The working conditions of the waste pickers in Bengaluru present a dismal sight. Previously barred from accessing waste at the household level, for the most part, these eco-workers collect and segregate recyclable waste in Bengaluru’s streets and landfills. Working and living conditions are poor for these urban workers, resulting in an average income of about 150-200 Rs. a day (the equivalent of US $2.71-3.62). Once dominated by women, the number of men who pick up waste is increasing.
Despite more than two decades of working with waste pickers and their children, NGOs in the city have not successfully “organized” or “formalized” them. Rather, NGO engagement with waste pickers was focused on improving their access to education, housing, basic services, and waste through linkages with households and businesses. The process was limited to certain pockets within the city.
It is estimated that around 60% of the waste pickers come from the community of 4225 lakh migrant workers, which in total forms 44% of the total population of the city. Lockdown in India has shown that economic coercion and lack of livelihoods in their home villages compel migrants to other parts of the country where work is available.
Most families speak Bengali, Hindi, and Kannada (the local language). Parents avoid sending their children to the local school because most slum inhabitants are migrants and speak a foreign language. They are deprived of basic amenities like electricity and clean drinking water. We believe that collaborating with the Hebbal community will assist them in achieving financial security and will increase their knowledge of the importance of sending their children to school.
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