Occupational Health Hazards Among Rag Pickers

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India’s booming urbanization brings the problem of waste management. The amount of waste is increasing at a high pace and waste management is likely to become a critical issue in the coming years. Rag pickers play an important, but usually unrecognised role in the waste management system of Indian cities. They collect garbage in search of recyclable items that can be sold to scrap merchant (paper, plastic, tin...). This activity require no skills and is a source of income for a growing number of urban poor. There are two types of scrap-collectors: the rag pickers, mostly women, who collect garbage on dumping grounds, in residential areas or in street bins, and the itinerant buyers who purchase scrap directly from households, offices and shops. Most of the itinerant buyers are male and they typically require a certain amount of capital to purchase scrap. Most of the rag pickers are not independent but work for middlemen or contractors who purchase segregated rag from them on pre-decided rates. Waste picking is rarely recognized or integrated in the official Waste Management System despite its large contribution to it. According to the NGO Chintan, rag pickers “are unrecognized and have almost no rights to work, despite the fact that they save almost 14% of the municipal budget annually. Mumbai generates waste of approximately 7,025 tonns per day. The management of waste in the city comes under the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM). The prevailing approach is that of collection of garbage from the communities by the municipal authorities and disposing it off at the three main dumping sites that are currently servicing the city. Deonar is the largest dumping ground in Mumbai. It starts from the Deonar creek and ends at Baba Nagar. For years Deonar has been the largest garbage bin for the entire Mumbai city and today is also is a home for thousands of migrants who live in very hard conditions, lacking even the most basic amenities and earning their...
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