How many times have we gone to a plush market and thrown a wrapper or a plastic container in a wastebasket? Often, small feet scurry around the waste basket, we know they are small children who spend their childhood picking waste but we avert our eyes and walk on.
An initiative by the NGO Aman Trust, in collaboration with All India Kachra Shramik Mahasangh, Flowers in the dust: The waste pickers of Delhi is a photo exhibition which captures the life of rag-pickers of the city.
The photographs are by Kausiki Sarma, a professional photographer who has been working with the NGO since February. The initiative has been successful in bringing the lives of waste pickers to the surface. The exhibition is a part of a project assigned to her.
Explains Sarma: ‘Waste picking is not an officially recognised profession, thereby completely wiping out waste pickers from government-aided programmes and schemes.’
The 30 panels of photographs are aimed at producing visual awareness about the concerns of waste pickers. Their everyday lives are spent battling against disease, corruption, poverty and misery. The photos capture common moments in the daily lives of the community. A single picture is able to show the perilous conditions of their lives.
The shanties and waste that clutter their lives put them at a risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases. The scrawny paths that lead to these small hovels are covered in slime spewed by local drains. ‘We are holding this exhibition to raise awareness about concerns like the unhealthy work and living conditions, child labour and its negative impact on the growth of children, health issues related to women including childbirth and nutrition,’ asserts Sarma.
‘The move by the government to involve private contractors for waste picking has spelled disaster for them. The contractors have cut down on their work and imposed several charges,’ she adds.
‘Moreover the slums are sheltered by sheets of polyester and plastic which are highly inflammable. These photos help in empowering the waste pickers by giving them a sense of recognition. These help them in being seen by the people they work for,’ she says.