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.