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Wealth and extreme poverty side by side

Wealth and extreme poverty side by side

The slums of Bhowapur are overlooked by the plush, high-rise Radisson Blu hotel. Guests can look down from their windows to see children as young as two burrowing through rubbish like animals.

Such a stark juxtaposition could hardly have been set up any better. Or, perhaps, any worse. Sadly, seeing wealth and extreme poverty side by side is commonplace in Delhi.

There is no running water, sanitation or health facilities in the slum, and open defecation is practiced. The ragpickers and their families who live here are exposed to constant hazards. Children rifle through bags of waste and put curious things in their mouths like toys.

Very few people in the community have formal identity cards. They are anonymous, beyond the reach of government services and welfare programmes. It is as if they don’t exist.

Some of the ragpickers start work as early as 4am, and work a 10 hour day. They are looking for clothes, rags, bottles, plastic, wire, paper and sorting it into piles – anything that can be recycled has a value. But it isn’t worth much – a ragpicker earns an average of R150-200 a day.

‘They are providing a service. If they don’t pick it up the government would need to,’ says Bali Charan, president of the local ragpickers association. ‘At the moment no one treats them properly,’

‘They need to have an ID to go into any other kind of work and also to claim their rights.’

Ranjit Sahni, 36, (pictured below) has lived in the slum for 12 years. He and his wife Reena Devi have four children Dharman, 7, Prince, 4, Chandini, 2, and Priti, four months. The eldest two children attend the Jugnu education centre, supported by Phia to End Poverty.

‘I don’t like it here or what I do, but still I have to earn a living so I have to stay anyway,’ says Ranjit. ‘I want to have my own work. I would like to open a shop if I could.

‘I don’t want to see my children live by picking up scraps. I’m scared so that’s why I have put my children into education.’

You can support projects like the Jugnu project in Bhowapur.

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