‘Garbage to them is gold.’ How do ragpickers of Seemapuri survive?

The rag pickers of Seemapuri immigrated to Delhi from Bangladesh, in 1971 hoping for a bright and promising future. However, their situation in the city is not as comfortable as they expected. The rag pickers of Seemapuri live in structures of mud, with roofs of tin and tarpaulin. The locality lacks proper sewage, drainage system, and running water. All these years, they have lived without an identity and they are still living like that. In spite of having no proper identity and permits, they are surviving. They don’t have ration cards which put them on the Voter’s list and enable them to buy grains. Survival is all that matters to them. This is why they pitch their tents wherever there is food. Garbage and rag–picking are means of survival for the people in Seemapuri, it earns them their daily bread and puts a roof over their heads. Sometimes, while scrounging the garbage, finding money, whether one rupee or ten, is the highlight of their day, especially for the children, as it gives them hope. For children, the garbage is wrapped in wonder, whereas for elders, it is a means for survival. Therefore, the writer is right when she says, ‘garbage to them is gold.’

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