The Meaning of Marginalization Part 2

In Sahaberderi the waste pickers rent the land they live on. The land is owned by the government. They pay rent to a landlord. The landlord doesn’t work for the government, but he’s part of a powerful land mafia that have political clout in the area. So he demands money from the waste pickers of Sahaberderi in order to live on land that is not his, otherwise he will have them evicted or have their homes flattened.

He also tells visitors that they are not allowed on the land without his permission. Even though it is not his.

In Ghazipur, the community homes have been burnt twice. Both fires started at night when the community members were asleep. The Ghazipur community lives on land that a few private interests (hotel chains etc) have their eye on for development. The community is the one thing that stand in the way since they have refused to move. Who set the fires? Nobody in the community knows for certain.

Usa, a woman who sits at the municipal waste bin at Connaught Place in the city center pays bribes on a daily basis to police, government officials and workers from private waste collection companies. The police tell her what she does is illegal, but that they’ll look the other way if she pays. Government officials and private company employees tell Usa that the waste belongs to them, and by sorting through it she is stealing. She hands over hundreds of rupees with a smile on her face, knowing that if she refuses to pay there will be repercussions. Uneducated and illiterate, Usa does not know whether these people are telling the truth. All she knows is that by going through the trash and selling recyclables, she can make enough to support herself and her seven children, and if she doesn’t pay she risks losing access to the trash, her livelihood.

The waste pickers and constantly taken advantage of because they are illiterate and impoverished. They are willing to chase any glimmer of hope to try and make more money and support themselves, their families and their communities. They do not have the ability to see when they may be taken advantage of. The waste pickers are hard working and willing to advocate for their rights, but they need honest, genuine people who are willing to help them and point them in the right direction.

Former NYC waste picker gives back

While working with waste pickers in Delhi the founder of the waste picker’s union, Shashi Pandit, gave me the contact information of a man in NYC who used to work as a waste picker in Manhattan and is now using his knowledge of recyclables to teach others how to create everything from jewelry to flowers out of trash. Kappo Kappino developed ‘trash worship’ to give people another perspective on discarded material, and has visited Delhi several times to learn about the work of waste pickers across the globe. Kappino is now partnering with Pandit to start a women’s coop in Delhi. Women who have worked as waste pickers their entire lives will be taught to make flowers from recyclables that they can then sell to supplement their meager incomes. ¬†More on Kappino, the coop, and the flowers that will ‘last forever’ can be found at his blog here:¬†http://recycleandpray.wordpress.com/