Fellow Since 2000
Kachara Vahatuk Shramik Sangh
This profile was prepared when Milind Ranade was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
Milind Ranade's Kachra Vahtuk Sanghash Samiti is a new kind of labor union: autonomous, apolitical, and committed to the overall welfare of its unique membership -- untouchable trash collectors neglected by India's mainstream labor organizations. By improving trash collectors' health, welfare, and bargaining power, Milind is challenging the prescribed status of menial workers in Indian cities.Until the advent of KVSS, which means "the waste collectors and transporters union," social workers tried to help scavengers by counseling them to find better jobs. But Milind Ranade recognized that people who collect and sort garbage provide an important service to Indian cities, and he began campaigning for their constitutional rights as workers. He wants employers, other workers, and the state to acknowledge that scavengers are legitimate and productive citizens. Milind and KVSS make it possible for scavengers, who work under an unfair contract system, to communicate with Bombay's mainstream labor advocates: human rights lawyers, occupational health specialists, counselors, and established labor groups. Moreover, the union creates opportunities for members to address serious problems affecting their communities, including alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, and illiteracy. By organizing within the community of waste collectors, then reaching out to India's broader labor rights movement, Milind Ranade has helped scavengers pave new avenues for self-help and public participation.