Delhi Waste Pickers' Fight Against Corona
We are living through a global humanitarian crisis inflicted by the COVID-19 virus (Corona) of a magnitude that has very few historical parallels. In such times, especially in countries with high population densities and even higher levels of social, economic, political and class inequalities like India, it is tragic that it has become reflexive to forget the most vulnerable. One such vital vulnerable community, among the vast multitudes of communities that constitute the true spine of the Indian economy, is the waste pickers community.
As a starting point, we are working with the communities of New Seemapuri, Jahangirpuri and other areas of Delhi, where waste pickers forge their livelihood by processing that which the society deems as refuse. In times of unprecedented crisis, vulnerable communities like the waste pickers are the first to be forgotten.
So far, no concrete steps have been taken by anyone to even provide the most basic levels of security to the waste pickers, without whose continued daily efforts the city cannot function.
PAIGAM (People’s Association In Grassroots Action and Movements), in partnership with Basti Suraksha Manch’s community leaders like Sheikh Akbar Ali, who lives in New Seemapuri and has been a community organizer for more than two decades, is trying to take the following steps:
- Provide a safety kit to each waste picker in New Seemapuri that will consist of a mask and a hand sanitizer.
- Immediate minimum income support for the waste pickers to compensate for their loss of livelihood.
- Advocating with the community for their right to livelihood and for their just, equal and dignified participation in the society.
Any donations made towards these efforts will be deeply appreciated and more importantly, will be of service in the most meaningful way during a testing time for humanity.
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“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”
– Mahatma Gandhi