"Swachh Bharat Ka Irada Kar Liya Humne, Desh Se Apne Ye Vaada Kar Lia Humne"
I guess in India everybody is aware and listens to this song every day. Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan reached heights after its initial launch and also created a great impact on Indians regarding cleanliness. But still, India lacks in having a proper waste disposal system. Waste is being collected on a large amount but not disposed of systematically, as it needs to be secluded as well as either recycled or dumped at a proper place.
The municipality is responsible for collecting the waste from the dustbins they put up all over the city and then dispose it to the landfill. But municipality does not collect waste from the location where waste is dumped. Henceforth, there is an informal sector filling this gap. These are the rag pickers.
Have a look at these people who risk their lives to give you a clean country.
Ragpickers are present in every corner of the country and risk their lives to keep every area of the city clean. Their numbers are estimated to be ranging from 1.5 million to 4 million, Delhi itself has 5,00,000 of them. Ragpickers collect waste, separate them and trade them. In this process, they clean approximately 62 million tonnes of waste which is annually generated in India.
No proper job is assigned to these people, they work without being paid or recognized for their work. Garbage contains many infectious substances which can cause severe diseases and actually affect these rag pickers. They get exposed to cuts, infections, and respiratory diseases.
According to Hindustan Times, they even go through poverty, harassment and sexual abuse on the streets.
Many of these rag pickers have a family with two or three children, they likely to follow up with the same job and end up being a scavenger forever. They do not get proper access to education and live in darkness forever.
"This informal sector has saved the country. They are doing a good job and I have decided to recognize their efforts. We will grant a national award," former environment minister Prakash Javadekar had declared in 2015 at an event on waste management in New Delhi.
It was declared that three rag pickers and three associations involved in innovative waste management would be awarded a cash price of Rs 1,50,000.
A year later there was no information about the scheme.
The environment minister stated that India will generate thrice the amount of waste generated right now. It would be 165 million tonnes by 2030 and 450 million tonnes by 2050.
Only 22-28% of the waste is collected and treated.
In an interview in March 2016, the president of All India Kabadi Majdoor Mahasangh, Shashi Bhushan Pandit, rag pickers actually complement the work of civic bodies.
A Delhi-based NGO, Toxic Link, classifies these waste collectors into four categories, those who carry sacks and collect anything of resale value from bins, the kabadi or bhangar (who go on bicycles and collect trash from household), the ones who travel on tricycle collecting almost 50 kg of waste everyday and finally people working for scrap dealers.
The government treats these scavengers no differently. Pandit has demanded inclusive rights for them, health benefits, safety gear and social security.
"In Bogota, Columbia, every rag picker is paid $2 per day by the municipality. In Brazil, they have made sure that only the rag picker can pick the waste (from the source). Why can't India do it?" he asked.
More than 250 families of rag pickers depend on this for their living. The men leave early in the morning with their waste carts, a few of them work where the municipal corporation collect waste while most of them scour the roads.
A rag picker said, ''We open sacks and there are soiled sacks which contain sanitary napkins, human excreta in polythenes, shards of glass, syringes or nails. We cut ourselves, develop rashes and infections. Rotten food makes us sick. But we have no pension, no recognition, no medical facilities."
One of the reporters of Hindustan times ask a few women hailing from Uttar Pradesh about the one thing they would like to ask from the government. They asked for disposable dustbins to sort the waste, without bins it gets piled up inside their lanes and homes.
Also, they ask for access to water, as they have to pay Rs 1000- 2000 to the person who owns a handpump. They added that if they get a tanker, they would bath properly.
One of the women said, "Yes we deal with garbage, but we like to live in a clean space."
Above image portrays a rag picker who is working at a metal recycling factory. From day to midnight, they work and live a very tough life.
Rag pickers often starve for food, and when they get it, it is either rotten or not in a proper condition to eat. This is likely to cause a lot of diseases still they consume it.
Conditions force them to do so yet they had to live the same way.