CHENNAI: Srinivasan’s back throbs with pain. Riding pillion to that soreness is a stabbing ache in his knees. Years and years of pushing a mangled and waste-laden tricycle with punctured wheels have put him in this misery. Why does Srinivasan still keep pushing the tricycle daily, you ask? Well, he is a city corporation sanitation worker.
Srinivasan S from Washermenpet is just one among thousands of corporation employees who operate the 4,027 tricycles still rolling on city roads. Most of these vehicles are rickety and carrying around 60-kg waste on them is a daily ordeal for the employees.
"It becomes arduous during rains to push the vehicle on waterlogged roads amidst potholes and bumps,’’ Srinivasan, who collects garbage barefoot and without gloves, said. “I once developed an Athlete’s foot (fungal infection) due to prolonged exposure to waterlogged roads.”
Life is not very different for others too. They claim the tricycles are not nearly sufficient to carry all the waste generated on the city streets. ‘’The bins are capable of holding only 20 kg and hence, I have to make at least three trips between the community bins and streets,’’ says G Kumar, a worker in Tondiarpet. He walks a minimum 4 km daily, covering four streets.
You are at fault too
Kumar rues that residents are not compassionate and don’t understand their plight. “They don’t segregate waste and some even fling waste in plastic bags from their apartments.”Separate bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste have been provided. “As the residents don’t segregate, we have the additional duty to separate the waste before dumping them in community bins,’’ Kumar further said.
Many times, the garbage overflows as there are insufficient community bins. “Even after multiple trips we take to fill the bins, the corporation’s electric vehicles sometimes don’t come,” he said.
Any light at the end of the tunnel?
The city currently has 19,605 conservancy workers collecting 5,000 metric tonnes of garbage daily. To reduce manpower and ease garbage collection streetwise, the corporation recently received 14 battery-operated tricycles costing Rs 14 lakh.
However, a top corporation official noted that the civic body lacked funds to replace the cycles. ‘’We get new electric vehicles as and when companies offer us CSR funds. We hope to phase out all tricycles by 2021,’’ added the official. Meanwhile, many electric vehicles purchased under the Swacch Bharat Mission scheme have already conked, especially in suburbs like Poonamalle and Chitlapakkam. These vehicles are now gathering dust at panchayat offices, while the old tricycles continue to man the roads.