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Ranking lowest in India's urban informal sector, up to 4 million work as waste pickers

By Our Representative 

Waste picking ranks the lowest in the hierarchy of urban informal occupations and yet there are an estimated 1.5 million to 4 million waste pickers across India, a celebration of the International Waste Pickers Day, which fell on March 1, has been told. The event took place at the Bhowapur wastepickers community, Ghaziabad, National Capital Region.
Organised by the Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM), it was pointed out, informal waste workers play a critical role in supplementing solid waste management systems across urban areas, not just in India but also in other developing countries. The waste workers provide a backbone to the waste management system.
Rajesh Upadhyay, national convenor, National Alliance for Labour Rights (NALR), said that waste pickers work contribute majorly in making the environment liveable by picking up waste and making it reusable.
By doing this the wastepickers contribute to the environment and society. Always remember that your work in reality is so important for society despite not receiving the respect of the society for your work, she insisted. It is the lack of understanding of the community and not the quality of your work. Never demotivate but stand together to raise your voice.
According to him, all the workers, despite what they are doing, should unite together and stand for each other.He demanded that the government should organise a committee with the representatives of the community so the problems can be solved.
Rajendra Ravi of the National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), mentioned that in our ecosystem, there is no natural substance which is waste. Fruit, vegetable peel which is a kitchen waste, is extremely valuable fertilizer for land and vegetation.
With a shift in lifestyle, people now think that it is waste and everything is used and thrown away. It is the waste pickers now, which keep a tab on the things which can be recycled and work for it, he added. When an engineer does it, they charge huge sums for the same knowledge which waste pickers use and have.
Ena Zafar, national convenor, DASAM, spoke about the importance and history of international wastepickers day. She called waste gold and said that when that gold is handled by wastepickers it's wrong, unauthorised and filthy work. But when the contract for the same is given to private companies, it's suddenly profitable and a contribution to the environment.
We have been working in different areas where we see the wastepickers are continuously harassed by the authorities and even by the societies from where they pick waste. Women have to go out early to pick waste and then do the housework, she noted.
She added, after so much struggle and contribution, the waste pickers are still treated with contempt. It is the time where we all organise together and take the control of waste in our hands. It's a fight for livelihood and dignity which we have to do together.
The celebration included music, slogans and participation from various speakers. The event concluded with slogans and remembrance of Ambedkar.

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