55 children took part in a carnival on Monday. The children live in shacks along the railway tracks in Park Circus and nearby slums of south and southeast Kolkata. Their parents are mostly ragpickers and daily wage earners.
The carnival was held at a shelter home by Tiljala SHED which is an NGO that works with ragpickers in Park Circus, Tiljala, Topsia, and Rajabazar. The carnival was organized before Children’s Day on November 14.
The children were from the age of 5 to 14. They took part in several games in which the younger children group played musical chairs and passing the pillow. While there was a draw-in dumb charade for the older children. The younger children received toys as gifts. The food and gifts were provided by a private sponsor. Mutton biryani, Chips, chocolates, and soft drinks were also served to the children.
Shafkat Alam of Tiljala SHED said “The parents of these children are mostly ragpickers or daily wage earners. The pandemic took away their already paltry income. They survived the past 20 months on dry ration provided by NGOs and community kitchens,”.
Noorjahan Biwi, who lives near the Park Circus station makes around Rs 1,200 a month. She sent two of her three girls to the carnival. Ruhina is her eldest child. They leave home before sunrise to scavenge the streets for bottles, broken furniture, paper, carry bags, iron scrap, and other things are thrown away. They return home after a few hours to segregate the collection.
Once or twice a week, they sell the scrap to dealers in their neighborhood. For a kilogram, plastic bottles fetch Rs 12 and paper Rs 2, said Noorjahan.
Amina Khatun, another ragpicker said, “March to August last year was like a nightmare because the streets were empty during the lockdown,”.
The lockdown triggered by the pandemic last year and the prolonged suspension of local trains, both in 2020 and 2021, have hit them hard. Their earnings have taken a hit since 2012-13 when the Kolkata Municipal Corporation introduced compactor stations. But even now, more than 20,000 unregistered ragpickers collect around 500 tonnes of garbage, mainly dry and recyclable items, in the city and surrounding areas every day.
Source: Telegraph India.