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  • Writer's picturemaithilee Sagara

Nurturing Young Professionals to Lead Sanitation and Solid Waste Management from the Front

Updated: May 18, 2023

- Xerxes Rao and Pranati Das

May 2023


Solid waste management (SWM) is an essential service by local governments ensure that that our cities are clean and healthy. Odisha is pioneering state-wide initiative of managing solid waste systems by partnering with women, trans-women and waste picker self-help groups (SHGs). The state is also prioritising sanitation workers’ safety and dignity with their inspiring Garima scheme, which is the first of its kind in India, and is ensuring occupational safety and linkages with all eligible entitlements. The state has renamed its solid waste treatment plants as “wealth centres” because the aspiration is to make these centres to generate resources and wealth by processing bio-degradable waste into organic compost called “Mo Khata” (meaning “My Compost”) and by selling the recyclable non-biodegradable waste.


The Principal Secretary of the Housing & Urban Development Department (H&UDD), Government of Odisha, Mr. G. Mathi Vathanan, IAS, who has championed this initiative believes in the potential of the community and affirms the same, “We don’t want experts, we want ordinary people with extraordinary passion.” Following this ideology, the state took a blanket decision to engage community partners (SHGs) to manage the sanitation value chain. Building their knowledge, skills and agency is crucial for them to better understand the sanitation value chain and perform efficiently. H&UDD has developed a training ecosystem in collaboration with Urban Management Centre (UMC).


With UMC as their knowledge and technical support partner, H&UDD has been working on strengthening its SWM system by training officials and women/transgender SHGs. The focus has been on imparting technical knowledge on the importance of being more sensitive towards the people in this profession, upskilling the sanitation workers and further assisting them in availing benefits from government schemes.


Capacitating Youth on Sanitation Value Chain Through TULIP


The State has decided to engage 500 fresh college graduates as interns under The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP) of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Government of India. The internship period ranges from 3 to 12 months.

The H&UDD has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Urban College of Urban Management Centre (UMC) and Odisha Urban Academy (OUA) to design a certificate course focusing on optimising the functioning of the wealth centres and improving the overall SWM system in Odisha. The interns come from different streams of education and most of them do not have any exposure to the sanitation value chain or that of working of urban local bodies, before joining the program.



Community partnership being the key to the SWM system in Odisha, the TULIP interns are carefully groomed to work as a missing link between the urban local bodies (ULBs) and the community partners by providing the necessary technical as well as handholding support required to optimise the value chain.


“Being a commerce graduate, I had no knowledge of solid waste management system but after joining this program I got to know that the waste is not waste, it is wealth in disguise. I am very fortunate to get this opportunity and well understood the slogan ‘My waste, my responsibility’.”

- Ankita Mohanty (Commerce Graduate), TULIP Intern


The capacity building pedagogy of the TULIP interns has been designed by UMC, and involves in-person residential training in classrooms, on-job training, weekly virtual catch up sessions, assignments, and continuous one-on-one mentoring by UMC team.

Additionally, the interns are also trained on other crucial skills required as young leaders such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem solving abilities, negotiation and persuasion, etc. The in-person residential training includes three modules and the training is imparted by UMC’s Technical Support Unit for Capacity Building (TSU-CB).

After the interns are trained on the basics on the SWM value chain — infrastructure, collection and processing of waste in the wealth centre, reporting, maintenance, etc., they are positioned at different ULBs for on-job training.


“My mentor, guided me through the difficulties of working in the sanitation field and assisted me in handling many challenging situations. I am inspired to work harder every day because I am aware that my efforts are contributing towards enhancing the citizens’ sanitation and hygiene standards. My team's support, my mentor's critical evaluation of my work, the guidance of ULB officials and feedback from the Swachha Karmis are helping me to refine my work day in and day out.”

- Jashabant Behera (Physics Graduate), TULIP Intern


The interns undergo critical evaluations during the internship programme and are graded based on their performance. The interns are assessed on basis of the exercises, assignments and jury-based presentations by them during the in-person training.

The capacity building programme and the performance of the interns are tracked using the Learning and Management Information System (LMIS) developed by UMC and the period of internship is based on the interns grade.


Through this internship programme, a training and learning system has been established, which the H&UDD now wants to replicate in other vertical of urban service delivery. Particularly, the training pedagogy and the evaluation framework has been helpful not only in building the core skills of the interns, but the one-on-one mentoring has been greatly helpful in enhancing the engagement level of these fresh graduates and breaking the stigma around sanitation and waste management work. The TULIP initiative is a great initiative that synergises the technical skills, new ideas of graduate students to meet the challenges of urban India. Other states and cities can also leverage this opportunity.

 

About the Authors


Xerxes Rao


Xerxes Rao is the Head - Urban Planning at Urban Management Centre. Xerxes brings with him 18 years of experience working on projects and policies for the urban development.




Pranati Das

Pranati Das is the State Programme Coordinator – NULM in Odisha. Pranati has more than 12 years of demonstrated experience in managing development programmes in international not-for-profit organizations and UN Agencies – UNFPA and UNDP.




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