It is no secret now that the Indian economy is struggling. The trade war been the United States and China has some role to play in this, but in my opinion the biggest reason for this down turn has been policy implementation by the government that has not well thought out and the adverse effects that some of these policies have had on business and consumer sentiment. Things are not looking bright in the near future, but there is always hope! With industry leaders meeting with our finance minister, there is hope that that GST will be reduced for purchasing new vehicles, directly benefiting the auto sector, along with relaxing norms for taxation on FPI and reversing the recent draconian ruling on CSR.

This along with many other reforms on the taxation (personal & corporate) and on the labour front are awaited eagerly both by individuals and businesses of all sizes. India, with over 1.2 billion people has slowed down on it consumption of every thing, from FMGC products to clothes and automobiles and it is only domestic consumption that will prop up the economy again. We need to tap into this massive resource by implementing policies that will help put money in their pocket.

There are opportunities as of now that are staring the government in its face, begging they be bought to the forefront, proving massive upside in generating employment, taxes and giving a complete make over to one of the most important unorganised sectors functioning openly in the country. Yes waste management can help add tremendous value to the countries GDP, if only it is formalised by the way of proving it Industry status and bring the unorganised sector within its folds. As of now almost 95% of the sector is working in an unorganised manner, from door – door collection, segregation, transportation, processing (plastic, metals, e-waste, cooking oil etc) and of course disposal. Does the government have any data on this? The answer is a big NO! The sector as a whole provides employment to lack’s off people nationally, besides insuring that India does suffocate in its own waste by the way of collecting our waste, segregating it, aggregating it and sending it further for processing and in some instances recycling the said waste them selves.

Why give industry status to the sector? Well the reasons are compelling as mentioned below.

  1. Financing! Yes the waste management sector is capital intensive and requires companies or individuals to invest in equipment and facilities. Providing industry status insures that the companies and individuals get hassle free loans at subsidised interest rates.
  2. Equity Investment: There are many companies both Indian and from abroad looking to enter the sector, but with no clarity on policy and status their investment is not only not secure but also risky.
  3. Transparency through data: Data is critical in todays day and age to make educated decisions on critical policy aspects. There is limited data and transparency present in the waste management sector as of now due to various reasons such as not capturing the data from the unorganised sector and limited means of measuring and monitoring weight and characteristics of waste collected by municipal bodies. There are many contradicting reports online about the amount of waste generated, segregated, recycled dumped with no clarity on the methodology used to arrive at the figures. Industry status will not only help making the sector more transparent, but also provide critical data that the government can then use to plan ahead, implement systematic policy changes over a period of time as suggested by the data and most importantly communicate effectively and transparently between inter ministerial departments and with the public.
  4. Juxtaposed! Bring the unorganised sector under the preview of the law: As mentioned previously about 95% of the waste management market is working in an unorganised manner. With thousands of small, medium and large vendors engaged in various aspects, but not confined by the law to operate in a certain manner. Taxes for one! Many if not all these vendors working in the unorganised sector are in some way or the other either not paying GST at all or working the “half cash model” where half of their transactions are done in cash and the other half via invoicing that is under invoiced collecting the balance in cash. Most of not all have little overheads and it becomes impossible for organised players to compete with them on price. Yes that is what is happening in the Indian waste management sector as of now, price is the determining factor on which contracts are given and scrap is sold whether that is to do with the government or with the private sector. This needs to change, and the playing field needs to be levelled, by bringing these players under the gambit of the law and then doing checks on them to see what it is that they are doing with the waste. As of now, there is rampant disregard for the rules both in the municipal, e-waste and hazardous waste side of the business, with a nexus between NGO’s, ragpickers, and certain private companies that provide documentation and certification on hire. I can keep going on about this, but in the interest of keeping this article to the point and not repeating myself (which I tend to do) I would like to emphasise on certain other aspects, such as collection of taxes, collecting data and insuring that these individuals and their employees are counted in the countries stats in regards to employment and GDP numbers.
  5. Environmental Benefits: Of course all of this comes with massive environmental benefits! There is ample data available online about the direct correlation between the health and finances. By providing industry status to the sector we are also insuring (of-course through the enforcement of rules and regulations) that best practises are implemented when managing waste. Many if not all my industry colleagues will agree that most if not all the waste collected in India is managed in a manner that is questionable and severely effects pour environment in a negative manner.

This is a low hanging fruit, and the Indian government must now look at this from a purely financial and environment perspective. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been great in spreading awareness about open defecation and segregation of waste, but the outreach has done little in terms of implementing proper waste management practises from a grass root level and up. The merky business of waste that has aspects of corruption, mafia monopoly (scrap & government tenders) has been sold to us for too long as a social sector managed by a few handful of NGO’s and large infrastructure companies, must now be transformed into a engine of growth for the economy and the country as a whole. This is only possible if the government seriously looks and harnesses the true economic, social and environmental potential that the sector holds and realising that in managing our waste today lies the key to a sustainable future.

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