Prime Minister Narendra Modi it seems has realised the importance of waste segregation, especially plastic, as he launched the ‘Swachhata Hi Seva’ campaign on Wednesday.
Sat on a red carpet, in the middle of which was a pile of garbage, Modi “segregated” it with the help of women waste pickers in Mathura. This photo op flashed across television screens and was shared widely on social media.
As of Wednesday morning, Modi’s own tweet had been shared 4,000 times.
In the tweet, which included a video of the event, the prime minister praised the women for “their hardwork and contribution towards fulfilling Bapu’s dream”.
While Modi’s “seva” took place in what looked like a very clean carpet in a clean environment, the real conditions under which these women collect and segregate garage are very different. The women were seen wearing masks and gloves, but this is far away from ground reality.
They often come in contact with hazardous waste which they pick up and separate with their bare hands, with little to no protective gear provided by the government.
“Studies have shown that waste workers suffer from not only local injuries and infections but also systemic illnesses as well as addiction. However, there is hardly any published evidence about the key determinants of health of women ragpickers like gender-specific health, addiction history, their awareness about diseases caused by handling of solid waste, hygiene practices as well as health-seeking behaviour detail although they are important!” a report published on the National Center for Biotechnology Information says.
Modi’s photo op drew a lot of criticism with people calling him out. Here’s what Twitter users said:
During his first tenure Modi started the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan which had also been called out for its gimmicky promotions. Ministers, including Modi, had carried out many such cleanliness drives armed with brooms and of course photographers and cameras around.