In this episode, RJ Usha speaks with waste-picker Dhana Lakshmi from the Nelamangala Landfill. Dhana Lakshmi resides at the landfill along with a few other families. She is the mother of four children, one of whom is married while others stay in a hostel.
While younger, Dhana Lakshmi worked as a domestic help. She became aware of waste-picking and waste segregation methods during this period. She was introduced to this field by her uncle and aunt; she was initially unclear about what type of waste to segregate and how much she could expect to earn out of the job. She was getting by, earning a little money, but one day when she noticed waste trucks standing at a specific location every day, she thought of starting a petty shop. This worked out well and drivers started streaming into the shop. Unfortunately, she was forced to leave the business because of a fight with other shop owners in the vicinity.
Dhana Lakshmi later took to waste segregation to earn her bread and butter and built a tent at the landfill. The recent heavy rains have resulted in huge problems as the segregators have to deal with mixed waste. Stagnant water adds to the problems. The waste-pickers also worry that the medical waste items mixed in the area may lead to injuries; these waste-pickers are, more often than not, forced to work without gloves and shoes. They all eat and sleep near the dumping area, exposed to snake bites and other possible attacks by animals. They also have to resort to open defecation. They use the water from a small lake nearby to take bath and clean their clothes with.
Written by Ramya Gowda K.