We have been trying to process solid waste from over 16000 houses and our challenges are not easy. But of late we have come up with the biggest obstacle yet. After over 23 tons of waste is collected per month by women using pushcarts, brought back to the hub, painstakingly sorted and packed in sacks ready to be sent to recyclers, suddenly a group of 10 men who have not been involved in any of the stages of waste collection, barge in and claim that “loading” the waste into trucks is their right as they are “headload” workers. While this may be beyond comprehension to most people, this is the way it works in Kerala and many parts of India as well. Sad to admit it, but it is a fact. Jobless people hang around junctions and when they see a truck coming in for loading or unloading, they take it as their right to carry out the task. The worst part is that they demand exorbitant rates for their work and often refuse to work as per the requirement of the system.
Currently we too are besieged by such a team of headload workers who are demanding very high rates for loading the waste on trucks, and harass our team with foul language and threats. We made a complaint to the local police station and filed a case with the High Court. The Honorable High Court has granted express protection to our workers, building and property. However these men have approached the Labour Department and the Labour Officer who summoned us for conciliation has asked to continue our work taking the services of these men. The justification offered is “what has once been granted is deemed a right”
In the first case it was not granted but extorted. Secondly, when women do all the difficult jobs of collection, sorting, packing …why should men suddenly feature and try to squeeze out what is rightfully the money of women? If women find the task too overwhelming shouldn’t they have the right to maybe appoint a willing worker or two to carry out the task rather than be threatened by more than 10 men who exhibit unruly behaviour. Unless and unless we can win against this social evil, our operations may soon come to a standstill. Because where MIGHT is RIGHT, Waste removal will have to WAIT!