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Integrating informal waste workers through identity cards issued by the municipal government

The primary objective of this project is to achieve the de-criminalization of waste-picking through the introduction of of Corporation of Chennai issued Identity Cards to waste pickers in Chennai city. This project is undertaken by CAG as part of the Initiative on Waste, Informal Workers, and Chennai’s Future, which CAG anchors.

Informal waste workers, referred to as rag pickers or waste pickers form the backbone of waste recycling in the city. They provide an invaluable service to the city as well as to the environment by diverting large amount of wastes from landfills towards recycling. However, due to archaic provisions in the Corporation of Chennai Act, that have remain unchanged since 1919, their source of livelihood is legally questionable. As  a result they face constant harassment from the authorities. Additionally, the work itself carries with it a social stigma, making waste pickers amonst the most vulnerable of the urban poor.

Approach: 

Our work with informal waste workers involves working for their right to livelihood through research and advocacy. Towards this end, we follow a multi-faceted approach –

• Through field engagements and community meetings we seek to create awareness among waste pickers on the need for occupational ID cards as a safeguard of their right to livelihood. This we do with the active support and assistance of our partner organisations.

• We use our field engagements to collect data on the activities of waste pickers, their socio-economic status and their access to social welfare measures.

• We create research outputs based on the data we collect and use these to advocate with the Corporation of Chennai for identity cards and improved social welfare benefits delivery to waste pickers.  

Our engagements with the community and with the Corporation of Chennai towards the de-criminalisation of waste picking have been as part of a wider platform of allied civil society organisations – the Initiative on Waste, Informal Workers, and Chennai’s Future, that is anchored by CAG.

In addition, with our partner organizations we are facilitating waste picker’s access to basic identity documents such as Aadhaar, Ration cards and Voter IDs as well as registering them with the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers’ Welfare Board.

Outcomes: 

In late 2014, the Corporation of Chennai  agreed to issue Identification Cards to waste-pickers on the basis of a proposal by the Initiative. Towards issuing these cards, we assisted the Corporation of Chennai in holding two camps at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi over three days each in July. Over 950 waste pickers were registered at these camps, and over 300 waste pickers were surveyed. The Corporation also simultaneously held a health camp for the waste pickers over the six days.

This ID will officially decriminalise their livelihood and recognise their pro-social contributions to the city. The CoC plans to hold a ser9es of camps this year (2015) to issue said I.D.s.

Additionally, we have helped conceive and form a multi-organisation platform with several Community Based Organisations. This has helped to intensify our research and outreach activities as well as in facilitating waste pickers’ access to obtaining basic documentation such as Aadhaar, Ration cards and Voter IDs and registering them with the Tamil Nadu Manual Workers’ Welfare Board.

Report on ID card camps for Waste Pickers (August 2015)

A general report on the ID card camps organized by the CoC in Perungudi and Kodungaiyur with support from CAG and its partner organizations to register the waste pickers and issue them occupational ID cardsknow more

Press Release: Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) supported the Corporation of Chennai organize camps to register waste pickers for issuing occupational ID cards (August 2015)

Press Release on the ID card camps for waste pickers held at Kodungaiyur and Perungudi by the Corporation of Chennai with CAG's support in July 2015. A Transparent Cities Network activity supporting the Initiative on Waste, Informal Workers and Chennai's Future. know more

Survey Form for socio-economic survey of waste pickers (English)

Survey form for a socio-economic survey in Chennai administered by CBO partners of the Initiative on Waste, Informal Workers and Chennai's Future in 2015 (April-July)know more

Survey Form for socio-economic survey of waste pickers (Tamil)

Survey form for a socio-economic survey in Chennai administered by CBO partners of the Initiative on Waste, Informal Workers and Chennai's Future in 2015 (April-July)know more

Flier for ID Card Camp in Kodungaiyur (July 2015)

Flier designed by CAG to advertise the ID card camps held for waste pickers in Chennai at Kodungaiyur in July 2015 by the Corporation of Chennai with support from CAGknow more