AMAN in Media

Zooming into the world of waste pickers

 The Hindu, June 16, 2012

Salman is a 13-year-old slum dweller who lives near the Shahbad dairy here. He longs to attend school like children his age. But every morning he earns his livelihood by going to Rohini Sector 18 to help his relatives collect, segregate and sell recyclable waste.

Salman is one among hundreds of children working as waste pickers in Delhi. But on Friday, this boy was a special guest at the Art Gallery in India International Centre Annexe where he inaugurated a four-day photo exhibition on waste pickers of the city.

Salman says June 15 will always be a special day in his life. “I have never been to an art gallery before. I not only inaugurated but also interacted with so many people. Life is tough for me. As my father is an alcoholic, I live with my maternal grandparents. My goal in life is to attend school like other kids. But schools refuse to take me. So I was being educated at home by mammu, but he cannot do so now.”

His grandfather Oiinul Kazi migrated to Delhi from West Bengal three decades ago looking for work. Everyone in the family contributes because every set of hands means a little more money.


According to Kausiki Sarma, whose three dozen pictures are on display, visuals at times communicate more than words and the pictures focus on the problems and issues concerning waste pickers.

Titled “Flowers in the dust: The waste pickers of Delhi”, the exhibition has more than three dozen photographs. Every photo-panel has a brief description of the context in which it was photographed.

Photography is an efficacious medium to provide the much-needed shock to the affluent class which does not get an opportunity to interact with waste pickers.

The exhibition seeks to highlight that a large numbers of child labourers, who earn their livelihood through waste picking, are not only being deprived of education but are also highly vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses. Without opportunities of acquiring other professional skills, they get trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy and hopelessness.

“The exhibition will make the waste pickers feel empowered by giving them a sense of recognition and make them heard and seen by people who they usually work for. It will also be held in other States where non-government organisation Aman works like Bihar, Gujarat and Kashmir.”

Kausiki has been to every part of the city to capture the deplorable conditions in which waste pickers or rag pickers work. “They make a living by collecting waste and selling recyclable material. The waste pickers live and work in inhuman conditions. Unhygienic working conditions take a toll on their health. Without hazard-protection equipment such as masks, gloves or boots, they rummage through putrefying waste, come in direct contact with toxic material and acquire respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections.”

After the exhibition's ends, a seminar will be held to sensitise members of civil society, government, political parties and media on the deplorable living conditions of waste pickers in Delhi. It will focus on the occupational hazards experienced by waste-pickers.

According to All-India Kachra Shramik Mahasangh general secretary Dharmendra Yadav, the Delhi Government has already privatised waste picking in some parts of the city. “Even in Rohini, there is one company which has been given the task to clear the waste. Waste pickers believe this move will lead to unemployment and displacement. We will make recommendations and suggestions to the Delhi Government to improve the social-economic and working conditions of waste pickers with full respect to their civic and human rights.”

Source: The Hindu

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