An Eye-Opener Account
The practice of child labour has been flourishing throughout the length and breadth of the world with degrees of difference and it is deep rooted. With the many competing demands on their resources, the developing societies are often unable to do everything that is necessary to give the children their rightful place in the community. The result is that many children in their tender age are exploited for work. While this could be ascribed to many socio-economic and cultural considerations, yet it cannot be over looked as there is widespread employment of children, both open and disguised, in environments and professions which are most detrimental to their health and growth. Ragpicking is a form of child labour. Ragpicking is one of the most inferior economic activities in the urban informal sector, largely undertaken by children belonging to weaker sections of the society, for the survival and for supplementing their family income. Ragpicking is the profession mostly dominated by children aging 6 to 15 years who do not have any other skill and thus by way of refuse collection contribute to household income or own survival. Ragpickers have emerged as a community in almost all the cities of every developing country. As it is well known, they collect recyclable things from the garbage’s and also from dumping sites usually in the outskirts. Dumping sites and garbage disposal bins at different points in a city are certainly those locations where child workers, i.e., ragpickers may be easily spotted. Earlier ragpickers used to collect rags, paper, cardboard, glass, and metals but in the past few decades euro-polythene has given a boost to the recycling business. These are women and children who are garbage collectors in almost every town and city and they collect anything recyclable. They are quite vulnerable in the society and prone to diseases.
Author R K Raj in his book Kidney has described these ragpickers as the nephrones of the society. These unrecognised ‘environmentalist’ work like nephrones do, to manage recycling 20-25 times some 5 litres of blood in human body. These ragpickers contribute to keep the environment green by managing waste by recycling reusable materials back into the national market. Yet, they don’t get any aid, support, and grants from the government to improve their working conditions. Through a character Inder, the author tried to sketch out how these 1.7 million nephrones are in the dearth of any aid or support from the other walks of life. In the backdrop of government’s ambitious project Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, this book can be an eye- opener on the condition of these vital components of the society.
By Nilabh Krishna