Now, dirty Yamuna for a small price

River of woes

Necessity is the mother of all inventions. These days, those who go up to the ITO bridge to dump their puja waste in the Yamuna are not strained to do it themselves.

A dedicated team of slum kids stand waiting besides neatly cut holes in the iron grills to take polybags from motorists and drop them in the river. Car-borne ‘devotees,’ especially, are spared the inconvenience of stepping out of their vehicles and the fear of prosecution, while the kids earn at least five to ten rupees per polybag, enough to serve them for the day.

Anita, one such kid Metrolife met on the ITO bridge, said, “At least 10 of us - from the age of seven to fifteen - do this job. We all live in the khadar (river bank) and nearby slums and start work at 8 in the morning. It’s easy business. People keep coming in cars - one after the other, hand us the bags and leave. In return, they give us five to ten rupees per packet and sometimes more. I gather upto Rs 200 everyday. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays it’s even more.”When Metrolife team visited the Nizamuddin bridge, the same scenes were being replayed. Big square holes cut in the grills across the length of the bridge, poor kids waiting for ‘customers’ and then running after every car which slowed down.

A fruit seller on the bridge, who didn’t like the kids being photographed, commented, “Why are you targeting the children? They are just earning a few bucks which they hand over to their parents at the end of the day. Go question the carwallahs who give them the packets. They are the ones doing illegal work, if any.”

Director Environment, Delhi government, Dr Anil Kumar, laments, “In the past two years, the PWD must have repaired the grills at least five times, on our request. But within a week, they are cut open again. These kids are not alone in this activity. Obviously, people known to them damage the grills in the night time and then the kids take over the work in the day. It’s difficult to find a solution to this.”

However, activist Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, who has been working to conserve Yamuna for years now, informs, “We noticed this development sometime back and wrote to the government in this regard. We advised them that they should pay the khadar residents to collect the bags as they are doing now but not throw them in the river.”

“Rather, they should stock it and hand it over to the government. The bio-degradable garbage can then be segregated from the non-biodegradable stuff and be treated accordingly. These poor people will make their earning and Yamuna would also be saved further damage. When we can make these disadvantaged people partners in protecting Yamuna, why make criminals out of them?”

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