Young Robert’s addiction to drugs completely brought his academic life to a standstill and drove him to ragpicking. The seamy side of life, he made friends with dopes and criminals and further slided into a life of untold miseries by pumping himself with narcotic substances. But,all this stopped in the aftermath of a two-and-a-half year jail term. He decided to tackle his addiction problem and build a new life.
There are thousand other Roberts in the city who are forced to lead a pathetic life,unheard and ignored. When City Express entered the murky world of ragpickers, they were surprised to see they had a visitor from the world, unknown to them.
The crisis of this community is that they can never dream of climbing up the social ladder as their life itself, is very hard and difficult. However, there is a beacon of hope.
Some NGOs in the city have joined hands to help uplift the ragpickers.
From ensuring education to spreading awareness on the health hazards involved in collection of waste and even giving financial support, they are doing what the government and society have failed to do: giving hope to the victims of modernity.
REDS is one of the oldest and well known NGOs actively engaged in helping these deprived communities. In an interaction with City Express, REDS’ programme director Prema Manthesh spoke about her organisation’s efforts to uplift rag pickers.
“Our first concern is to provide primary health and education to the rag pickers’ families. We also focus on the holistic development of a child.
However, the support of parents is essential to nurture a child’s growth. Initially we found it hard to convince that their children should be given education. But slowly we are winning.”
Why would rag pickers deny education to their children? The answer is simple: They cannot afford to lose the tiny amount of money generated from their kids’ rag-picking.
Lakshmi, a 35-year-old woman who was a rag picker once, explained: “I was pushed to this as I had to support my family. My husband had no income.
Despite earning Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 per month, I had to struggle to generate more income. Since I am part of Self Help Groups,I am financially secure now. I have taken it as my responsibility to provide education to my two daughters.”