It is deeply disappointing and disheartening the way Bombay French Consulate and VFS center in Mumbai conducted their business. Our colleague Ms. Asha Sambhaji Doke- wastepicker (we prefer to call her waste manager) from Aurangabad was supposed to travel with us to Paris for Climate Change negotiations. She was a panelist and supposed to speak in many side events. We applied for visa through VFS center. As she was a delegate – observer in United Nations negotiations, her visa fees was waived. VFS center employees didn’t take care of her file properly, we were told that there is no courier service to Aurangabad, some one has to come and pick up the passport.
In first application the consulate refused the visa on two grounds: not sure whether she will come back, not clear how she will sustain herself there. Irrespective of the fact that both to and fro tickets were given with the application, sponsorship letters, accommodation confirmation were all attached.
It was decided to apply again. This time we paid the visa fees and to our surprise there was a courier service to Aurangabad. And VFS was happy to deliver the passport. For some reason the center didn’t take Biometrics of Asha. They said they were recorded the previous time. Suddenly out of blues after four days, Consulate asked them to provide the Biometric details. She was asked to come to Mumbai for filing the Biometrics. The misery didn’t end there. The Consulate after having her application for almost a week, near to the travel dates, asked us to submit the Sponsorship letter, copy of a colleague’s visa and audit report of sponsoring organisation again and not through email, hard copies only. We rushed and provided the documents to a colleague who reached Consulate five minutes late and they decided not to receive it. On Friday all the documents were submitted the third time. The departure date was 29th December (we plan to postpone it by two days) we have no idea what’s the status. The consulate also asked us how Asha will survive in France as she doesn’t know English. Our response was that many colleagues from India, Kabir Arora, Mansoor and Pratibha Sharma are traveling with her and there are many translators who have volunteered to help. Her financials were again in question, even after having sponsorship letters. Colleagues from Zero Waste France, Indian Youth Climate Network and WIEGO wrote to consulate, leave aside response, no acknowledgement of email was received. French government is hosting and is the Presidency of the Conference of Parties on Climate Change, instead of being inclusionary in spirit and welcoming to all delegates, they have shown the opposite. It is saddening that we are talking about the poor, who are most vulnerable to climate change, many through their work are actually mitigating it. And the space for them to share their thoughts, experiences and reflections is shrinking.
Profile of Asha Sambhaji Doke is given below for reference.
Ashabai Doke: Ashabai Doke is a waste manager and green entrepreneur from Aurangabad, India. She is affiliated to Civic Response Team (CRT^) – an organization based in the same city. As a member of CRT^, Asha manages two recyclable waste shops, and handles over 8 tonnes of material per month. Her efforts contribute to better earnings of over 30 sanitation workers, and more stable livelihoods for three other waste-picker women who are now freed of their bonded labour contracts. She is also the member of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtkari Sanghthana (KKPKS), a trade union, and spokesperson for other persons like her, who made a living from collecting waste materials from dumps.
And so, as she travels far and wide, within the country spreading hope to others who dream of earning an honest living; and abroad, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change -UNFCCC CoP 21 in Paris, to authorities, colleagues, well-wishers and fellow human beings from far and wide on the struggle of one woman to overcome poverty, and to work together for sustainable & equitable Solid Waste Management solutions and a better, cleaner, more just world for all. CRT^ and KKPKS are both coalition member of Alliance of Indian Wastepickers.