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Mission Garimapoorna

The Hindi word Garima in English has multiple meanings like greatness, glory, dignity. This beautifully done video – part of Mission Garima by Tata trust – can potentially act as a conversation starter among our middle class and elite junta, where they begin to see their fellow invisibles. Also, it might challenge the existing list of desh chalane wale (the ones who run the country) beyond politicians, police, doctors, etc. to our sanitation workers. The poetic nature of the video is mesmerizing and perfect for our typical Indian junta's hearts to melt. Once full of emotions who would then care to look beyond and see the logic.

What this beautifully made video misses is logic and reasoning, at multiple levels. To start with the process of restoring the lost dignity needs calling out the very cause of it. Which goes for amiss in this video. Talking of manual scavenging and not mentioning the social stigma and political lag associated with it is absurd.

Watching this video has left me with a lot of concern around, access to schools the children from such families have, to kind of society we are, that even after a ban on manual scavenging in 2003, we have so many people taking it up as a profession, and not because they want to. Well, it is the C-word, which many privilege class fellows feel has gone now or at least reduced. It is the brunt of caste-based oppression, which is making this young boy’s baba and his likes get there. Getting down in a gutter for a living is a reality of many families in our country where we can afford statues worth crores but can’t get these families a decent way of earning. It is a clear lack of political will even to ensure basic human rights like respectable income or rehabilitation, leave aside ensuring dignity, which again wasn’t addressed in this video.

Another level it bypasses the reasoning is the technical part of the entire concept of waste management. Aaiiyo! The nature of dry and wet wastes going into (green and blue) bins is different from the nature of waste getting into the sewers where our unfortunate lot gets in, to clean up. The logic of waste segregation is useful for the workers working on the landfills to people who are collecting it to people who generate it through their lifestyles. Hence, if we segregate the waste at origin as per the color coded bins and follow the 5R’s (Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Repurpose-Recycle), and other waste management techniques, we can do a great service to our self and our environment.

However, manual scavenging is a different ball game and has to be dealt with differently. The point where these two meet is when a person throws directly/indirectly the dry waste into the gutters, etc. which will then come under behavioral negligence. Therefore, even if we segregate our waste at source, it is not going to lead to either restoration of dignity or ensure safe livelihood to our fellow citizens working in the gutter. It is the death of this logic, which has annoyed me the most. How could have such a credible organization not think through this? How are the most educated of the lot our science graduates, educators, engineers, etc. not seeing this and putting comments on social media platforms like let’s segregate our waste, great work, two bins life wins, etc.?

Wrong diagnosis leads to incorrect treatment. Evoked emotions are necessary towards building an empathetic and compassionate society but one cannot let go of rationale at any point in time. They need to go hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder.

Since, the level we have come down to is so low, a voice in me feels – at least manual scavengers are getting their names mentioned alongside the doctors, vardiwalas and netas, whose contributions are instrumental in running the country. But the road from gaarimahinta (absence of dignity) to garimapoornata (dignified) is long and complex.

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