Hasiru Dala Turns Rag­pick­ers into En­trepreneurs

Sustainabilitynext - - Front Page - By Mar­wan Abubaker

Bengaluru’s Cit­i­zens have looked at wastepick­ers, pop­u­larly called rag­pick­ers, with dis­dain. Even if some ac­knowl­edge their con­stri­bu­tion to the city’s clean­li­ness they don’t think wastepick­ers have or need an iden­tity of their own. Nalini Shekhar, Shekhar Prab­hakar and Mar­wan Abubaker thought oth­er­wise. They set up Hasiru Dala – green bri­gade in 2011. To­day, they are a force to reckon with – they even won the 2016 En­vi­ron­ment Award from the Kar­nataka gov­ern­ment. The team brings rich ex­pe­ri­ence in com­mu­nity ser­vice, man­age­ment and op­er­a­tions.

Apart from their reg­u­lar chore of pick­ing up waste that has some value, Hasiru Dala be­lieves that wastepick­ers have a good po­ten­tial to un­leash their en­tre­pre­neur­ial po­ten­tial if right amount of train­ing and support are pro­vided to them. It un­der­takes skill upgra­da­tion through mul­ti­ple train­ing pro­grams.

The fo­cus ar­eas of train­ing is upgra­da­tion of skills in man­age­ment and tech­ni­cal com­pe­ten­cies in or­ganic waste man­age­ment, mush­room farm­ing, ter­race gar­den­ing ser­vices, pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional waste man­age­ment ser­vice for large and small events, zero waste events ser­vice and driv­ers’ train­ing for com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with Jain Univer­sity and Waste Wise Trust, Hasiru Dala has de­vel­oped a Scrap Dealer Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram, a first of its kind train­ing pro­gram.

It also of­fers man­age­rial support for Dry Waste Col­lec­tion Cen­tres (DWCC). The dry waste (pa­per, plas­tic, metal, glass) is brought to their re­spec­tive DWCC in ev­ery ward.

The Ban­ga­lore Mu­nic­i­pal body is in the process of set­ting up 180 such cen­tres shortly. They have cre­ated 50 en­trepreneurs who have em­ployed 500 peo­ple.

All waste pick­ers have gov­ern­ment is­sued ID card that in­cludes Ad­haar card. With this they are able to ac­cess health­care facilities and even loans for the ex­pan­sion of their trade.


The ob­jec­tive of BUGURI, Hasiru Dala’s Com­mu­nity Li­brary ini­tia­tive, is to cre­ate a com­fort­able space for di­a­logue with chil­dren through the writ­ten and il­lus­trated words. It is a medium to bring the world to them, help them un­der­stand it in their way, and in the process, build their unique voice.

The li­brary houses over 600 books in four dif­fer­ent lan­guages (English, Hindi, Kan­nada and Tamil). It caters to 200 kids and has weekly read aloud ses­sions, arts-based ac­tiv­i­ties, game time, and theatre work­shops.

Pol­icy Ad­vo­cacy

Hasiru Dala has been ad­vo­cat­ing in­clu­sion of in­for­mal waste work­ers in solid waste man­age­ment ser­vices at mu­nic­i­pal and state level. Through Hasiru Dala’s ef­fort more than 7000 wastepick­ers have been enu­mer­ated and given BBMP iden­tity cards. In ad­di­tion, Hasiru Dala ad­vo­cates for in­clu­sion of waste work­ers in var­i­ous cen­tral and state gov­ern­ment schemes in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Al­liance of In­dian Wastepick­ers. In 2017, So­cial Jus­tice De­part­ment through Na­tional Safai Kar­ma­chari De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NSKFDC) has in­cluded wastepick­ers as its ben­e­fi­cia­ries to avail all the schemes set up by them

Pas­sion­ate Found­ing Team

Nalini Shekar has had the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with waste pick­ers in Pune be­fore her ven­ture in Bengaluru. She is a pioneer in ad­vo­cat­ing for wastepicker rights. She has trained hun­dreds of waste pick­ers, mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials and elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives on zero waste prac­tices and in­te­gra­tion of in­for­mal work­ers in solid waste man­age­ment. Nalini lived in the US for a decade work­ing on hu­man traf­fick­ing and child la­bor is­sues.

Shekar Prab­hakar, an IIT Madras and IIM Cal­cutta alum­nus, has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in teach­ing and prod­uct and so­lu­tions de­vel­op­ment. His man­date is to scale up Hasiru Dala’s op­er­a­tions.

As a co-founder I am re­spon­si­ble for man­age­ment of the Waste Picker Fran­chise teams. I have twelve years ex­pe­ri­ence across di­verse sec­tors in­clud­ing agri­cul­ture, waste man­age­ment and com­mu­nity ra­dio ser­vices. I’m an ac­tive mem­ber of the Solid Waste Man­age­ment Round­table (SWMRT) in Ban­ga­lore that works to pro­mote de­cen­tral­ized waste man­age­ment in the city. I have co-au­thored a pa­per on the ‘In­for­mal Waste Work­ers Con­tri­bu­tion in Ban­ga­lore’, to de­ter­mine their eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion to the city.

Hasiru Dala de­cided to start pro­vid­ing waste man­age­ment ser­vices to bulk gen­er­a­tors by form­ing wastepick­ers fran­chises for pro­vid­ing waste man­age­ment ser­vice, what started as a small demon­stra­tion pro­ject with 4 apart­ments reached 60 by end of 2015, and we kept grow­ing. The de­mand for ser­vices came just with word of mouth. It was time to scale up it was very dif­fi­cult to bring in busi­ness and op­er­a­tions rigor as a non- profit so, Hasiru Dala In­no­va­tions Pri­vate limited was ini­ti­ated in 2015.

From then on, the com­pany has grown to over 200 clients ser­vic­ing over 175 res­i­den­tial com­plexes cov­er­ing over 22000 house­holds. The busi­ness has spawned 16 waste picker en­trepreneurs and cre­ated over 85 jobs with the fran­chisees till Feb 2017.

To op­er­ate DWCC, we trained wastepick­ers and small waste traders to be­come en­trepreneurs to man­age the Dry Waste Col­lec­tion Cen­ter. To­day the city of Ban­ga­lore sees model as most sus­tain­able method of man­ag­ing its source seg­re­gated waste and given all their cen­ters (180) to give DWCC op­er­a­tions only wastepick­ers.

On 30th June 2017, the Ban­ga­lore city coun­cil has passed res­o­lu­tion. When com­pletely im­ple­mented will have 198 en­trepreneurs with a po­ten­tial of hir­ing 2000 wastepick­ers to sort, grade and con­vert dry waste into trad­able com­modi­ties. Hasiru Dala sup­ports more than 40 cen­ters.

We cre­ate many unique, creative space for cit­i­zens to in­ter­act with wastepick­ers that has cre­ated pos­i­tive im­age of wastepick­ers in the city.

Nalini Shekhar says: “Clean Bengaluru can be achieved when waste is man­aged be­yond just vis­ual clean­li­ness. In­te­gra­tion of the work­ers from the in­for­mal waste econ­omy, ap­pro­pri­ate space and re­spect for san­i­tary work­ers of the city. Cir­cu­lar econ­omy prin­ci­ples, space for re­cy­cling is en­hanced by the state.

Wastepick­ers show­ing off their ID cards

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