RED DOT CAMPAIGN: ‘Apathy of people, corporates biggest challenge in disposal of sanitary waste’

The Red Dot campaign was launched recently by Pune Municipal Corporation Commissioner Kunal Kumar. The Red Dot campaign was launched recently by Pune Municipal Corporation Commissioner Kunal Kumar.

A WOMAN, a new-age professional, walks out of her house busy talking on her cellphone, holding a small polythene bag in another hand. Outside her housing society, she spots a wastepicker with a waste push-kart. Still busy talking on the phone, the woman throws the polythene in the push-kart and walks away. She reaches office and sits in her plush cabin. As she opens one of the drawers to find some document, she is shocked to find a used sanitary napkin lying there. That’s when the wastepicker woman again appears on the screen and says, “No one wants to find that at their workplace. Handling sanitary waste is hazardous to our health.” This is a scene from a short film by SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha Ltd., a group of self-employed wastepickers that provides waste collection and management services and is authorised by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). The short film, which released just last month, is a part of Red Dot Campaign (RDC), which was officially launched recently by PMC Commissioner Kunal Kumar.

Talking about the Red Dot Campaign, Malti Gadgil from SWaCH, said, “We began the process of raising awareness about proper ways of sanitary waste disposal way back in 2008-09 by having extended discussions with our members who had first brought to light the indignity they felt from handling this kind of waste. We have conducted several awareness drives in the past, including a send-it-back event on March 8 when we packed used sanitary waste and sent it to corporates — Kimberley Clarke, J&J and P&G to give them an inkling of what it felt like to have to deal with this waste on a daily basis. This was to raise awareness about this issue.” The RDC, she said, is to go a step further to ensure it comes to them packed in a particular way to save them from indignity and to safeguard the health of wastepickers.

This packing method was finalised through discussions and consensus from the membership of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) and SWaCH. The wastepicker members felt the bags that the SWaCH manufactures are not reaching all due to its cost and hence, proposed RDC a low/no cost option — rap and mark with a red dot. “The campaign has just begun. We plan to work with the newly-elected councilors and use PMC’s channels such as emails, ads in theatres, billboards etc to raise awareness,” said Gadgil.

Though SWaCH has been taking efforts to raise awareness about proper disposal of sanitary waste since a long time, Pai said the challenges lie in figuring out why is no response from people and apathy from the corporates. SWaCH also released another short film last month, which has already received more than a million views. It features wastepickers’ children drawing attention to the need to wrap and mark with the red dot to keep their mothers safe. Sharing how the organisation aims to reach more people, Gadgil said, “We plan to ensure all the newly-elected councilors endorse this system of sanitary waste disposal, raise funds to ensure some billboards carry this information. All our pushcarts will be painted with this message. We have new pamphlets that need to be distributed.”

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