Bellandur’s garbage contractor can be fined, not fired

For 16 months, citizens have complained and BBMP has found that this garbage contractor fails repeatedly in his duties. But apart from deducting payments, nothing.

Garbage contractor S Ramachandra Reddy is in charge of Bellandur ward (150) since December 2009. Bellandur is in the south-eastern outskirts of Bengaluru, and falls under BBMP’s Mahadevapura Zone. Reddy’s track record has been extremely poor and yet he stays on, and even talks of the new contract coming up this year.

Contract workers shifting garbage from autos to tipper lorry at Haralur road, near Kaikondanahalli lake. Pic Navya P K.

Mamatha, Environment Engineer, BBMP (Mahadevpura zone) says that there have been many complaints about this contractor. "When public complain to us about specific instances, we attend to those promptly. We have been forcing the contractor to finish works in such cases," says Mamatha. Due to repeated violations, BBMP has been deducting 50% of payment from Reddy’s compensation since last August.

A source at the BBMP says that further action could not be taken against Reddy due to pressure from higher authorities within BBMP itself. "These contractors have been in business for very long and are influential. Only Reddy’s payment could be deducted so far."

Little wonder that while BBMP is renewing its garbage contracts this April, citizens remain skeptical about whether the new contracts will bring in any change.

"There is no communication between residents and the contractor. There are issues regarding garbage collection, residents having to pay for the service etc, but many do not even know where to complain," says Apurba Sarkar, resident of Bellandur.

For a compensation of around Rs 14.2 lakhs per month, Reddy has not been enabling even basic garbage collection, going by many accounts. While some residents have gotten some respite after following up with Mahadevpura zone BBMP officials, many areas continue to face problems.

Reddy spoke to Citizen Matters over the telephone. "We are doing door to door collection every day. Please ask citizens to complain to me, I will attend to it personally", says Reddy. He adds that he has to collect from nearly 10,000 houses and sometimes his workers get ‘late’.

Reddy’s contract was made in December 2009 for four months, and was extended later. It is for the part of Bellandur ward which includes Bellandur, Ambalipura, Haralur, Kasavanahalli, Junnasandra, Doddakannalli and surrounding areas.

Here is a look at some conditions of the contract and violations of these:

Door to door collection of garbage from households, commercial establishments, and bulk generators like industries, markets etc

BBMP’s contract says that garbage has to be collected everyday from households between 7 and 11 am, and from bulk generators between 11 am and 2 pm. Non-collection for even a single day from either households or bulk generators will incur penalty of 3% of the monthly payment.

In the areas coming under Reddy, garbage collection is done once every 2-3 days. Contract workers ask residents to pay them for collecting garbage, even though it has to be done free of cost. Priya Ramasubban, who resides along Haralur road, says, "Workers ask for money regularly. When I complained to the contractor, he promised that this would not happen again, but it continues, and some residents pay them. There has been no regular collection even after repeated complaints," she says.

Sarkar, who stays in an apartment within Green Glen layout along Outer Ring Road, says that workers collect money every now and then. "They collect around Rs 600 from our apartment per month." The apartment association is now planning to start composting the waste themselves.

"It is not possible to store garbage for long. Smaller apartments, which cannot afford compost facilities, throw their garbage in public places. People are now throwing garbage in a park in the layout," says Sarkar.

Reddy says workers are not supposed to ask for money, when Citizen Matters asked him why his workers do this. "Give me their names", he asks.

Shop owners, who have larger amounts of garbage to dispose, suffer more. Ramesh, owner of a HOPCOMS store in Kaikondanahalli, says that he is forced to rely on private garbage collectors. Around 20 kg of vegetable waste is generated everyday in his store.

"If I leave the garbage around for more than a day it would stink. BBMP workers demand about Rs 500 per month, but even then collect waste only once in 2-3 days. Also, if different workers work on different days, each person demands money separately; I cannot keep spending like that," he says. Ramesh now uses the service of a private garbage truck that charges Rs 300 per month.

Most shop owners face the same problem. Another HOPCOMS store owner Devaraj also says that garbage collection is unreliable. "I do not rely on BBMP at all. I give away vegetable waste to be used as feed for cows," he says.

Mamatha says that there are no issues regarding collection from bulk generators like IT and other industries as they have their own mechanisms to transport waste.

Many vacant sites and drains along inner roads are clogged with garbage in Bellandur ward. Pic: Navya P K

Reporting non-compliance of residents to BBMP

According to the contract, contractor has to inform BBMP if residents dump the garbage around instead of giving it to contractor. He should also maintain a register to record complaints from the public.

