As the term ‘rag-picker’ sounds very low so does their job. My study includes several visits to the Govandi Dumping Ground, Mumbai, interviewing the women rag-pickers working there, visiting their slums, meeting with the social workers of Street Mukti Sangathan, studying the problems faced by these women and also keeping a track of their progress. I used personal interviewing of women rag pickers, their boss (the person to whom they sold their collected rags), the social workers, who had devoted their entire time working for them and some printed facts, as my research and analytical methodology. I interviewed 20 women rag pickers, from a diverse age group and varied religions. The following are the main outcomes of my study.
Starting with the history of the plights of the women rag pickers, these women came to Mumbai due to droughts in their villages or they were married to men residing in Mumbai. What started of as additional income for the family eventually became the only source of income because 90 % of men stopped working or got into alcohol consumption or left their wives for other younger women. Their day started from as early as 5 am in the morning and went on until it was evening. Their breakfast and lunch were light, comprising of tea and bread or roti and onion, so as to enable them to work efficiently through out the day without feeling sleepy.
Infant girls, aged 10 to 15 and older women aged 50 to 65, earned less in comparison to the younger women, due to their higher efficiency levels to work for longer hours. They earned on daily basis and the money depended on the weight of the rag collected by them. So the day they fell ill or couldn’t collect a good amount of scrap meant a day without food. Even their bosses exploited them to the core, by paying them very nominal prices for the scraps that they collected, their bosses in turn earned much more by selling it to companies who recycled these scraps.