Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Raising a stink

Every morning amidst the hustle and bustle of rush-hour traffic, several beaten down trucks rattle across the city collecting municipal waste and transporting them to land-fills outside the city, in the process raising a stink and leaving a trail of garbage falling leaving no one in any doubt about the way that leads to their destination. What's more, the workers who are involved in this task do it manually and with no protection making them vulnerable not just to the nauseating smell but also to potential health hazards. A primitive waste disposal system in India's hi-tech city!

Six years ago the Chennai city corporation outsourced its waste disposal function to Onyx, a Singapore based company (For the trivia lovers, Karunanidhi's son M K Stalin was the Mayor of Chennai at that time and he pushed through the deal amidst allegations of kickbacks. But who cares when the system is working so excellently). Onyx has a fleet of state-of-the-art trucks which are totally covered to prevent the stink or the waste from polluting the environment. The workers are clothed in protective overalls, shoes, caps, face masks and hand gloves. Huge plastic garbage bins with wheels are placed at streetcorners across the city for the public to discard their waste into. The waste collection is entirely mechanized with the trucks using their forklifts to lift the bins and transfer the waste from bin to truck which is carted away to a modern waste processing facility outside town. And all this happens between 12 AM and 4 AM. What prevents
Bangalore from having a system like that?

To be fair the ex-BMP Commissioner Ashok Dalwai initiated a move to issue global tenders for outsourcing waste management. But his efforts were stymied by a lobby of private contractors who were hand-in-glove with the corporators. One fine morning they lined up stinking garbage trucks across the city and went on a strike. The BMP quickly backtracked. The move has been in a limbo ever since. What do you need an elected body of corporators for? Except for a very very stray example like the ex-Hanumanthanagar
corporator and now Basavanagudi MLA, K Chandrasekhar, there has never been a case of any corporator doing anything worthwhile. They only obstruct the good work that some Commissioners (an appointed post, usually an IAS officer) like A Ravindra, K Jairaj, Ashok Dalwai attempted. The elected body of corporators should be disbanded and replaced by a body of administrators. It will not only save a lot of money, some development for the city would also follow.

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