The aborted garbage disposal

Disposal of daily domestic waste has become a problem in the valley where the human population has multiplied manifold, over a small habitable area of Imphal.

Disposal of daily domestic waste has become a problem in the valley where the human population has multiplied manifold, over a small habitable area of Imphal. The Imphal  Municipal Corporation is unable to effectively  cope with the collection and disposal of garbage of the entire Imphal area. The reason it is unable to handle it effectively is a subject that calls for a serious analysis and remedy by the appropriate authority.

Some Private Agencies have flourished to extend services of collection and disposal of domestic garbage in certain areas. They too face challenges in finding and recruiting enough workers to carry out the task. One major hurdle is the availability of Dumping Ground for the garbage. The Agencies started with a fee of monthly Rs 70 per month per house, for a garbage collection once a week. Over the last three years the rate has become Rs 150 per month. The frequency of collection of garbage is based on serviceability of the truck and reporting or non-reporting for duty by the driver of the truck and the workers. Irregularity of service is very frequent.

Sagolband-Tera is where my daughter’s house is located. After retirement, I frequently stay at the daughter’s house. The backyards of most houses generally serve as storing area for unwanted and discarded items. The backyard of my daughter’s house is well hidden by a high brick wall and the rear of the house. It serves as an ideal place to dump several items of all hues: broken bricks of different sizes, discarded car-bike-scooter tyres, old and disused drain pipes of various lengths, small pieces of leftover marble tiles and other odds and ends. They have been there for several years, forgotten and unnoticed.

Gathering and picking up these items looked too big a task for an old man that is me. I noticed it several times but could not gear up to the task. I procrastinated the task for over a year.

One fine day, during the third week of last November, I gathered courage and the will to undertake the task. Picked up each and every item and filled up a number of disused cement bags. What does not go into cement bags was loaded into old baskets. By the evening the entire load of garbage was ready for transportation.

Now where to dump this load of garbage? The Private Agency has not come to pick up garbage for several weeks. It was learnt that there was a problem of dumping to the previous Dumping Site and the government was making efforts to locate a new one. Our gate was full with piles of garbage of several weeks and there was no space for additional garbage.

Lo, solution appeared!  I got information that Municipal garbage truck collects garbage in the early morning from the road side of Sagolband main road. This road carries heavy traffic from around 4 pm to 7.30 pm. Two wheelers, auto rickshaws and cars hurrying home from Bazar side, stream along non-stop at fast speed. After them comes a stream of heavy load carriers, huge trucks and oil tankers rushing towards the bazaar. Around 8 pm the traffic thins out.

Borrowed a flat-topped, load carrying tri-cycle rickshaw from a rice mill in the neighborhood.  I changed my dress into an old worn-out pants, an old faded jacket that had seen several winters and slipped on a Hawain chappal. Pulled the first load of garbage onto the roadside of Sagolband main road. Unloaded the fully filled cement bags in a neat row for easy picking up, on the far edge of the road. Again I pulled the second load and unloaded similarly. Satisfied with a heavy task completed after a long time, I headed homewards, looking forward to a well deserved drink, to relieve the tired muscles and aching joints.

From afar, I heard a voice of an elderly woman calling, “Wait, wait oh rickshaw wala”. I stopped and went back towards the woman. She quipped, “You are not allowed to dump the garbage here”. I pleaded that the Municipality Truck will carry it away in the morning.  Others are doing the same, some distance away from here. Meanwhile, three other elderly women reached the spot. One bespectacled woman, a bit aggressively uttered, “Nang paisa yam pambro? Kanagi emungdagi garbage no nangna purak ese? Suk thengfao nangna pot holise paisa kayam pami? Paisa fangbagi mahutta nng fine touhallura?”( You are very keen to earn money? From whose house have you transported this garbage? How much money you are expecting, by working till so late in the evening? Instead of earning money, do you want to pay a penalty fine?” She said they were the Meira Paibi of the locality. She demanded that the garbage be picked up and carried away back whence it was brought from!!

I did not feel bad or angry. I felt embarrassed, though. The Mera Paibis were doing a good, unpaid social service. This incident, however, dented my self-illusion that I look reasonably respectable, having worked as an officer during my service life time. On that evening, I must have looked like a full -fledged, hardworking Rickshaw wala. As a result of toiling the whole day, I must have looked quite unclean. Also the worn out clothes I wore must have added to the look!!

My effort to clear the several years old garbage from our secluded backyard got aborted on that day. The garbage was picked up from the roadside where they were placed a few minutes ago and brought back where they originally belonged.

The area guarded by the local Meira Paibis extends over a few hundred yards only along the Sagolband main road. But the area under jurisdiction of Imphal Municipal council covers the entire Imphal area. If the authorities are as serious as the instant Meira Paibis, Imphal can be maintained neat and clean. Has anyone from Imphal Municipal council or the Minister concerned seen the dirty, disease producing site behind Kasturi  Bridge , on Nagamapal road, where the market wastes are rotting? Has anyone seen the area behind the iron scrape market near Major Khul?.  Utmost neglect!

The state government needs to pay more attention to the subject of functioning and performance of Municipal Council with respect to garbage management. What ails the Council must be remedied.

Some states in India are performing better. The methodology and practices in Chhatisgarh or Madhya Pradesh can be examined. If found feasible for Imphal, the relevant methodology or practice can be replicated. Further, how Hongkong is maintained very clean, can be studied and relevant and practicable lessons therefrom can be applied to the state.

Not very far away, Tamu Town is quite clean. During 2010 one morning while I was walking down the street of Tamu Bazar for breakfast at a nearby restaurant, a jeep pulled up near me. The man on the front seat called out, “Good morning, Colonel “. He was the DC of Tamu district, a retired Captain of Burmese army. I played golf tournament with him the previous day. “What are doing here so early in the morning,“ I asked.  “Going round the town, to check over cleanliness. I start my day with this round trip around the town daily,” he replied. Each shop or house is made responsible for cleanliness around its jurisdiction. Any defaulter is fined suitably, without fail. That is the key to the cleanliness of Tamu town.

First Published:May 21, 2020, 6:02 p.m.

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