The Price of Poverty

–In New Delhi private garbage collection is squeezing out those living off what they collect from it–New Delhi is hosting the Commonwealth Games next year and is trying to modernize and clean up the city. In an effort to improve the cleanliness of streets strewn with garbage, private companies have been awarded waste collection contracts in 8 of its 12 zones. This is bad news for the people whose livelihood depends on what they can collect from the trash and try to sell or recycle it. The private companies have guards by the dumps to keep out the ragpickers, among the poorest of the poor, usually by manhandling them. Bharati Chaturvedi, who works for Chintan, a support group for the ragpickers, says, “privatizing garbage is a death knell for these people…The Delhi government wants to show it’s a world-class city; it’s much the same syndrome we saw in Beijing before the Olympics when they shut down factories to improve air quality. India cares about its image, not its poor. The ragpickers are being pushed out of their jobs and left with nothing and the government doesn’t care.”
Given the effort the Delhi government is going to in order to improve the city, it would seem that providing compensation for those being sacrificed isn’t too much to ask. As it is, Chaturvedi believes that “if these ragpickers are squeezed out, we’ll see them cutting back on what they eat, they’ll stop feeding their children milk, and we’ll see more women entering the sex trade. Is this progress? I don’t think it is.”