he received an opportunity to provide waste collection services to the Commissioner’s office in Shivaji Nagar, thus increasing his brand visibility and confidence.Read More
Mansoor was not satisfied. He upskilled by attending the Scrap Dealer Training program conducted by Hasiru Data in early 2013, in which he learned about business development strategies and relationship management with different stakeholders, ranging from customers to labour. Through this program he was able to become legitimate — in his eyes, the most valuable part of the training.
All of this combined to put Mansoor in a position in which he could take advantage of opportunity when it came. The Dry Waste Collection Centre in Ward 168 was struggling to make ends meet — with Mansoor’s qualifications, he was the ideal choice to take over.
Operating the DWCC was a challenge. Opened in March 2013, the centre was poor, with low, broken walls, which led to two robberies in which Mansoor lost valuable equipment. Undeterred, he secured the DWCC by re-building the walls and installing metal grills along the roof.
Mansoor has turned this DWCC around. Working from 7 am to 8 pm, he employs twelve sorters and drivers and collects 120 kilograms of waste from waste pickers. He also collects waste from five apartments in South Bangalore, receiving 1 tonne of waste and visits each apartment personally to make sure that nothing goes wrong.
Blessed with trilingual ability (he speaks Kannada, Tamil and Hindi) and an impressive personality, he has built strong relationships with the apartments — he receives a nominal monthly collection fee from two and is on call to collect extra waste.
Achieving this was not easy. Mansoor initially lost 60,000 rupees over the first six months of operation, due to the cost of hiring a tempo and extra labour. With a Rs20,000 loan from MSSS and his personal savings, Mansoor was able to invest in a small tempo and has turned around these losses.
Working with waste has provided Mansoor and his family with a future. It has enabled his children’s dreams by allowing him to enrol his two daughters and one son at Oxford School in J.P. Nagar. He hopes that all waste pickers and scrap dealers will be associated with Hasiru Data and dreams of the day when there is a DWCC in every ward and no waste on the streets.
Mansoor does not work only for himself. Mansoor is the founder of Clean City Recyclers Association, a scrap dealers’ cooperative which will play a role in creating a fair price marketplace, provide access to transparent data and geo-tag scrap dealers as the first point of sale for household waste
The twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) took place from 30 November to 11 December 2015, in Paris, France. Mansoor got the opportunity to attend the climate change conference in Paris for 10 days, and was one of the speakers there. He dedicates this to NGO Hasiru Dala, but this is proof that Mansoor’s expertise – earned the hard way – can match and educate even academics and activists in formal sectors across the world.
Sadashiviah has light green eyes. The hair has left the top of his head and circles the perimeter like a crown. He has light stubble and a salt and pepper moustache. His wife is petite. She supports her husband in business operation and in conversation. Sadashiviah has 4 children. His oldest two daughters are married. His sons work in the DWCC; one of them is studying in 2nd PUC.
Sadashiviah never went to school. His parents worked in construction. They worked long hours and earned barely enough to provide food and shelter for the family. When he was still a small child, he began wastepicking. It was the only avenue for him to earn a few rupees to help his family. He would earn Rs 100 a day.
At the age of 19, Sadashiviah had entrepreneurial dreams. He bought a second hand cycle and fixed it up. He would cycle from 8.30 a.m to 5 p.m in the neighbourhoods around his home and collect recyclable scrap from roadside dumps. With his cycle he could cover longer distances during the day and collect more scrap. At the end of the day he would sell everything he had managed to collect to a scrap shop. He would collect 100-150kgs each day and earn 250-300Rs.
He says he did not enjoy being a wastepicker because of the working conditions. Wastepickers have to deal with rotting food, flies, stray animals, foul odours, broken glass, infections and a whole host of occupational hazard to maintain a meagre livelihood. At the age of 22, he got employment in a scrap dealership earning 250-500 Rs a day. The work involved sorting and loading dry waste. Slowly, and steadily, Sadashiviah prepared to climb the ladder to a better life.
At the age of 25, he believed that he had gained enough experience to open his own scrap show. If they could do it, so could he. So, Sadashiviah began to look for capital to start his shop. But the formal banking sector is not forthcoming with loans to the informal labour sector. Informal sector labourers, due to lack of Government approved ID and financial collateral, are unable to get loans from banks. This makes it impossible for them to set up small businesses and expand existing systems.
Then he found an angel investor who offered him an interest free loan of Rs 5000 with the expectation that he would repay it in 2 months.
