Jan 16, 2006

India's rag and bone men

And women and children. Peter Foster takes us inside the lives of trash pickers in Dharavi, Bombay's largest slum.
The rag-pickers collect the detritus of the rich and sell it to a "recycling agent" [rubbish baron], by the kilo. He in turn dumps it over a bridge where a small army of the poor and dispossessed who live the hovels beneath methodically begin to sort through it – metals, plastics, cardboard, human waste, batteries, paints, household chemicals… Everything has its price.


Counting back, the business of producing a single water bottle sustains about 10 different households. From the lowly child sorter who earns 100 rupees (£1.30) on a good day, right up to the great rubbish barons that can make 100,000 rupees a month and drive round in Indian-made Mahindra Scorpio four wheel drives.

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