Deonar: Trash and Desperation

All I remember is the menacing height of the garbage dump. It seemed to be standing strong yet restless in a way. Waiting to leap on to the hundreds that live under in its shadows.

The Deonar Dumping Ground is one of the most controversial sites in Mumbai. Several activists lobby for the lack of waste management and extreme red-tapism within the functioning of the Municipal authorities. But bureaucracy and policy about the site is not as important as the people who live on the fringes of the dumping ground itself.

The Baiganwadi slum is quite literally next to the dumping ground and has a population of about 2 lakhs. Since there are hardly any economic activities in Baiganwadi, most of the residents end up scavenging through the pile of garbage next to their home, looking for items that can be resold. This “segregation of waste” as the authorities would prefer to call it, is nothing but the people devoid of opportunities and forced to dip their hands and feet in garbage.

We met Jyoti Mhapsekar who is the president of Stree-Mukti Sanganthan who has been trying to bring about adult education in the lives of the women who are waste-pickers. According to her, “The woman who is a waste picker is also last in the social pyramid.” She elaborated about how the fact that lack of education and other job opportunities has left the women in knee deep of garbage trying to pick and only earn about Rs 150-200 everyday for more than 12 hours of work.

jyoti mhapsekar 25.1.2016
Jyoti Mhapsekar [Source: http://www.internationalrivers.org]
The women are also susceptible to several diseases due to the area that they work in (The Deonar Dumping Ground) although they are in fact doing work for the Municipal Authorities. They are given money for the amount that they have collected and that is most often not much. But regardless, they have no other choice but to accept the price that the Municipal Corporation gives them for what they have collected.

You can read more about the brilliant work Stree Mukti Sangathana are doing on their website: http://streemuktisanghatana.org/

Exploration

  1. I intend to go back there and speak to the people who live there so as to get a better perspective of what the scenario is.
  2. What is the extent of the impact on the women who have been in association with Stree Mukti Sangathana?
  3. Where do the people of the slum originally belong to and why did they leave their homes to earn a pittance in the city of Mumbai?
  4. How is the next generation dealing with the growing problem of waste and knowing that their parents were waste-pickers, do they feel responsible?

Feaatured Picture Source: Watching the river flow by hoppdanson

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