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“Ragpickers are critical to clean India's 62 mn tonnes waste: It's time to recognise their efforts”

Source: Forstpost, Tuesday, May 18, 2017

The Ajmer Shatabdi pulls into the New Delhi station every night at around 11 pm. During the six-hour journey from Ajmer, the train serves tea, snacks, soup, dinner and dessert — more food than an average person can eat in that time.As soon as passengers start getting off the train, ragpickers jump in and start scrounging for waste material and leftovers — samosas, biscuits, plastic bottles, wraps and so on. They are a part of India’s massive reserve of ragpickers. Their numbers are estimated between 1.5million and 4 million; Delhi itself has over 500,000.

Ragpickers sustain themselves by collecting, sorting and segregating waste and then trading it. In doing so, they help clean up a significant proportion of the 62 million tonnes of waste generated annually in India.

A lot of garbage clearing thus is the done informally, by ragpickers who work without any job security, salary or dignity. Not just that, they are regularly exposed to cuts, infection, respiratory diseases and tuberculosis apart from poverty, humiliation, harassment, and sexual abuse on the streets, as IndiaSpend investigations found.

“This informal sector has saved the country. They are doing a good job and I have decided to recognise 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 a cash prize of Rs 150,000 ($2,330) would be given to three ragpickers and three associations involved in innovative waste management. More than a year later there is no information available about the scheme.

Read More at : Ragpickers are critical to clean India's 62 mn tonnes waste: It's time to recognise their efforts  

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