The Bruhat Bengaluru garbage scam

BBMP latest garbage contract is filled with loopholes, like earlier ones. Bengaluru's waste management mess is likely to remain a nightmare.

Bengalureans have come to expect that at every corner they turn, they will be met with a wide heap of garbage.  They have also come to accept that Pourakarmikas themselves will dump their melange of garbage on the ground. What Bengalureans are not aware of is that this manner of collecting unsegregated garbage and transferring it manually, with the garbage exposed to the environment, is in total violation of the Ministry of Environment & Forests’ Municipal Solid Waste Handling Rules of 2000.  What Bengalureans also do not know is that behind this ‘gawd-awful’ system of collecting garbage lurks one more scam, like the ones being served everyday in our country like the daily packet of milk.

Pourakarmikas manually handling the garbage in Richmond Town. Pic: Kathyayini Chamaraj

The Coalition Against Corruption which has taken the matter to the Lokayukta has pointed out in its letter dated 22.06.10 that the garbage tenders were issued in 2006 without first preparing ward-wise estimates of the work and the cost involved.  A common estimation of the expenditure to be borne by BBMP was prepared.  The contracts were awarded to the lowest bidder. CAC says that "a common estimation cannot be taken as an estimate for floating tenders and awarding the contract". 

Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force (BMTF) enquiry into garbage contracts in 2008

• The contractors have not been submitting the log books of garbage vehicles or attendance sheets of workers; they have failed to provide the workers such ID cards or deposit the ESI and PF amounts due to them.
• They have not been disbursing their salaries through cheques;
• Contractors were required under Section 3.2 of the tender conditions to perform two sets of tasks (Task A and Task B) activities. They have been performing the collection and disposal of garbage from each house and commercial complex. But they have not been removing silt and vegetation from open drains; cleaning and disinfecting all public toilets, cleaning burial grounds and vacant sites; and removing unauthorised posters, buntings and banners.
• As per Schedule 8, a penalty had to be imposed on them by the health officers for the non-performance of 70%, or 8 to 9 out of the 12 Task B list. But Health officers have passed the full amounts of the bills. The report says that at least 50% of the Rs. 101 crore paid to the contractors during the period should have been recovered as penalty as per the Commissioner’s discretion.
• Contractors have been dumping the garbage at locations other than the designated ones without any written orders, and have been submitting ‘lead bills’ allegedly for the extra distance travelled to dump garbage.

Contractors flout many norms and go unpunished. Pic: Kathyayini Chamaraj

Further, the last garbage tender in 2006 was issued by BBMP without any public consultation and public inputs.  Section 4(i)(c) and (d) of the Right to Information Act require authorities to publish all relevant facts to the affected public ‘while framing policies’ and also publicise the reasons for the administrative decisions.   Equally importantly,  a recent decision of the Central Information Commission says that along with publicising facts, public consultations  should be held to get public feedback on proposed decisions.

What the new garbage tender doesn’t spell out

Taking the help of the above decision, CIVIC procured a copy of the 2011 tender guidelines from BBMP, before they were publicised,  and organised a public consultation on it on 16th March 2011.  One needs to see whether the norms stipulated in the State Policy on SWM based on the Ministry of Environment & Forests (Management & Handling  of Municipal Solid Wastes) Rules, 2000, have been followed in the new tender guidelines.

