ENVIS Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Saturday, October 24, 2020

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Ragpickers swear passengers to green oath

                                                                                       The Times of India, New Delhi, 23th April, 2013

They were quite a sight on Monday, dressed in green jackets and mingling with the passengers at the New Delhi Railway Station. Passengers were taken aback when they were approached by them, some refused to even talk but others broke into a smile and happily took up the pen that the team was brandishing. The Safai Sena, a team of organized ragpickers working at four railway stations in the city, was encouraging people to sign a pledge saying that they would not litter.

"On the occasion of Earth Day we decided to have this event and managed to collect a few hundred signatures. Our people and volunteers from NGO Chintan spoke to passengers on platforms 1 and 16 and asked them not to litter and instead throw their garbage into bins," said Santu, a wastepicker working under the umbrella of Chintan.
 Geeta, a Delhiite travelling to Patna with her daughter, was one such passenger who signed the pledge. "Many of us litter even without thinking. I was a little surprised when I was approached by the team but when I learnt what they wanted, I happily signed, I only hope I am able to live up to my promise though I will try very hard," she said.

Around 100 Safai Sena karamcharis work at four railway stations in the city, collect waste, segregate and recycle about 2,200 kg of waste each day. "We have a contract with the Indian Railways and have been assigned to clear waste from all trains and dustbins. However, since waste collection is a source of income to several people, we are often not allowed to carry out our work. Other ragpickers, sweepers etc threaten us. Consequently, the amount of waste we recycle is less than half of what we are capable of. Even now, we are spending Rs 1.5 lakh each month in lining the bins at the stations," said Santu.

At the New Delhi railway station, where about 70 people are stationed, the Safai Sena manages to recycle most waste. Having recently been provided with electricity, they have set up a plastic shredder where they process the plastic bottles. "Each day we get 4,000-6,000 bottles and manage to shred 165-175 of plastic. This we manage to sell in the market for about Rs 45/kg. Other recyclable goods include paper cups, tissues and cardboards," said a worker.