“If you are generating waste, how are we ‘ kachrewali ’ [garbage woman]? In fact, we are the ones making the city clean. Aren’t citizens the ‘ kachrewale ’?” points out Suman More, a waste collector from Pune.

Suman is one of the 800 original waste pickers organised under the Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat 1993; the number of women has now grown to many many more. Their demands to the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) were official identity cards that formalise their work. They received them in 1996.

The women now work with the PMC to collect waste from people’s homes. They belong to Mahar and Matang communities, listed as Scheduled Castes in Maharashtra. “We segregate the dry and wet waste, and give the wet waste to the garbage truck,” says Suman and adds, “we take what we want from the dry waste and give that to the garbage truck too.”

The women are worried that the PMC will outsource their work to private contractors and companies. And they are ready to fight – “We won’t let anyone take our work from us,” says Asha Kamble.

This film, मोल (Worth) explores the history of the women waste collector’s movement in Pune through their own voices.

Watch the film: Worth

Kavita Carneiro

Kavita Carneiro is an independent filmmaker based out of Pune who has been making social-impact films for the last decade. Her films include a feature-length documentary on rugby players called Zaffar & Tudu and her latest film, Kaleshwaram,  focuses on the world's largest lift irrigation project.

Other stories by Kavita Carneiro
Text Editor : Sanviti Iyer

Sanviti Iyer is Assistant Editor at the People's Archive of Rural India. She also works with students to help them document and report issues on rural India.

Other stories by Sanviti Iyer