“niiti”, a Sanskrit word means, in different contexts, policy, ethics, tenets. To us, who belong here, it is our raison d’etre, our touchstone. So we constantly turn to our ethics and tenets when we re-examine the basis of what we do and how we do it over and over again. This is our space to engage with our core, with you, our readers and companions on the path towards an equitable society in the deepest meaning of the word. Over the past years, there are several social issues and organisations that we have engaged with and been enriched with both experience and knowledge along the way. We believe that in creating a conversation platform for those engaged in the field, including some of our clients, partners, all of you out there who have reached this site wanting to be the change and others who have expertise to comment and critique, we can actually crowd-source actions and solutions for some of our most pressing social issues.

Some of these stories feature organisations and people who have been the change; others highlight innovative approaches to long-entrenched social issues; yet others point to ways in which change can be facilitated, simply. If you are inspired by them as well and motivated to replicate their work, or want to share inputs on other bright examples like these, do write to us at

This is your platform. Feel free to contribute, critique, and most importantly, converse.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why migration is fuelling inefficient urban waste management

(Source: Syncline Films, Scavenging dreams)

While most people play the role of waste generators, there are very few that really
know where the waste goes after it leaves our homes, streets, offices etc. Does
the municipal authority collect it all? Hardly. Most of this is scavenged by
waste pickers or rag pickers who collect waste which they sell to informal
traders for a few rupees. The waste pickers operate informally living close to
waste sources which are located at the fringes of the city.

Most of these individuals are migrants who come to bigger cities hoping for a better
life. They sift through piles of rubble, domestic waste, medical waste and
industrial waste. Considering the complete lack of healthcare and sanitation
surrounding this informal waste collection, not many are willing but submit to
becoming waste pickers due to their dire need of income. While repeated
attempts are being made at formally integrating waste pickers in the waste
cycle, no urban body has been successful so far. This is due to multiple
reasons. There are multiple stakeholders in every waste cycle and none want to
lose their presence in the changed scenario. Also, while the waste pickers do
their job invisibly, the government can continue to give a blind eye. Residents
are happier because they have cleaner streets. Other than token efforts, like
the provision of rubber gloves, the municipal bodies have not done much to
improve the waste pickers’ lives.

However, many waste pickers die every year. They are treated as outcasts because of
their profession. However, waste picking does not ebb as continued migration has
lead to continuous waste picking. Immediate formalization and reinvention of
the role of waste pickers is required, such that the waste management system
becomes more effective and efficient and these migrant workers find themselves
gainful and respectable employment.

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