In Bellandur ward, there are many cases of residents throwing the garbage outside their houses or in vacant sites. No initiative was taken by the contractor to check this despite complaints from some residents. Most residents do not know who the contractor is or how to contact him.

Segregation of waste and transport

Workers should segregate waste into degradable and non-degradable at a transit point; degradable waste is then shifted to the tipper lorry which takes it to the landfill in Cheemasandra. In one segregation point in Haralur road, close to Kaikondanahalli lake, non-degradable waste that does not have value is burned on the roadside itself after segregation.

A worker segregating waste at the transit point in Haralur road. Pic: Navya P K

Accumulating leaves and dry waste in open spaces and burning them is common. This violates the contract which does not allow any waste to be burned or spilled during segregation or transportation. Non-transportation of waste to landfill is supposed to incur penalty of 3% of payment. Penalties of 2% of payment will be levied separately for not providing equipments or violating other obligations in the contract.

Sweeping and cleaning of drains and streets

All covered drains and storm water drains should be cleaned twice daily in all main roads and commerical roads. In other roads this has to be done once or thrice in a week depending on authorities’ directions and the amount of waste generated.

Satheesh Amilineni, resident of another apartment within Green Glen layout, says that roads in his layout (open layout) are cleaned once in 1-2 months, that too only when residents intimate BBMP. "Whenever we inform BBMP, they send workers to clean the area for a day or two," says Satish. In many areas, drains along interior roads are clogged with garbage.

Roads should be swept daily between 7 and 11 am. Any cut trees or plants on the road should be removed on the same day. In many areas, main roads are swept regularly, but waste is often accumulated in the roadside itself which spreads around after a while. Activist Kathyayini Chamaraj says that the problem exists in all areas – "on seeing waste accumulated in a public place, many assume it to be a collection point and dump waste there itself."

Cleaning vacant sites and public places like burial grounds

Many residents use these sites for dumping their waste. Workers should clean these sites in groups as per the directions of BBMP officials, between 12 and 3 pm. Instead, contract workers use these areas to dump waste or burn them. Remnants of such waste cause pigs to stray to these areas and feed on them. Contract workers say that it is only because of dogs carrying waste packets around, that garbage is strewn in public places.

Removing vegetation in public places

Vegetation along roadside, vacant/public places should be removed and transported everyday between 12 and 2 pm. Banners and posters in such areas should also be removed. These are rarely done.

Transporting construction debris

According to the contract, construction debris on the road, footpath and drains should be removed and transported separately, without mixing it with other solid waste. This is not done, because of which huge bricks and hazardous materials remain on the road posing risk to pedestrians and motorists.

Contract workers are not even aware that this is part of their work. Nazimuddin, who works in a collection auto, says, "It is not our responsibility to collect construction waste – if the debris was produced during some government work, BBMP Engineering department should remove it; in other cases, the concerned private builder should."

Payment and benefits of workers

While workers are supposed to be paid Rs 6900 per month (including PF and other benefits), they say they get only Rs 1800. Nazimuddin says, "The pay is too low. We start work at around 6.30 am and finish by 1-2 pm. Garbage is collected from 150-200 houses per day."

Citizen Matters asked Reddy how much, exactly, he was paying his workers each month. Reddy starts thinking through his answer. "Athu …..", he says and adds, "I have to ask my auditor." Then he says BBMP is finalising a new tender this year and "we will pay as per the new terms this year". 

Again, Citizen Matters asked him about how much he paid each month to his workers for the whole of last year. For this too, Reddy says he needs to talk his auditor and partner first. When asked for his auditor or partner’s number, Reddy declines. "It’s better you check with BBMP’s audit office and ESI office they have all the details regarding payments I made."

As per the rules, contractors should provide two sets of uniforms, gloves, masks, gumboots and other safety materials to each worker every year, create awareness programmes about their usage and facilitate routine health check-ups for workers. But no equipments have been provided here; workers handle and segregate garbage with their bare hands.

B V Satish, Chief Engineer, Solid Waste Management (BBMP), says that the new garbage contract in April proposes to check the issue of workers’ pay. "According to the new contract, BBMP will pay the contractor only if he pays his workers through cheque. Also, some contractors will be required to work in two or three shifts depending on their respective areas – they will have to dedicate afternoons only to collect garbage from public places," he says.

Also see
Citizens trash BBMP’s new garbage contract for 2011-12
The Bruhat Bengaluru Garbage Scam

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