By Zeenat Farooq – Documentation & Training Coordinator – FORCE


This is what THEY called me while I was inspecting the work of waste pickers, for one of our projects on SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT at Saharanpur.

This was my first official site visit and I was excited. While I was traveling from Delhi to Saharanpur, in that four-hour train journey, I was reading about the history of Saharanpur, its archaeological, geographical, physical features.

I was amazed.

Saharanpur has witnessed many civilizations, the oldest dates back to 2000 BC. The mighty war of Mahabharata, arrival of Aryans, Mughals has made Saharanpur culturally rich.

Saharanpur Nagar Nigam as a city is vying to be selected for the urbanization and development under both the ‘smart city' scheme and the AMRUT scheme which is to be funded by the central government of India.

“Wait!! A smart city with solid waste management problem, Irony! “

Yes the same waste that is generated by us and which adds up to a big number of 55 million tons.

You read it right.

55 million tons in India alone.

It seemed hard to digest but once I was there, I didn’t need to look for any hidden proof.

The proof I was looking for is littered everywhere around me.

Then one of colleagues goes saying “Ma’am this is the better version of Saharanpur that you are seeing”.

FORCE, as a CSR partner of ITC Limited  is working in Saharanpur for Solid waste management to make the city garbage free since last 4 months. As Jyoti Sharma, President FORCE says, “in these four months we have been able to make a significant improvement in the solid waste management  initiative in the areas we are working in Saharanpur.”

I was telling my brain “stop it right there, you don’t need to picture something’s past”

So my colleague took me for site visit, his olfactory lobes seemed used to the usual pungent hydrogen sulphide smell, but my victoria secret perfume had given up, I had this deo in my bag. I took it out and started spraying on him (not caring it is for ladies), on myself too. I felt like every oxygen molecules has bonded with hydrogen sulphide for non-ending relationship.

And on my way he goes on saying “people blame government, government blame people, you know same story “

I was like “wait, in this story we don’t need to establish hell of a judicial system to figure out who is to be blamed, it is us – the WASTE GENERATORS, We generate waste, we litter it and then we just can't go on looking for a head to blame, every man for himself “

It is clear here without any doubt as to who is primarily responsible.

It is the same housewife who is still infected by “not in my backyard “syndrome”, It is the same head of the family who fights with local municipality guy to place dustbin somewhere else but not near his house, it is the same mother who throw diapers of babies around, and waits for some not so important / worthless person to come and pick it up,
It is the same woman who throws sanitary napkin away without even hint of warning to same “not so important/worthless person“, It is the same man who spits a mouthful of pan on the road.

Walking with stole masking my nose and mouth, I reached the SORTING SHEDS, I inspected COMPOST, met the supervisors who look after this sorting shed. They supervise the work of two more segregators there who sort the waste into recyclable waste/non-recyclable waste.

Our respected waste generators handover waste to worthless waste collectors without any segregation. Following one of our waste pickers to check his work efficiency, I saw people handing him the waste all mixed up, vegetable peels, diapers, plastic bottles, paper – all in one polythene bag. He takes it, puts it in his rickshaw and moves on to next HOUSE, too intimidated to speak about sorting the waste at the Source.

So I took a little courage and talked to one of ladies only to get her meek response. With a defeat I followed the waste picker for the next house.

That is when someone behind my back asked who is she?

To which another person replied “aray koode wali hai“

So Let me Re – define the koode wali/wala in your language:

Koode wali is the dumb/not so important/worthless person who cleans the mess of more genius persons who think that except their house the whole earth is a dumpster!

If this makes me koode wali

I am totally cool with it.

I stand with 1.2 million other koode Walis and I respect them with all my heart.


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