The shop hit the ground running. They received scrap from PKs, BBMP contract autos and homeowners. They began to receive high quality waste. But it was mixed. They would segregate it and sell it to wholesale scrap dealers.
Business mushroomed and soon Sadashiviah and his wife had opened 3 scrap shops.Read More
Sadashiviah was introduced to Hasiru Dala by Archana. Hasirudala explained to Sadashiviah to benefits of a BBMP ID card and how it would improve the quality of his work.
Archana told him about the organisation and the upcoming proposal for DWCC. He attended the Scrap Dealer Training Program in 2013. He learnt the intricacies of business development and the importance of collecting and processing dry waste in a neat and efficient manner. With his prior experience running scrap shops, he was the perfect candidate to manage the DWCC in ward number 44, Marappanpalya when the opportunity presented itself.
The DWCC was started on October 17th, 2012. The DWCC is open from 8am to 7pm. They use a rotating fund of Rs8-10,000 daily.
When the operations at the DWCC started, they received only large quantities of low quality mix road waste. Over 8000kgs! But Sadashiviah refused to break. With great tenacity they worked to slowly process all the waste they had received.
Now, the DWCC has a contract with Brigade Apartments which has over 1000 homes. Sadashiviah hires a lorry to collect dry waste from the apartment on Friday. Friday and Saturday are spent loading the vehicle. Four to six people are employed in loading at Brigade. On Saturday evening when the loading is completed, the Supervisor from Brigade is telephoned. He arrives on site, checks the quantity of waste, writes the receipt and makes the payment. He issues a gate pass which allows Sadashiviah to leave the apartment complex. They collect 600-800kgs of scrap per trip.
The DWCC also receives waste from ward 44 and commercial waste from RR nagara constituency. Each day the DWCC receives and processes almost 1 tonne of dry waste. The best collection is on Sunday when the residents from the neighbourhood take the time to come and drop off their dry waste at the centre.
Dry waste is brought by Pourakarmikas and BBMP. The DWCC receives road waste as well which is segregated and a BBMP lorry picks up the rejects. The centre receives 60-80kgs of rejects each day.
The present monthly collection ranges from 27-32 tonnes. The DWCC sends four lorry loads of segregated scrap to the wholesaler each week.
He is now able to offer employment to 10 people. Sadashiviah takes good care of his employees. On Dusshera he gifts all his employees and PKs new clothes and bonuses. He also provides medical expenses for his employees.
Sadashiviah’s journey has been a long one but it is nowhere near finished.
The DWCC still does not have electricity or running water. The BBMP has promised to set up these facilities but the wait continues. They have safety equipment including gloves and masks but they have not been using them regularly. The sorters insist that the work is more comfortable and efficient without the gloves. And since they are used to the work, it makes no difference with or without the gloves.
During periods of financial crunch, he takes an interest free loan from a local money lender who is also the wholesaler where he sells his segregated scrap from the DWCC. The loan amount, which is usually collected in the morning, is deducted from the sale of waste to the scrap dealer in the evening.
Sadashiviah has greatly improved his financial situation and social standing within his community. In January 2015, a DWCC in Ward 98 Prakashnagar caught fire. The operator of the DWCC, another Hasiru Dala employee and former wastepicker suffered a loss of Rs 1lakh. Sadashiviah contributed Rs 3000 to the DWCC relief fund. He does not hesitate to extend help, monetary or otherwise, to fellow wastepickers and scrap dealers in their time of need.
The DWCC has received several commendations for good work including from the Health Inspector and BBMP employees. And the future, at last, promises hope.
Anamma, a wastepicker since childhood, is now a confident entrepreneur in her forties, is running a Dry Waste Collection Center (DWCC). Born into a waste picking family, she was married at 20 and continues the same work with her husband.
As a member of Hasiru Dala, she received managerial training and employs four waste pickers at her DWCC. As a result she has been able to guarantee herself income, thereby changing her family’s life. Despite facing immense difficulty she has been able to put her son through school, where he is on the verge of graduating with an A+ average.
The occupational identity card that Hasiru Dala gave her has changed her life. When once she had to spend rainy nights under makeshift tents of sticks and plastic sheets, and scorching hot days, searching for scrap, she now has health care and scholarships for her children. This card is only the beginning of the transformation that Anamma has experienced – there is much more waiting in store.Read More
Annamma works in her DWCC despite damage from the rains and lack of payment from the BBMP, which has also not upgraded the DWCC. However she continues to provide regular service to the ward at her usual levels of excellence.
