Pink MRF: A catalyst for women’s empowerment and Chandigarh’s swachata journey

Chandigarh, March 8 (IANS) Embodying the spirit of women empowerment, they are strong, independent and the ‘Swachhata Warriors’ of Municipal Corporation Chandigarh.

These ‘Swachhata Warriors’ of Chandigarh not only advocate adoption of the three ‘Rs’ — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle — but also convey a message of tenacity, determination and celebration of leadership of women around the world.

A group of 30 energetic women, sporting masks, gloves and helmets, daily sift dry garbage in a Material Recovery Facility (MRF)-cum-garbage transfer station, an all-women first-of-its-kind centre named Pink MRF, in Chandigarh’s Sector 25.

Situated near the garbage processing plant, it is one of the three MRF facilities in Chandigarh, with the other two being operated by a male workforce.

They are supplied garbage that has been collected door to door by twin-bin vehicles.

The Pink MRF team oversees every duty at the facility, right from segregation of dry waste to ensuring its security.

The facility was commissioned on October 2, 2022 to commemorate Gandhi Jayanti.

The workforce largely comprises helpers, who earlier worked as rag pickers at the nearby garbage dumps, facing hazardous and unsanitary conditions.

They have been rehabilitated by the Municipal Corporation Chandigarh and trained to segregate dry waste on a conveyor belt. They also recover economically-viable waste and drastically improve the quality and quantity of garbage that is recycled.

“As rag pickers we were working for years in unsanitary conditions with least concern about our health and pathetically low incomes. Now the Pink MRF has built our self-confidence as we have a fixed income. We can now take care of day-to-day concerns like paying rent and school fees of our children. We have access to government schemes and above all social inclusion,” remarked an upbeat helper Geeta, now a catalyst for transformation.

“Earlier people used to look at us with contempt. Now we are living a life of dignity and commanding respect,” she told IANS.

Chandigarh generates around 500 metric tonnes of waste per day and has a wet and dry waste segregation system.

After segregation, the wet waste is composted, while the recyclable dry waste is sent to recyclers.

Another helper Ranjana, recalled how she overcame personal challenges after getting a job with the Pink MRF.

She told IANS that when the Dadu Majra dump was closed after the commissioning of waste plants, she lost her earnings as earlier they used to collect viable reusable waste from the landfill.

“After the closure of the dump, we were struggling to get one square meal a day. Now, after getting a job in the Pink MRF, I am in a position not only to support my family but also work with dignity and in hygienic conditions,” she said.

“When I was a child, I used to dream of becoming a policewoman. Now this uniform gives me the feeling that I am working for the police force,” she said, while pointing towards her khaki dress.

“All the employees of the material recovery facilities were deployed after enhancing their garbage segregation skills,” a spokesperson for the municipal corporation told IANS.

The workers are covered under the minimum wages provision and given other monetary and social security benefits like Provident Fund and Employee State Insurance (ESI).

Chandigarh Smart City Limited has constructed three material recovery facilities as part of the solid waste management initiative with an outlay of Rs 31 crore and handed them to the municipal corporation for operation.

“Like these women champions of sanitation, there are scores of others who keep the ‘Swachh Bharat’ spirit alive in Chandigarh,” added the spokesperson.

Led by Commissioner Anindita Mitra, the civic body last year launched a campaign ‘Chandigarh Ki Naari, Gandagi pe Bhari’ with an aim to acknowledge women’s contribution to a clean city.

It had dedicated March 2023 to the strength of women by highlighting their “swachh” stories under the title ‘31 Women, 31 Days, 31 Stories.’ “We salute their contribution to the Swachata journey of Chandigarh,” added Mitra.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])



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