01 Apr 2014 - 31 Mar 2015
01 Apr 2014 - 31 Mar 2015
The Department of Continuing and Adult Education of the SNDT Women’s University had initiated the project with waste pickers in the year 1990. They began with forming groups of the waste pickers and later collectivizing them into an organization called Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP). KKPKP has now become the core organisation of waste pickers. Registered as a trade union of self-employed workers in 1993, its current membership stands at 9400. The decision to register KKPKP as a trade union had to do with the fact that legally a trade union is a 'workers organisation' and it was the first step in establishing waste-pickers as 'workers'. The KKPKP is a sector specific mass organisation of unprotected and unrecognised waste-pickers and itinerant buyers who are the poorest and the most marginalised among poor urban workers. The approach of the KKPKP is holistic in that it encompasses struggle against all forms of injustice, inequality and exclusion in the social, economic and political spheres.
Drivers of Change…
In Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP), a waste picker’s trade union, a few girls-daughters, daughter-in-laws, members-have got an opportunity to learn car driving, so that they can drive tempos and earn some money. There have been other reasons too as to why the union has started this programme. One of those is breaking the stereotypes of girls not driving tempos. When upper caste, middle-class women drive Audis and BMWs crossing boundaries of 100 km/hr and zooming, that is considered okay and alright. But, when girls and women from vastis start driving tempos as a way of earning their livelihood-this is embarrassing. Why? There has been a conscious effort to tackle and break these stereotypes while funding this program.
At 10 a.m. Sagar Konde-the person, who teaches them driving arrives behind the Fulenagar RTO bus stand, helps them learn driving, guides them, and corrects them when they make mistakes and so on. One by one, the three girls-Vidya Sonawane, Monali Acharya and Pallavi Gaikwad-along with three karyakartas of the union take turns driving the Maruti 800, on which they have learnt driving. While speaking to Sagar about his reaction when he was first told that daughters and daughter-in-laws of waste pickers are going to be his students, he says it was laughable for him that these girls are learning driving so that someday they can drive tempos.
Vidya Sonawane, 19, is now reappearing for her 12th standard after giving one attempt last year. Vidya enrolled for the driving class because she likes to learn new things. And now when there was an opportunity, she willingly took upto it. She says, “We had to pay Rs. 500 initially. Rest of the fees for the driving class was paid by the union.” Her mother, a member of the union, tells her daughter “When other girls can learn driving cars, why can’t you?These other rich girls drive cars on the road, fearlessly. Even you can.”
About the process of learning driving, they said, “We have been riding cycles since a long time. The brakes of the cycle are in our hand. But, for a car or a tempo, they have to be controlled using the feet. It will take a lot of practice for us to be fluent at it. On the first day, we were told about the rules of driving on the road, information about indicators for turning, what gear do we turn the car on and so on. ”
When asked about the change in them due to learning driving, they said, “We have grown up seeing rich girls driving and riding bikes while they travel to college, for work, etc. Whenever we saw them, there was a desire to be able to drive but, we also knew at the back of our mind that this was impossible. Now after learning, I have a sense of pride and I know that I am capable. If I can learn driving, I know that I can learn any skill. My fear of the unknown has now gone away.”
The union now plans to find some places for work for them. Conditions for waste pickers today are improving but, not the same for all the waste-pickers. The idea is not to remove the coming generations of waste pickers out of this business. If they want to work as waste pickers, it is the job of the union now to improve their working conditions. Establishment of SWaCH-a waste picker’s co-operative aims for the same. But, it cannot occupy all of the waste pickers. There, this skill of tempo driving might be useful where, women might be able to collect much more waste, even take corporate contracts individually. The PMC also is willing to take these girls as drivers for the trucks which are responsible for transporting the waste to the Uruli waste depot. But, the PMC does not want to take any special efforts for the same. Almost 50 members or immediate family members of the union have already learnt or are in the process of learning tempo driving. Listening to three of these girls, Pallavi, Monali and Vidya, their experiences are clearly talking about how this training programme has helped them, their lives. All three of them are willing to work as drivers if they find any suitable jobs.