The UNCCD COP 14 ended on 13 September 2019, after ten days of meetings, 11 high-level, 30 committee and over 170 stakeholder meetings, 44 exhibitions and 126 side events. The Conference adopted the Delhi Declaration in which parties expressed commitment for a range of issues, including gender and health, ecosystem restoration, taking action on climate change, private sector engagement, Peace Forest Initiative and recovery of five million hectares of degraded land in India. We mention this here because Annamma was one of the speakers at this international event. Annamma is one of a growing number of wastepickers who show that their lived experience and their work has resulted in a wealth of knowledge that is of value to academics, policy-makers, environmental and social advocates.
Shekar is a modest, soft-spoken man who doesn’t easily boast about the tremendous strides he has take
n. He lives with his mother, his wife and two children and is currently the sole earner in the house.
Earlier, Shekar spent years picking waste from the streets and selling it forward, but that was a difficult life, with no stability. He eagerly accepted the driving lessons Hasiru Dala, which allows him now to run and operate a van unit for a Dry Waste Collection Center. He manages six people, but refuses to call himself a “boss”, preferring to take a collaborative approach where every puts in their share of work and shoulder responsibi
Kanakamma is a waste-picker with over two decades of work experience. She dropped out of school after the third standard. She worked as a bone picker before she moved on to waste-picking, which is a more lucrative profession. She received training from Hasiru Dala and for a short while ran a Dry Waste Collection Centre in Bangalore.
Kankamma’s husband is physically challenged, and their daughter has children of her own. Kankamma is the sole provider for this household. Kankamma is one of the itinerant workers who keeps our streets clean. She is generous with her time, and always on call if help is needed in a nearby ward.
Mary is a single mother with two children. She turned to waste picking to support her family, and Hasiru Dala is supporting her children’s education.
With access to stable employment with occupational ID cards and other social security, Hasiru Dala provided Mary with training on how to run a DWCC, and she was one of the first women entrepreneurs running a centre.
Mary has since returned to waste-picking from street to street, and supports her family (including her disabled son) from her income.
Lakshmi was born in Salem, Tamil Nadu but her family moved to Kolar Gold FIelds when she was very young. When they moved to Bangalore, they were homeless, living in parks and open spaces. Her grandparents used to rear pigs, but due to various circumstances moved to picking hair from the streets, and this became the family business. Lakshmi now leaves home at 6 am to look for hair on the roadsides. She sells the collected hair to dealers, who sell it onward to companies that make wigs. Hair Picking used to be a recognised activity on the streets of Bangalore, but this generation is finding it hard to collect enough hair for enough compensation. Sometimes, Lakshmi makes chaulis (traditional hair extensions for hair buns) and sells them for varying rates. Her compensation has become even harder to stabilise since the formalisation of GST and other state taxes. Lakshmi supplements her income by wastepicking as well.
Hair picking and making chaulis is not a profession that receives respect, and Lakshmi’s four children are unaware of her profession, and unlikely to follow her into it. Her husband sells balloons – a job which is most profitable in the winter months and not at other times. Lakshmi’
s life is a daily struggle to make ends meet for herself and her family.
Lotfar Ali has travelled a long way. He started waste-picking as a child in Delhi. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he became a dukandar, a scrap dealer. He employed ten other waste-pickers as he managed his business.
As business got more difficultLotfar moved to Banga
lore. He now runs a van unit service with Hasiru Dala. People like Lotfar are a part of the formal and informal recycling economies of urban centres.
Kokila is a member of Hasiru Dala who has been with us since our inception. Her mother and sister are also members, so this is like one extended family activism. Kokila picked waste from the streets as a child and for years as an adult after she got married, providing a large part of the family income.
She took the trainings offered by Hasiru Dala and Jain university with alacrity and now works at the SBI composting complex. She is an expert on the methods and requirements of composting and proudly calls herself a Compost Doctor. Composting gives her formal employment, but Kokila still does wastepicking to stretch her monthly earnings.
Kokila has a son and a daughter, and aims to provide them with a future more ambitious than the one she carves out for herself today. She is active in leadership roles and takes initiative to advocate for her community. She is a leader in all but name.
Alamelu is a single mother with two children. Like so many other members of her community she dropped out of school when she was a child and found work. She has worked as a waste picker for nearly two decades, and lives in the Kamakya Slum in South Bangalore.
Now that Alamelu has access to social security through her occupational ID card and AADHAAR card, she is able to access stable work. She took a workshop in composting with Hasiru Dala and now works as a composter at Asia Hotel. She also does total waste management for large events, drastically reducing event waste across our consumer-driven city.