  • There are no standards fixed for the number of employees who should be employed for covering a certain length of road while some norms have been fixed only for the number of auto-tippers and push carts to be deployed for a particular number of households.
  • There are no norms for the quantum and frequency of supply of equipment, tools, cleaning materials, such as drums, phenyle, brooms, gloves, etc.
  • Workers have been complaining that brooms and metal scrapers are supplied once at the beginning of the contract and never again. Workers say they have to buy their own brooms every eight weeks.
  • No numbers are specified for workers or equipment. The tender merely says "Yes" against each of these items to be deployed instead of specifying the standard and specification. Moreover, the bidder has been ultimately allowed to by-pass all norms by coming out with his own "workout" (sic) ‘with appropriate justification’. This gives a complete escape route from all norms.
  • There is no stipulation that manual handling of garbage should be avoided or that all garbage should be bagged and not exposed to the environment. There is a stipulation, however, that garbage should not touch the ground at any stage.
  • The tender calls for collection of segregated waste, a requirement of the MoEF Rules. But does not specify how. Currently citizens see the Pourakarmikas mixing all garbage together even if the citizen has taken the trouble to segregate it into wet and dry.
  • There are no stipulations about how the contractor should collect garbage from slums though these are specified in the State policy.
  • It does not say that the BBMP will ensure that apartment owners collect their garbage in common bins placed in the basement of their complex.
  • There are no guidelines on how garbage should be stored at commercial complexes, hotels, choultries, nursing homes in the area except for saying that the garbage shall be segregated.
  • The tender does not mention anything about how hazardous waste, bulky waste (old rugs, broken furniture, torn mattresses, etc.) trade waste and vendors’ wastes are to be collected.
  • While the MoEF Rules and the State policy say that there should be colour-coded containers for a specified number of households for secondary storage of garbage collected door-to-door, until it is transferred to a lorry, the new tender guidelines have no provision for secondary containers.
  • The provision that the bidder should be required to clean all public and community toilets, toilets in government and BBMP schools and anganwadis and other government buildings, where there are no specially appointed cleaners has been removed from the present tender.
  • There is no provision that space will be earmarked and provided to the contractor for the sorting of recyclables and collection by recyclers. Space for parking of push-carts, vehicles, etc. is also not going to be provided by BBMP. This will mean that garbage compactors and push-carts will continue to be parked on roads and public land.
  • The draft tender says that the contractor should clean all vehicles and equipment weekly, and not daily.
  • The tender says workers are to be ‘persuaded’ to adhere to health and safety rules and use protective gear. They should be required to adhere to these mandatorily.
  • The bidder needs to have constant a reserve workforce of 10% and not just ‘in case of contingency’ to compensate for those who are ill or on leave and ensure that the work is done. This addition to additional vehicles in case of breakdowns.
  • There are no specific stipulations that the bidder shall provide rest-rooms, drinking water, toilets and crèches to the workers as per the Contract Labour Act. Applicable law does not mention the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act 1986 or the Inter-State Migrant Workmen’s Act which has strict provisions regarding the employment of migrants from other States.
Implementing mandatory segregation still unclear

Citizens giving mixed waste or those throwing garbage or debris at collection points need to be penalised. But there is no mention of how this is to be done. Officials say that this is a task of BBMP and not that of the contractor and hence it cannot be written into the tender.

But the contractor could be made accountable for any littering in the area by asking him to appoint 10% additional staff who stand at collection points or black spots and monitor that no one litters and pay him additionally for this task.

Lack of clarity on these issues will only mean that the squalor will continue with officials, contractors and citizens being let off for perpetuating what is perhaps the most uncivilised manner of garbage handling in the world.

No active monitoring by citizens

RWAs have not been given any role in the monitoring process.  NGOs and others are supposed to be merely ‘actively involved’ without  their participation being institutionalised through appointment of formal committees with multi-stakeholder participation at each ward level. The bidder has not been made accountable to these committees. 

Given that contractors have been submitting false lead bills, the bidder is being asked to produce a compliance certificate from citizens along with weigh slips  of the garbage transport vehicles given at the processing dumping yard slips every month.  

Transparency by publicising complete contract details and means of receiving complaints from citizens on sign-boards at each package area would lead to accountability.

Ambiguous labour policy

Contractors are being asked to provide receipts for the payment of ESI, PF and gratuity but there is no requirement to submit details of list of workers or their attendance.  This could provide a means of siphoning off a lot of money in the names of ghost workers. Specific penalties on the bidder for violation of labour laws, non-payment of ESI, PF, non-provision of mandatory facilities and equipment for workers, have not been specified.  

Contractors have not maintained any log book or submitted any records for claiming the lead bill amounts. According to Schedule 8, they have to be penalised to an extent of 100% for this violation. Some of this amount has been recovered, but the contractors’ union claims that the High Court has ruled against this recovery.

If  officials have been turning a blind eye to violations,  should not penalties be imposed on officials also for failing to check these malpractices of the contractors?

Will the government show the will to include these provisions in the garbage tender and rid the city and the country of a shame that is making it the laughing-stock of the world?

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