Rambhau Chorgade has a beautiful daughter of marriageable age, reasonably educated and blessed with all attributes to attract a prospective groom. Yet there are no suitors. Why? No one wants a bride from the Phursung village, about 20 kms away from Pune. Strange, but true.
Ditto with Gangaram Sonawane who lives in the neighbouring Uruli Devachi village. He is overjoyed to hear that his 18-year-old wife has delivered a baby boy. In an advanced stage of pregnancy, her parents took her to Baramati for the delivery. Problem for Gangaram is that he will not be able to bring his family home for two to three years - precisely for the same reason why no one wants to marry Rambhau’s daughter.
In the indescribable filth that dominates the landscape of Phursungi and and Uruli Devachi villages near Pune which falls under the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, these two cases are no exceptions. Residents of these two dammed villages say such is the dirt and filth of their environment that families even avoid marriages.
The two villages, known locally as the ‘kacharewalla gaon’ (garbage villages), are dumping ground for Pune’s massive garbage –a mountainous heap of stinking rubbish weighing about 2.5 million metric tonnes is rotting here. That has been the situation for the last 20 years causing chocking pollution and fires, taking a serious toll of health and happiness.
Pune’s garbage is huge, about 1,600 metric tons every day in the form of organic, inorganic, bio-medical, e-waste, construction and industrial hazardous waste, though there are some NGO estimates which put the number higher. During monsoon and events like palkhi, Ganesh festival, Diwali etc, the waste generation goes up by 15 to 20 per cent every day.
The garbage heaps are taken to Phursungi and Urali Devachi villages for processing but the plant, which has the capacity to process 1,000 metric tonne waste, has been able to process only 600 metric tonne. As a result the garbage has been rotting creating a stench which can be felt for several kilometers. The region has also become an epicenter of diseases as it is a virtual breeding ground for mosquitoes, parasites, germs and bacteria.
That too may not have been a serious problem if the political constituency had not been Baramati, Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar’s home turf, now represented by daughter Supriya Sule. In an election year, even Pawar cannot take chances. “The processing plant at Uruli Devachi is not functioning properly and villagers are not allowing us to dump garbage in the open. At present, the plant is processing about 200 tons of garbage a day and we have asked the management to restore its capacity to 600 tonnes. Even if the plant restores its capacity by addressing snags, it will take at least a week to clear the dump accumulated across the city,”said NCP leader Subhash Jagtap, after a meeting with Urali Devachi villagers last week.
The harried villagers of Uruli Devachi and Phursungi have stopped the trucks carrying garbage from Pune to these villages till the garbage processing plant starts to work at its normal capacity. Naturally, Pune is stinking as its accumulated waste across the city is estimated at about 2,500 tonnes.
Initially, the villagers fought the battles on their own; political intervention began only after the issue became significant enough to start affecting lives of people living in Pune. Some political leaders tried to get mileage, while others showed interest and took efforts but nothing changed substantially.
With the ruling NCP having failed to resolve the bottleneck of Pune’s garbage issues for a while, its chief — union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar — has finally taken the initiative to find a solution. If the issue is not resolved then it could have ramifications for the NCP, especially for Supriya Sule. In 2009, she won the Baramati Lok Sabha seat by a margin of 3,36,831 votes, beating the BJP’s Kanta Jaysing Nalawade.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the Shiv Sena had raked the issue and staged an agitation in front of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) headquarters. Both demanded that the civic administration clean the garbage from the city immediately. But that was easier said than done. Now, Pawar has called for a meeting of all party leaders in the PMC including the municipal commissioner and representatives from the two villages, to discuss the issue threadbare. Truly, it takes an election to move even political heavyweights.