Three women, Sattemma (40), Andalu (30) and Kanakamma (36), all hut-dwellers from the Yellareddyguda of Kushaiguda, left their homes to begin the daily grind of sifting the heaps of garbage, spread over nearly 300 acres at Jawaharnagar on Tuesday morning, but never returned.
When they failed to return to their homes, their families approached the police on suspicion of the women being buried under the debris of garbage. Often, in garbage dumps, the heavy mounds collapse onto the rag pickers who keep sifting underneath for valuables.
Municipal officials say they have no control over rag pickers working in the dumps. “Sifting in the dumps in an illegal activity and we can not be blamed for it,” said a spokesman of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation.
Many rag pickers collect recyclable plastic and scrap metal from the dumps before the garbage is turned over to the bio-gas plant to be burnt as fuel. Working in groups of three to five, they search for hours at a stretch to collect sizeable and salable material before they call it a day.
“We make a profit as high as Rs 1000 in one picking, that is, over 12 hours for a group of five,” said Mallamma who, survived by rag picking for 6 years.
According to Kushiaguda police inspector, V Srikanth Goud, the bags carried by the three women were found at the dump yard. But the search which began on Tuesday afternoon is still on and a Poclain has also been pressed into service since Thursday.
On the third day the officials said that if the women were caught amid the debris, then it was unlikely that they would be alive.