lead a ragged life
By Payal Thimaiah
BANGALORE: M. Raju is a ragpicker with the BCC who survives
with his large family in abysmal conditions in a slum at
Austin Town. Sickness, malnutrition, illiteracy are but a part
of his daily living. There is, however, light at the end of
the tunnel. Environment Support Group has stepped in to save
this man and many others like him.
Garbage can be segregated into biodegradable, recyclable,
reusable, hazardous and sanitary wastes. But ragpickers and
sweepers, comprising mainly children, aren't trained to do so.
They are exposed to toxic waste every day and thus become
disease-prone,'' says Leo Saldanha of the group.
``Waste management is hazardous and requires training of
segregation of wastes. These children aren't and actually
cannot be put into the category of rag-picking. Most of them
are forced into this because of financial problems.''
Sweepers suffer from muscular diseases and back pains
because they have to bend to clean the roads for long hours.
It can be avoided if they are provided with long brooms.
``Apart from handling waste and working under smelly
conditions, they are not provided with appropriate equipment.
The trollies provided are often laden with garbage and very
difficult to push. Pushing them can cause muscular- skeletal
diseases. Authorities expect them to work without the right
equipment and then accuse them of inefficiency and being
lazy,'' said Saldanha. Apart from this, they get half the
amount of salary actually sanctioned to them; the other half
being siphoned off by their contractors.
``They are deprived of medical help they require. Doctors
in-charge of conducting free and regular checkups have no
prior records or any sort of information about their health.
All the doctors who have volunteered to help don't take up the
initiative because they receive no support from higher
authorities,'' complained Ranjini Thomas, an NGO member.
``They work with bare hands and chappals. Most of their health
problems are because of their strenuous work schedule.''
Many are alcoholics, but a survey conducted by an NGO
maintained alcoholism wasn't prevalent among them. ``This is
probably just a stigma attached to them. The BCC prefers to
opt for the illiterate. Because if they have passed SSLC, they
move to the post of a `dapedar' for which they have to be paid
higher wages,'' she added.
To make these workers aware of savings schemes, the NGO
organises lectures on banking facilities, upgrading and
educating them. It has sent the corporation a proposal last
November, but hasn't been authorised even till date,'' said
As for Raju, he hopes this programme will help reduce a few
of his numerous problems.