Tale of Chennai ragpickers: Livelihoods scrapped and discarded by coronavirus

The approach road in front of the railway parcel office must have had a lot of head-turners.

Published: 04th July 2020 06:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th July 2020 02:12 PM   |  A+A-

Ragpicker selling items at Tiruchy railway junction on Friday. (Photo | MK Ashok Kumar/EPS)

Express News Service

TIRUCHY: The approach road in front of the railway parcel office must have had a lot of head-turners.

The homeless people sleeping on the tiled pedestrian paths here would definitely draw the attention of the compassionate.

Majority of these people trying to find an abode on the footpaths are rag pickers who would make a living by selling discarded waste.

But, with government suspending public transportation, recyclable items are now difficult to find near the station and Central bus stand, depriving these ragpickers of a living.  

“We are not getting much waste from the railway station and the bus stand as only few people visit these areas nowadays. Before the suspension of public transport, we used to earn about Rs 500 a day. Now, we are surviving on Rs 100 a day. Though, we may find these items if we visit other areas, but we do not go there as it would affect the income of other ragpickers. Nearly, 70 ragpickers who used to depend on the waste from these transport hubs are affected,” said Rayappan, a ragpicker who collects waste from the railway station and Aristo bridge areas.  

“If we start collecting garbage from other areas, ragpickers from other areas would start collecting waste from here.  This would lead to a turf war among us,” said Ponmozhi, another ragpicker.

Several scrap dealers in the city admitted their business has considerably reduced. 

“We collect scrap from various ragpickers and this has affected our  business too. Earlier, we used to send scrap to Chennai every two days, now, it is just once a week,” said Sultan, a scrap dealer.

India Matters


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