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Low Income, Poor Living Conditions: Inside Dehradun’s Bindal Slum
Several children help their parents in work, some are uneducated, however, many of them are officially enrolled in nearby government schools. Many already enrolled students leave the school at a very young age due to lack of interest, proper counselling and family conditions, parents informed BW Businessworld.
Photo Credit : Abhishek Sharma/ BW Businessworld
Take a ten-minute drive from Dehradun’s iconic Clock Tower towards the Bindal Bridge and you will find a dead, toxic river running between cramped and stuffy houses.
From the bridge, one can observe children displaying various emotions during their joyous activities and adults doing their daily chores to make ends meet.
The river running down between the Maneel Basti (part of the Bindal slum) is filled with the uncollected waste from the Dehradun. Home to hundreds of thousands of people; misery, lack of proper sanitation, the struggle and children carrying waste in large sacks on their heads are visible.
No proper education:
There are several children helping their parents in work, some are uneducated, however, many of them are officially enrolled in nearby government schools.
Children are playing inside Bindal slum, Dehradun| Picture: Abhishek Sharma/BW Businessworld.
"I left the school in 5th standard because I wanted to financially help my family. When I stopped going to school, no one even cared (school authorities). We are four people in the family and it is not easy for us to do studies because we are poor. I work as a waiter in a Macchi (fish) seller shop. I only earn Rs 7,000 per month which is not enough," said Raj Kumar, a 15 years old boy with guilt in his eyes.
According to the few parents, there are several children who do not wish to go to school, some already enrolled students leave the school at a very young age due to lack of interest, proper counselling and family conditions.
Vishan Kumar, 19 years old boy who is in 12th standard, studying science (Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics). Kumar has big dreams for himself and wants to be an Engineer, however, lack of money is pushing his dreams to the back seat.
"I want to be an Engineer, but, we do not have enough money to pursue the course, so I will be a businessman," said Vishan with a sparkling smile. "Bhaiya aap jo likh rahe hai kya uss se hame maddad milegi, koi kuch karega kya? (Brother, what you are writing will help us, will anyone do anything)," Kumar furiously asked.
Kumar is the son of Ram Nath Sahani, a 50 years old waste picker living in Bindal for the last 12 years. According to him, apart from earning money to feed his family, his biggest dream is to make his children educated and independent.
Sahani, who migrated from Bihar, slammed parents of the slums for ignoring the importance of education and not pushing children to go to school.
"Just see these children, they play all day and some work with their parents to earn money. At this age, they should go to school, but neither parents nor authorities care about it. My kids work with me, however, I will never compromise with their study," said Sahani with a sense of pride in his voice.
Vishan Kumar (left) and Kishan Kumar (right) preparing to shift the waste sacks through fance| Picture: Abhishek Sharma/BW Businessworld.
Both sons of Sahani work alongside him in the collection, segregation and bundling of waste. The sacks of waste which they carry are equal to their height and double their weight.
Business to survive:
Sahani said that they send it to traders in Dehradun, who further supply it to companies. The earnings vary on a daily basis. He said we earn around Rs. 200 to 250 a day, sometime around Rs 400. This amount, however, is very little from the current minimum wage of Rs 8,331 per month decided by the Uttarakhand government for unskilled labour who work in any registered industry.
The entry and exit point along with fence installed by the army, Bindal slum, Dehradun| Picture: Abhishek Sharma/BW Businessworld.
Sahani told BW Businessworld that the biggest problem is the transportation of waste sacks. "The army has put up a fence (area falling under the army) which is a problem for us because it is very difficult to transfer waste sacks from the slum area to the main road. Apart from that, there is only one entry and exit from the area which itself is not suitable to do the work," a disappointed Sahani said.
Poor living conditions:
People in the Bindal slum are living in a polluted environment and unhygienic conditions as they deal with different types of waste. Amid the Legislative Assembly Elections in the State, political leaders and authorities are yet to take any crucial steps to improve living conditions, informed waste pickers.
"We are living in unsafe conditions and working on garbage without gloves or masks. A large portion of us are migrants from Bihar or Uttar Pradesh and get no help from the Dehradun Municipal Corporation," said a resident, who wished to be unknown.
He added that in case of a health emergency, an ambulance comes in time, however, the conditions we live in are extremely dangerous. We just want facilities that a normal resident deserves.
Political promises and reality:
"The working conditions of the ragpickers in the slum shows how the informal waste industry in the state works. We just want authorities to provide us with basic facilities. We want a road connection which we can use in case of emergency," Rajesh Kumar Sahani, a 35 years old daily wage worker.
A woman crossing the toxic river with a baby in her arms, Bindal slum, Dehradun| Picture: Abhishek Sharma/BW Businessworld.
Authorities should provide good education to children so that they can become independent. Apart from that, we don't have any bridge on this dirty river, so we are forced to cross it through unsafe mode, anyone can fall off into the toxic water, said Kishan Kumar, who wishes to study further to get a good job.
Meanwhile, amid the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, polling for the 70-member Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly is going to be held on February 14 and the results will be announced on March 10.