Mangaluru: Domestic solid waste self-management helps solid waist management; that’s a truth that is hard to evade. But evade it is what we all do.
We just throw it out – the waste, often without segregating it, like we are supposed not to – hoping there is someone out there, or that someone, somewhere in the bureaucratic maze that is our governance system, has made some arrangements to pick it up, incinerate it or recycle it. It’s not our problem folks, it’s theirs. We pay our taxes, don’t we?
Oh yes, we do, and at our city’s level, the City Corporation has put in place an organized system, for which we are grateful. It’s not perfect, it is not the best, but they are trying their best and we applaud their efforts for the reasonable solid waste management process they have put in place. The days of overflowing bins, garbage-filled sidewalks, and a free for all for crows and animals, seem to be long gone. And we are grateful.
But no organized system is possible without people; people who populate the system; who do the hard work, who pick up the waste without complaint, often without protective equipment? Not on this earth. There 770 people out there spread across the 60 wards of the Mangalore City Corporation, working hard so that we may live in a swacch Mangaluru. They may be doing it for a livelihood, so that their children may not have to do what they do, but they do it with diligence, a smile, and dedication. They deserve our respect. Always. When we meet them on the road when they pick up the garbage at our gates when they sweep the road in front of our house or even clean underground drainage. We must greet them with a smile and a hello, just as they do when they see us. They are the ones who pack our parachutes.
“Let’s Honour and Felicitate the Sanitation Staff of the city”, was a thought that transformed into reality with the joint efforts of Uxcel, the Institute for Excellence and the Roshni Alumni Association (RAA), School of Social Work Mangalore.
A small project that was originally focussed on honouring select sanitation staff of the Mangaluru City Corporation, metamorphosed into a mega-event that rocked Mangaluru – as the event date approached, it was decided to honour them all – the permanent and the non-permanent workers of the Sanitation Department of Mangalore City Corporation (around 750) on December 15, 2019, at the Milagres PU College Auditorium in the presence of Ms. Sindhu Roopesh DC, Mangalore, Chief Guest, and Shri Ajit Kumar Hegde, Commissioner, Mangalore City Corporation who presided over the function. It was a unique, and noble initiative to do what each of us should do individually.
But it took a lot of preparatory work on the ground. Madhu Manohar, the city’s environment engineer and Hanumanthaappa, the Health officer of the Mangalore City Corporation, together with their staff supported the event wholeheartedly, passing the word around and gathering their flock for the event on December 15th.
The response from the public in support of the event was overwhelming and noteworthy. Individuals and Organizations appreciated the unique idea and generously contributed towards the honoring of the Sanitation Staff of the city.
“The whole event was sponsored by many individuals and institutions that just said yes when approached with this unique idea,” said Mrs. D’Costa, Director, Uxcel. “The Mangalore City Corporation, their top officials and everyone – the environment engineers and Public Health Officials – who work day in day out so that we may live in a clean and healthy environment too were very supportive”, she added.
Everyone likes a pat on the back; it is both a reward and acts as a motivator; however since we are not designed to pat our own, we must certainly pat those who deserve it. And who better than the sanitation staff of the Mangalore City Corporation?
On the much-awaited day, Sunday, the 15th Dec at 4.30 32 smartly uniformed students of Cascia School received the Deputy Commissioner, Ms. Sindhu Rupesh IAS, with a guard of honor. Their Headmaster, Mr. Everest Crasta and Teacher Rita Fernandes accompanied the student band for the occasion.
The programme began with a meaningful prayer rendered by star singer Abhinav Bhat of Uxcel followed by words of welcome and a joint rendition (along with the sanitation staff) of a self-composed motivational song “Swacch Mangaluru” by Prof. Maria Phyllis D’Costa, Director, Uxcel.
In a departure from convention, the traditional lamp was lit by both the Dignitaries on the Dais and representatives of the Sanitation Staff. This was followed by a brief yoga session conducted by Yoga expert and international referee and examiner, Ms. Devika Purushotham. The audience, majorly composed of sanitation staff participated in the exercise session with enthusiasm. It was a new and unique experience for them.
Then, it was time to honor the sanitation staff who had come for the event. The Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada Ms. Sindhu Rupesh honored the sanitation staff at their seats with a towel placed on the left shoulder and a cash gift placed in a ribboned manila envelope. Other dignitaries too joined in the honoring exercise. It was pure joy to watch the happiness on their faces as they received the honors with gratitude and a smile.
“Civic workers play an important role in maintaining the beauty of the city and they are the people responsible for the well-being of the entire city,” opined Dakshina Kannada district Deputy Commissioner Sindhu B Rupesh, after honoring the Civic staff. Sindhu said that the importance of the sanitation staff is realized only when they stop working. “The civic workers ignore their own health and clean the garbage. District administration expects the same co-operation from sanitation staff in the future too,” she said.
Monappa, a civic worker after receiving the felicitation expressed his pleasure over the unique felicitation programme and said that the entire sanitation staff is overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness that went into the conceptualization of the programme. “The city needs 1,500 civic workers, but only 750 workers are doing the work. Among them, 240 workers are permanent workers and remaining workers are on a contract basis, working for Antony Waste Management. As our work makes us vulnerable to diseases, we need to undergo health check-up at least once in three months,” he added.
MCC Commissioner Shanady Ajith Kumar Hegde presiding over the programme said that the MCC has been conducting health check-up camps frequently free of cost and civic workers should utilize such opportunity. Though the organizers have arranged felicitation to over 500 workers, only around 100 workers turned out for the felicitation. However, the MCC would approach all sanitation staff and felicitate them,” he said.
MCC Deputy Commissioner (Administration) Dr. G Santhosh Kumar, environment engineers Shabarinath, Madhu S Manohar, Mangalore University English Professor Dr. Ravishankar Rao also spoke on the occasion.
The programme ended with a vote of thanks rendered by Dheeraj Shetty, President of Roshni Alumni Association and a rendition of the National Anthem. Bharathi Shevgoor, the capable and confident compere lent grace to the program.
For those who couldn’t make it to the programme, Uxcel and RAA went onsite to the four sanitation assembly hubs of the city at the unearthly hour of 6 am over three consecutive days following the event to honor them all personally. Interacting with the Sanitation Staff and their dedicated manager, Abhilash and Nabil was indeed a memorable experience for those who represented the felicitating organizations – Dheeraj Shetty, Savitha Salian, Dhiraj D’Costa, Prof. Maria Phyllis D’Costa, Diana Pinto, Merlyn Caldeira, Brian Fernandes, and Kishore Attavar. What they found was that despite the impoverished situation of the workers most of them were content, punctual and regular to work and that is how Mangaluru earned the tag, Swacch Mangaluru.
Dheeraj Shetty, President of the RAA, said, “This was a very unique concept and I must congratulate Mrs. D’Costa for coming up with it. As Roshniites we were glad to be a part of it because it is part of our Alma Mater’s motto – Love is made fruitful in service. The executive committee of the association, with the unstinting support of Roshni Nilaya the institution, worked wholeheartedly for this noble cause and I am glad that it was a grand success.”
Certainly, it was a Christmas with a difference for both the organizers and the sanitation staff.
With inputs from Prof. Maria Phyllis D’Costa