Sunday, March 4, 2012

Joy of Giving - Gift for my sweeper

How often do we actually SEE the people who do sundry jobs for us? The same people whose presence means that our day goes better, and without whom, life would be all, but happy/safe/clean/pretty?

When the Joy of Giving Card 24 prompted us to Give a Gift to the Sweeper in your Society, it got me thinking. The lady who sweeps the building in the sprawling (575 apartments) society I live in also collects the garbage every day.

In the 18 months that I have lived here, I have never once seen her take a day off. She works 7 days a week, and sometimes when she is unwell, a substitute takes her place. But that rarely happens.

Collecting garbage is not easy; especially in a building where the insensitive residents do not segregate  garbage and often I have seen filthy dustbins being handed over to her.

Segregating garbage helps the sweeper. Here's how:

She gets to collect dry garbage that comprises, paper, glass, plastics, batteries, cans, bottles, tins etc...and dump them into the large bucket. The wet waste that comprises the kitchen waste - peels, leftover food etc is handled separately. But when the two are mixed, she just doesn't know how to dump them separately, and she ends up getting her hands messy in the muck that she didn't create.

The ignominy of the entire process is when she accidentally spills something outside the large bucket she uses to collect the garbage in, she has to pick it and put it in. This she does with her bare hands.

So I thought that to follow the card I will give her the following items: A soap case with soap so she can wash her hands after the entire activity is done; a pair of durable rubber gloves, so she can wear them and not get her hands dirty to start with; a small mug to help her clean her feet, hands etc under the society tap before she goes home, or even before a meal; and a little insulated tiffin box, because the least a person deserves is a decent meal, stored properly...

I am also planning to add a bottle of water every time she comes to pick my garbage - will ask her to ring the doorbell and if I am home, I will give her a bottle of safe drinking water. In this searing heat, I hope it will help.

I don't have to, but I'd like fellow "Givers" to know that the total cost of this little package is Rs 225...

Soap Case - Rs 22
Rubber Gloves - Rs 79
Look on the sweeper's face - Priceless!

I would also like to share a few tips on how we can help ease the lives of the sweepers and those who handle our garbage. I follow these myself and it does take a little bit of 'thought'...but nothing more....

1. Never throw fused bulbs, broken crockery or any piece of glass straight into the dustbin. The garbage collector who collects from our doorstep to the ragpicker who rummages through our dry garbage looking for produce to sell/recycle, can end up hurting themselves with glass shrapnels. Always wrap the broken item in a thick layer of newspaper, rolled in a way that they have to 'open' the package when they deal with our garbage

2. Ditto for old knives or other sharp objects like used syringes for example

3. The same 'wrapping' process is advised for used diapers, and sanitary napkins/panty liners/condoms etc

4. Garbage segregation is the need of the hour. If not your society sweeper, but somebody in the chain has to separate the dry waste from the wet for the dry to be picked up by the Municipal Corporation. According  to a year 2000 Supreme Court ruling, segregation of our garbage is our individual responsibility. Even if we don't have much regard for a ruling that has not been implemented well, let us, at least for the dignity of these fellow humans, ensure our garbage is segregated and handed over to them


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