CHENNAI: The Chennai Corporation is on the verge of completing a survey of rag pickers in the city, in order to issue identity cards to them, said officials.
The measure is an attempt by the civic body to legitimise garbage segregation activities that the rag pickers are involved in and shield them from harassment by law enforcement agencies, said officials.
This is a remarkable U-turn by the Corporation officials who had, a few months before, refuted commissioning of the survey, citing inherent difficulties in identifying the rag pickers amid fears that they will misuse the ID cards.
Officials said that the Chennai Corporation was following the precedent set by the cities of Bengaluru and Pune in identifying rag pickers. “We have finished identifying nearly 200 rag pickers near the Kodungaiyur dumpyard and are about to complete the process at Perungudi as well. The city, too, will be surveyed for such ragpickers, with the whole process completed before the end of December,” said a senior official.
The issue of identity cards will also prevent unauthorised persons from gaining access to dumpyards, and help in avoiding untoward incidents.
However, officials stated that there would be no provision of social entitlements to the rag pickers and their families like voter ID, ration cards, etc.
“It is an option that we may explore in the future,” an official said.
However, officials said that such a measure became necessary, following the Corporation’s decision to privatise Solid Waste Management (SWM) process.
Apart from zones four, five, six and eight that house important government estates and offices, the Corporation has decided to privatise the solid waste management system in all other zones of the city.
Therefore, issuing ID cards to these ragpickers would help avoid any confrontation between them and those employed by the private contractor in charge of garbage clearance, who would be paid by the civic body for the tonnage removed.However, activists wondered whether the Corporation had adopted the right methodology while undertaking the survey.
“It remains to be seen if the Corporation has considered the livelihood of the children of these rag pickers surveyed because it is known that most of these children are also into clearing garbage. Will the Corporation take care of their education needs?” asked Vanessa Peter from the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities.
“The best way to conduct a survey of rag pickers is to approach the scrap dealers, who are in direct contact with these rag pickers. Only then the Corporation can ascertain the number of ragpickers in the city,” she added.