Neel Metal, Onyx and the storm in the garbage bin

The city of Chennai now witnesses the bizarre spectacle of both Neel Metal Fanalca and CES Onyx at work on the city’s solid waste in the three zones of Pulianthope, Kodambakkam and Ice House.

The familiar white compactors of Onyx and their smaller three wheelers (strangely looking refurbished despite their withdrawal from the scene just a week ago) are on the arterial roads, removing the accumulated garbage.

There is no indication of anything amiss on the website of the Chennai Corporation. In fact, the civic body is a picture of efficiency and has explained in some detail, its procedure to remove solid waste everyday. No references here to who is doing the job or to the stink created by the indifference of the civic managers.

The return of CES Onyx has understandably fuelled rumours that Neel Metal will be given the goodbye and it will be a return to Onyx. The employees of Neel Metal would strengthen such an assumption, because they appear to be listless, disinterested and completely clueless, and obviously untrained. Their most striking feature is the red jacket that they have been issued.

A return to Onyx would indeed be very remarkable, because of the nature of such transactions in India. Neel Metal is unlikely to have signed the contract without a solid understanding of its position, a predictability and robustness that is derived from the peculiarly opaque nature of Indian contracts (not difficult to imagine, given the regular ‘oiling’ of such operations with the right grade of grease). That same smoothness saw Onyx ‘jump’ valorously and even altruistically to the rescue of the DMK Government and the Corporation, just as the city’s rodents were preparing for a massive population increase.

Incidentally, Fanalca SA of Colombia does not appear to be a small player, going by its web presence, dealing with a host of transport-related operations in that country, including the running of a high capacity bus system.  (Incidentally, that bus system scores higher marks than our own Metropolitan Transport Corporation.)

Mayor M. Subramaniam and Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni of course owe an explanation to the city on why they have not disclosed the details of their contract with Neel Metal, or their hastily worked out arrangement with Onyx for fire-fighting. They are actually required to do so under the Right to Information Act, 2005, although most middle class residents of the city are unaware of the potency of this law.

Take charge of your waste - yourself.

To complete this medley of thoughts, I would like to refer to the highly ‘do-able’ intervention at the citizen level for domestic waste reduction. Many people simply reduce the amount of waste that they would otherwise have to dump out on the road by going in for pot composting. I have found great pleasure and benefit in depositing vegetable and other kitchen waste (not meat) into a giant flower pot. The waste simply shrinks everyday and makes space for more waste to be dumped. This can go on for several weeks, before you need to put the pot away to let the contents ‘rot’ into compost, covered with some soil. In the end, you can plant something nice in it and just watch it grow.

For those who want to look more artistic, landscape specialist Navaneeth Raghavan has some striking terrocotta composters that do practically the same job. Look it up at the Daily Dump. You will start getting the idea of why waste is not really such a bad thing after all.

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