Ragpickers become Odisha’s partner in urban governance | Bhubaneswar News – Times of India

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BHUBANESWAR: Subha Laxmi (35), a ragpicker, is very excited. She has been trained to drive a battery operated vehicle and will soon start collecting waste from people’s doorsteps. “Apart from an assured monthly income, it will be a dignified job,” says the mother of three children, two sons and a daughter.
“I want my children to study. They will be encouraged more if I do an honourable job,” says the Class VI dropout and native of Kalibari slum in Bhubaneswar. While her eldest son (17) is in Class XII, the other is in Class VI. The daughter (5) is yet to start school. Her husband works in an eatery.
She is among the 2,118 ragpickers the government has identified to involve them in waste collection, segregation and composting/recycling process. While it has formed 55 self-help groups involving 618 of them in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Berhampur and Sambalpur, the process to form similar groups in small towns and involve them in urban governance is on.
Subha Laxmi has been assured a salary of Rs 7,000 per month for around four hours of daily work by the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and would work in a group of three, the others being Laila Rao (32) and Jhilli Muili (29).
Ragpickers, besides trans-genders and slum dwellers, are now key partners in Odisha’s urban governance which won the state two national awards recently.
Odisha won the Janaagraha’s Best State and Best Civic Agency awards earlier this month. The Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission (OLHM), also called Jaga Mission, won the bronze at the World Habitat Awards in 2019.
Housing and urban development secretary G Mathi Vathanan said the government has made it mandatory for every urban body to undertake survey and identify ragpickers and involve them in material recovery facilities and waste collection and segregation, which they do, informally.
“Integration of ragpickers in municipal waste management is an essential eligibility criteria for the chief minister’s cleanest city award, an annual state ranking of cities and towns announced in December which would be similar to the Centre’s Swachh Survekshan,” Vathanan said.
The state would soon announce cash reward for the performers. While the implementation of various initiatives started this month, skill verification and telephone feedback will be done in the next three months, he added.
After providing land to slumdwellers under the Jaga Mission, partnering them in governance is the next level that the state is working on. While around 60,000 have already got land entitlement under Jaga Mission, another 20,000 will get it soon.
Besides giving them land, the government has been helping them get financial assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and has been developing other amenities to turn the slums into ‘Adarsh’ (model) colonies. At least 1000 Adarsh colonies would be ready within a year, Vathanan said.
Similarly, transgender groups are involved in collecting parking fees and holding tax in various cities, including Bhubaneswar. With some hand-holding and guidance, these groups of people would be involved in several works where technical expertise is not needed. Instead of giving such work to contractors, self-help groups are being involved in most jobs.



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