From rags to worse

From rags to worse

Waste Pickers

Capturing rag pickers and slum dwellers in pictures is referred by many as a cliché.

Many who are privy to a photographer’s moments often feel that there are other feel good subjects that can be focused upon rather than project this bitter reality existing in cities.

For the lensman however, this reality is far more bitter and harsh than imagined by the viewer and therein lies the former’s fascination. An Assam-based photographer Kausiki Sarma who uncovered the tough lives of waste pickers of Delhi, recently showcased the same at an exhibition of her pictures.

Presented by the Aman Trust in collaboration with All India Kachra Shramik Mahasangh, the exhibition titled Flowers in the Dust aimed to advocate and sensitise the common man and the authorities towards the three lakh waste pickers of the Capital who are living in inhuman conditions.

The exhibition was inaugurated by Salman, a 13-year old waste picker of Shahbad Dairy in Rohini. He is among the many rag pickers who were featured by Kausiki in her 30 photographs clicked in a period of four months in two slums; Shahbad Daulatpur and Masoodpur.

“The aim was to highlight the health problems waste pickers face, the children involved in the trade and the poor working and living conditions,” said Kausiki.

“I truly believe in photography as a medium. Show pictures and you don’t need to say anything.  I believe that the photo exhibition would be a great medium to provide the much-needed “shock” to the people who do not get an opportunity to either interact with these waste pickers or are ignorant about this vast section of society,” said Kausiki, who quit her job to pursue photography.

Her photographs on waste pickers present the exploitation that they encounter on all fronts. One such picture is about how waste pickers sell rotten breads and other food stuff that is mouldy. The fungus is used to produce NANA (N-Acetylene........) acid, a vital source of drugs which fight viral infection.

“Waste pickers sell these rotten breads and food stuff to poultry farm owners at minimal rates, who then sell them to farms at much higher prices,” Kausiki told Metrolife.

The exhibition at Art Gallery, presented the significant role of waste pickers in the process of waste disposal. “Waste picking is not an officially recognised profession and hence they are not entitled to any benefits or social security.

Delhi generates 4000 tonnes of municipal solid waste. Waste pickers play a significant role in the process of waste disposal but issues related to their health and livelihood remain unaddressed,” she said.  

With many pictures of child waste pickers, the exhibition also highlighted child labourers, who earn their livelihood through waste picking. They are deprived of education and are also vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses.

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