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.

I am like the crab…

A week ago when we visited the community at Gazipur, we were told Mustafa was not there because he had gone back to his village in Eastern India. When he returned, Mustafa told us that a poor family in his village had a son who had broken his leg, and the family didn’t have the money for his surgery. Mustafa went home to give them 10,500 rupees (roughly 200 USD) to fix the boy’s leg. Back in Gazipur he told us he didn’t know how he could continue supporting his family because no job paid enough. Mustafa has gone back and forth between waste collecting and selling chickens, but with a wife and five children to support he is constantly struggling to make enough money to feed his family.

IMG_4805

As we sat with Mustafa he began to recount a story he had heard while in his village.

“In Kolkata,” Mustafa began, “one man was told by an American fellow to catch crabs. He did so and the man gave him much money for the crabs. When

the man came to get the crabs, he put them in a bucket and left the bucket out with the top open. ‘Why do you leave it open?’ the other man asked, ‘the crabs

will escape.’

‘No,’ the first man replied. ‘The crabs will not escape because each time one tries to climb out, the others pull him back in.'”

“I am like the crab,” Mustafa explained. “Poverty and lack of education keep pulling me back down, no matter how far I get or what I do.”

IMG_4804

Mustafa got up, pushed aside the tattered cloth hanging across the doorway and vanished into another home. Seconds later he emerged carrying a worn gym bag. He set it on the bed where

he had been sitting and unzipped it, revealing folders and piles of papers. He pulled out a single folder and opened it, handing us a leaflet of papers. The top paper had his name, his (estimated) date of birth, and the number of years he had attended school: 3.

“I know the importance of education,” Mustafa told us, “I want my children to go to school. I want to learn and fight for my rights, but I don’t know how.”

IMG_4434

One of Mustafa’s five sons with their goats. Who wear sweaters.

Why is this film important? Read on…

News Update from AIKMM (the organization of waste pickers that Don’t Waste People will be highlighting):

Protest March by Delhi Waste Collectors

 

Appeal of the  All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh  (AIKMM)

 

Dear Supporters,

 

As you know, the All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (AIKMM, All India Waste Workers’ Federation) has been working for the rights of the informal sector in Delhi in recent years. It has been demanding that the government recognize waste workers for their contributions to waste management and their integration to the formal solid waste management. Back in 2007, the Delhi Government gave health safety kits containing an apron, mask, shoes, and gloves to the waste pickers, which assisted our initiative. But even then, AIKMM believed that this is not the solution because it does not address the problem of ensuring waste workers their right to employment.

From that time, AIKMM has been demanding that the government listen to the workers’ issues. But the surge of privatization that began in 2005 impacted the waste sector and now all of Delhi’s solid waste management has been sold to the hands of national and international companies. Moreover, we’ve seen that the government talks about the “aam aadmi” (the working man), but in practice they work for the elite.

There is no doubt that private companies have no interest in securing livelihoods or environmental benefits. They have only one concern, which is how to increase profits. AIKMM conducted a survey in the NDMC area, which found that privatization was the underlying reason that informal sector workers are being pushed out of this line of work and into further poverty. According to the NDMC, 250 tons of garbage is  produced every day. This also includes 80 tons of dry waste that isn’t documented in NDMC’s records. These recyclables are   collected by the informal sector workers and sold to junk dealers. If we estimate  that the rate of these discards to be Rs.5 per kg, this equals to Rs. 4 lath every day and  a whopping Rs. 14.4 crore each year for collecting garbage. This in addition to the Rs.4.59 crores a year that the company makes on the collection and disposal contract with the NDMC .

This is an unacceptable situation that not only pushes the poorest of the poor, the waste pickers into further poverty and handsomely rewards the rich; ironically under a government that has come to power based on its promises to eradicate poverty.

To make matters worse for the waste pickers and the already deteriorated environment of the city the government has planned to burn all of Delhi’s waste to at 3 locations across Delhi. It is very clear that the only things that are worthwhile for burning are the very recyclables like paper and plastics that waste workers rely on for their food. According to the Delhi Government own figures nearly  3.5 lakh people make a living  through this occupation. The garbage burning in turn will cause toxic emissions  and produce deadly dioxins and furans known to cause cancers in humans.


Toward realizing these demands to fight for their livelihoods and to protect the environment of Delhi, waste workers will march on 29 August. They will need all your support. Please do block the 29th of August in your diaries.

 

Main details:

Date: 29 August 2012

Time: 11:00 am (Assembly begins at Raj Ghat)

Place: Raj Ghat To Delhi Secretariat , Delhi