Sunday , 22 September 2019
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Rag-pickers provide an answer to Margao’s waste collection woes

MARGAO: At a time when the Margao municipal council (MMC) is struggling to continue with its programme of door-to-door collection of garbage, a group of 20 rag-pickers from Khareband in the commercial town have come to its rescue and made an offer to the civic body to collect and segregate the waste.
The rag-pickers have come together under the name of Chul-Chul self-help group and are backed by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) ‘Stepping Stone.’
Chief officer of the Margao civic body Narayan Sawant is studying the offer made by the rag-pickers. “I am studying the offer. The file has been sent to me recently,” Sawant said.
If the proposal is approved by the civic body, the rag-pickers will collect the waste and segregate it and a surveyor for the rag-pickers’ self-help group will look after the payment of wages to the rag-pickers and also the collection of the MMC-prescribed fees from the citizens for the service rendered.
The proposal could prove profitable to the MMC as each rag-picker’s monthly salary would roughly come to about Rs 6,000, which would be much lesser than what the MMC presently pays its daily wage workers, who are employed for the task.
Sources said that the Goa State Urban Development Agency (GSUDA), which is a state agency handling urban developmental projects, and the NGO have, in the meanwhile, completed the formalities by preparing identity cards for the rag-pickers and have readied their bank pass books and uniforms necessitated by the project consultants, and the final approval from the civic body is now being awaited.
The rag-pickers have been assured infrastructural support by GSUDA under the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) programme of the central government under which GSUDA can spend up to Rs 50,000 on the requirements of the self-help group being helped. Loan facilities up to Rs 10 lakh can be provided to the rag-pickers once they gain experience.
Considering the number of urban poor engaged in activities like rag picking, the central government has through its NULM programme introduced schemes to reduce poverty and vulnerability of the poor by enabling them to access gainful self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities, resulting in an appreciable improvement in their livelihood on a sustainable basis. However, there has been no such initiative by the civic bodies – at least not from the Margao civic body, despite the encouragement provided by GSUDA, said sources.
“Apart from these rag-pickers, few more self-help groups too showed willingness to collect waste and segregate it,” said project consultant of GSUDA Selsa Antao. “A proposal was forwarded to the MMC and a group gave assurance that it would collect the garbage fees fixed by the MMC as is being done in Mormugao municipal council areas. However, the Margao civic body did not accept the proposal,” she said.
Abelina Fernandes, a member of the NGO ‘Stepping Stone,’ said that the rag-pickers should be given a chance by the civic body so that it can be seen how effectively waste can be collected when the MMC could not do it.
Former chairperson of MMC and presently a member of the Margao solid waste management cell Savio Coutinho said, “A single ward of the 20-ward council should have been given to them on a temporary basis by the MMC, as the council has failed to collect waste on its own.”

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