Thursday October 18, 2018

Dignity is not a property of the Rich: Inspirational story of a Mumbai Rag Picker

Organisations like Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) and Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) are helping the rag pickers or ‘waste pickers’ lead a dignified life by helping them fight for their rights

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The Mumbai woman who keeps India clean. Image source: Deccan Chronicle
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What makes a story connect with so many people? Humans of Bombay, a very popular Facebook page, has taken the responsibility of portraying individuals along with a glimpse into their very simple yet uniquely different encounter with life. Their page says ‘We catalogue the beat of the city, one story at a time’.

On Monday the page featured a picture of a woman, who looks in her twenties and later revealed as a mother of two. She was married when she was 14 to a boy two years older than her. The story does not make big claims. It just talks about the unseen struggle of hundreds of people who are victims of social discrimination because of the work they do. They are the ‘labours’ in the country trying so hard to adopt the philosophy of ‘Dignity of Labour’.

cows eating trash. Image source: Wikipedia
cows eating trash. Image source: Wikipedia

The original post read:
I was born in a family of limited means. We were all sent to school, but in the 7th standard my family decided that I should drop out — and I didn’t fight it because I knew that money wasn’t coming in easy. My brothers continued to go to school and I took classes in sewing and embroidery, until the age of 14 when I got married to my husband who was only 16 back then. In our community, this wasn’t unheard off. Even though we were both children, the responsibility on us was immense — my father-in-law was no more and my husband’s brother passed away in a train accident, leaving behind his wife and two children who were to be looked after as well.
At the age of 15, I began to go door to door in big buildings, asking if their trash needed to be collected. I started collecting trash this way and it led to me becoming a rag picker. I was always well received by people who would call me a ‘sweet girl’ or give me sweets to eat, all because I never complained about anything. Some of these people gave me bigger jobs like cleaning their home and I took on them gladly because I knew that my family desperately needed the money.
I became a mother after a few years and I wondered how I would tell my children that this is how I earn my money. I decided I would wait until the right age — but all of my apprehensions disappeared when the time came to send them to school. I realised, that if it weren’t for the 10,000 Rupees I was earning every month… they wouldn’t have an education. I had tears in my eyes as I thanked God for everything — the foul smell of garbage, the hard days of going door to door and the different homes I cleaned.
Both my sons accept my work and there is nothing more I could ask for. I was terrified that they would be embarrassed of me, but they have been so supportive. My younger son recently wrote an essay on me for his class. It was called, ‘My Mother Keeps India Clean’— I didn’t understand a lot of it but it was enough just to know that he wrote about me… I’m a happy mother.”

The post has 32,000 likes and 3295 shares. The story clearly resonates with a large number of people.
The organisations like Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) and Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) are helping the rag pickers or ‘waste pickers’ lead a dignified life by helping them fight for their rights. They help them work professionally and upgrade their livelihood. These organisations are authorized by the state municipal corporations with the twin objective of solving a huge problem of waste management and making a ‘menial’ job of cleaning up trash not so menial anymore and also in a way that is way more hygienic.
The official page of KKPKP, a trade union of waste-pickers in Pune, says:
“We were treated like the trash we collect. People would shoo us away like they would dogs. They would cover their noses when they passed us. It hurt.”
The union brings together waste pickers, itinerant waste buyers, waste collectors and other informal recyclers. They recover, collect, categorise and sell scrap materials such as corrugated board, paper, plastics, metals and glass for recycling. They also provide garbage collection, composting and related waste management services.

-by Shivangi

Shivangi is an intern at NewsGram

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    A story that touches your heart! This is truly an inspirational story which everyone should know about! Humans of Bombay are doing an amazing job too

  • Shubhi Mangla

    A great job being done by Humans of Bombay! Waste pickers to keep our country clean. Their job should not be looked upon as disgraceful

Next Story

Jaipur Literature Festival Takes A Questionable Stand On The #MeToo Movement

JLF's fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned.

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The hushed whispers are getting louder. Flickr

After several star speakers of the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, including C.P. Surendran, Suhel Seth and Chetan Bhagat, among others, have been accused of sexually harassing multiple women, on the sidelines of the popular lit fest, the organisers, in a cautiously worded one-sentence tweet on Thursday, have supported the rising tide of the #MeToo campaign in India — but questions still remain.

“The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival unequivocally stands by the women who have courageously spoken out for equity and dignity and is committed to supporting and amplifying their voices,” the official handle of the JLF said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement came two days after a petition was started on www.change.org by writer-editor Rajni George, asking its organisers to support the #MeToo India and stand up “against sexual harassment”.

#MeToo
Jaipur Literature Festival

“We write today regarding the serious and credible allegations of sexual harassment made recently against a number of men in and around the literary world, as part of the MeToo movement in India.

“We, the undersigned, are dismayed, saddened and angered by these accounts. We admire the work that the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) undertakes. As India’s largest and most recognised literature festival, we believe JLF is ideally placed to take the lead in addressing this urgent issue,” George’s petition said.

JLF’s response in the one-line tweet is general, and does not specifically mention whether any of the allegations that have now surfaced were earlier brought to the notice of the organisers.

It also does not make it clear whether the doors of the festival will remain closed for the accused in its future editions, or not. It further makes no comment whatsoever on several instances that are said to have taken place on the sidelines of the annual event.

#MeToo
Sanjoy K. Roy, with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore.

Notably, many of the accused have featured in prominent sessions at what is described as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, and, in many instances, the festival has been instrumental in increasing their popularity as well as readership.

On its part, JLF, produced by Teamwork Arts, headed by Sanjoy K. Roy, and with writers Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple as co-directors, has been instrumental in bringing societal issues to the fore. In fact, the 2018 edition of the festival in January this year had come to a close with a hard-hitting debate on #MeToo, long before the campaign gained momentum in India.

Also Read: Watch Jaipur Literature Festival Live On Twitter

Many in the literary circles feel the benchmark that JLF has itself set over the course of its journey, its coming of age and gradual but distinct shift from controversies to substance in the recent years, its fast spreading presence in the international arena, calls for a more substantial stand on its part, as far as #MeToo is concerned. (IANS)