Confessions of a child rag picker
I live in a slum. My father is a garbage collector and my mother stays at home looking after my younger brother. I also have two older sisters who work like me as ragpickers. Most children in my slum are ragpickers. We go to garbage dumps and collect items like bottle crowns, plastic bottles and polythene bags. The older children, like my sisters, collect electronic items like batteries and mobile phones.
We have our areas distributed. Usually there is a contractor who assigns work to us. He works for the private company that manages the garbage dumps for the municipality. I have to walk about an hour to get to my area, Lajpat Nagar. I start at around 8 am. I am allowed to pick garbage from about five dumps in the area, which is mainly residential. There is a market nearby, but the garbage dumps in that area are manned by older boys.
I have two boys as my friends. They come from the same slum as mine. Together, we spend about four hours collecting items and then we hand it over to the contractor. There are workers there who separate the items and put them in different bags. The plastic bags are loaded onto a tempo and taken to the scrap market. Some older children go to the scrap market themselves to sell their items. We just hand them over to the contractor.
After handing over the items, we play for some time in a park before heading home. My father collects the money from the contractor after some days. I don’t know how much it is.
We don’t get shoes or gloves from the contractor. NGOs tell us that we should get them. My friend once got hurt by a broken piece of glass. I have a wound in my hand that I have to keep bandaged as it swells up quite often. Older people separate food items from the garbage. If they find some food that they can eat, they keep it. We find food very rarely.
(This ragpicker is 11 years old and lives in a slum in south Delhi)
As told to Aanchal Bansal