Bangalore, despite the ruckus it witnesses over the garbage problem every day, is the frontrunner in India when it comes to ideating, designing and implementing sustainable solutions. We have a number of communities in Bangalore who have adopted sensible strategies to manage their waste and many more are willing to tread the same path. But, year after year, how come some of these communities clock high levels of segregation, churn out loads of compost and go organic? What is it that they do differently than the rest?
Each community is unique given where it is situated, the density, the area dedicated to greenery within the community campus, the economic status, the demographic make-up, etc. However, no matter how diverse it gets, there is one common thread that runs across these communities: Efficient, sensible and humane downward management. In other words, staff management.
Rainbow Drive, Sarjapur Road, is one such unique living entity. Without a smidgen of doubt, I can say that this gated community tops the list when it comes to its water, waste and sewage management.
K P Singh, one of the pioneering green volunteers of the community, agrees that it begins with our own commitment to the cause. If the volunteers are not committed, the workers don’t see the value in their own contribution: “They reciprocate in equal measure to our commitment. At the end of the day, it is our staff which actually does the work. So they are equal stake holders, if not more.”
What is commitment in this context, to be precise? Is it all about getting them to work for a certain number of hours?
“It’s more than that,” says Padma Patil of Purva Venezia. This is a 1000-strong apartment where segregation levels often touch 85-90%.
“It’s common sense. They are sitting in a room filled with piles of waste and wading their way through it to earn a living. It takes a solid humane approach in how we talk to them and keep them motivated. It takes a great deal of perseverance from their end to keep it going. We need to pat their back when they do a good job, talk to them personally when their efficiency levels go down. Most importantly, devise as many ways as possible to incentivise them monetarily.”
Padma particularly favours incentives to all the staff members, regardless of their position in the rung. Thanks to her team efforts, Rs 20,000 gets distributed among all the staff members every month. “This is the money they earned through dry waste recycling. It belongs to them.”
But she doesn’t believe that it starts and ends with training alone. “It’s much more than that. The workers always see how committed the volunteers are and then begin to show their own involvement.”
What Padma says is spot-on. With a half-hearted and fragmented approach, efforts will barely hobble to a desired end. If the volunteers or the management refuse to step into the composting unit, one can well imagine the degree of dejection among the workers who will obviously feel let down by their work.
KP, who is often seen working along with the staff whenever he finds time, echoes this sentiment. He believes that empathy and humane treatment go a long way in turning any community into a self-sustaining one.
“We give them comfortable working conditions, a stress-free workplace. Estate manager is coached to be friendly and respectful. Working hours are humane and they get a day-off most of the time when they need. We include them in our family and community functions and share sweets and gifts, give them bonus on Diwali. We may not be paying them the best but we make them feel to be part of our lives. We stand by them in tough times.”
It’s fascinating to see how the waste we throw out lets us engage our intrinsic values and grow as a person and as a community.
Do you agree?