Wanted: Roadsweepers. ‘Broom-wielding skills’ essential

Street cleaners’ job in northern India attracts 70 applicants for every vacancy

Applicants for a street sweepers’ job in Chandigarh will have to undergo a “sweeping trial” for 10 minutes to assess their broom-wielding skills. Photograph: iStock

Applicants for a street sweepers’ job in Chandigarh will have to undergo a “sweeping trial” for 10 minutes to assess their broom-wielding skills. Photograph: iStock

 

More than 40,000 people have applied for 532 jobs as municipal roadsweepers in India’s northern city of Chandigarh, 250km from New Delhi.

Municipal officials in Chandigarh say the minimum educational requirement for the job – which pays a monthly wage of about €73 for sweeping clean the city’s streets – is eighth grade in school. Nearly 8,000 of the applicants, however, are third-level graduates.

Indian cities have a limited number of mechanised street cleaners, with most of the work being carried out manually by tens of thousands of male and female sweepers, hired by municipalities at low wages.

Armed with heavy long-handled brooms they gather litter, animal waste and filth accumulated on streets twice a day and deposit the refuse at specified locations for collection by trucks or cycle carts.

Officials say that over the next few months the potential sweepers – who must be aged between 18 and 37 – will undergo a rigorous selection process in Chandigarh that includes two qualifying tests.

The first one, lasting 35 minutes, will evaluate “broom preparation skills”. This will include attaching stiff plastic or corn husk fibres to a long cylindrical handle to make up a broom with which to sweep trash off streets, parks and other public places.

This will be followed by a “sweeping trial” for 10 minutes to judge the prospective candidate’s broom-wielding skills.

Stinking landfills

Eventually only one in 75 candidates will be selected for a sweeper’s job that offers a guarantee of employment until the age of 58-60, a marginal increase in salary each year, medical and attendant benefits and a meagre pension, in a country where jobs are scarce.

Last December scores of postgraduates and holders of Masters degrees in business were among 110,000 candidates who applied for 219 roadsweeper vacancies in Allahabad, a city in eastern Uttar Pradesh province.

Local officials said that given the large number of candidates, the hiring process was continuing and would take about 14 months to complete, as municipalities could test only 250 candidates per day.

Environmentalists say hiring sweepers is a cosmetic measure to deal with the mountains of refuse generated daily in Indian cities.

Nearly 90 per cent of Delhi, for instance, does not have a formal neighbourhood refuse collection system, and three of the city’s four stinking landfills, several hundred feet high, are over flowing with trash and long overdue for closure.

No new landfills are planned to cater for the more than 10,000 tonnes of rubbish the capital generates daily and experts say that by 2020 Delhi will need an area of over 60 square kilometers to cope with its waste.