In my case it is very difficult to manage. Due to lockdown we have lost work and income. If it continues, we will have to face many problems. We don’t have ration cards and other identity proof. The government is distributing groceries and 1000 rupees for every family. But as we don’t have identity cards, we have not getting this help from the government. Only those who are rich are getting help from the government. We have tried to meet some government officers to request help for the waste pickers’ community, but they haven’t come forward. What they are thinking is that if they visit our slums, they will get corona. At the same time, we are also afraid.
When I have come into this field… when I am doing this work, when I have experienced this, when I am being interviewed, I want to openly state that the workers’ monthly salary needs to be increased. Everyone knows that it’s very difficult to make a living in this salary. If I have to, I can make a living out of 100 rupees. Survival… in the name of survival, I can stay hungry for a day, too. But they say that life will improve because of 4914 [salary increment entitlements in the 4th, 9th and 14th years of service]… they’re running a scheme… so this is like toying with us (khilwaad). Why are you playing a game with 4914? They’re saying that our future will be good, not ours, but our children’s. First, shouldn’t our own future be good, the kids’ future will be good as it is? The kids’ future is their fate/destiny, their hard work, their whatever. When we educate them in good schools, when we can provide them a good education, when we can take good care of them. When we are ourselves struggling for 2 rupees, then how will we give a 1 rupee chocolate to our kids? When I have 10 rupees, only then can I get my child a 1 rupee chocolate, right? If I save more, I’ll get something for the home for 1 rupee, like that, in this way, I’ll at least save 2 rupees in a month. I’m just giving you an example. In this manner, I’m just sharing what’s in my heart, with you.
In today’s times, everyone wants to go really ahead. As in, no one wants to see what they’ve left behind in the past, who is getting hurt, or is facing a difficulty, what is happening about anyone’s helplessness. In today’s date, it’s all about me, what will happen to me. So, I’m not thinking about myself, that if I’ve come into this area of work, I’m working. So, because I’m getting a low salary, I’m furious (rosh) about it, I’m angry about it. So I’m talking about these things, that’s not the case. I’m talking about the future, because right now, we will get a good salary. So, it will start now… life… tomorrow if life declines (kal ko agar umar dhall gayya toh), then this time will not come back. Our age will also not come back. Then if we get the salary, what is the point, what will we do about it. Then, my kids will be grown up, then they will languish, they will languish for that money, because I will be old. Then the kids… So in a roundabout way, the point is the same (ghumaa phiraake baat wahi hai). Then, when they are helpless, they will also have to put their hands in this work (unhe bhi issi kaam mein haath lagaane padengey), and they will also cry about not getting a salary. So, things shouldn’t come to that point (wahaan tak naaumat na aaye). Like they say, drop by drop, the pitcher gets filled (boond boond se ghadaa bharta hai).
So, this is the only request that I will make. There are many things to talk about, but talking in itself won’t solve things. So, I would want that… how many ever… I will fold my hands and request that how many ever big officers we have… in the manner how a King is, he administers (shaashan). Now it’s no longer the time of kings and emperors. That time has gone. We will consider you all to be kings and emperors, who hold such big positions. These positions also… you have gotten through your good qualities, fortune, your hard work… have achieved this. We believe in this. However, don’t just think about yourself, right? Because this is our world. Don’t think about the world also, but what work you’ve been given. Think about that – what is your work.
This organisation helped us in critical times. They have helped us so much. The government has not done anything for us except for those 2 kg of rice which I mentioned earlier. Leaving that aside, nobody has done anything. The organisation supported us and that is how we could manage for 1 month. The rest of the time we spent the money we had from here and there, and somehow managed the rest of the time.
When I wasn’t doing this door-to-door work… this is also… a thing to understand… this is something that should be discussed further ahead… this matter should go to everyone’s head. When I was doing something else, when I was doing manual labour… people’s perspective was different. When I was selling tea and momos, the perspective was different. Then those who wouldn’t greet/salute me before would greet/salute me (jo salaam nahin thokta tha, who bhi thokta tha). And when I felt ashamed… I feel something. I was born in this place, I have grown up here… as in, everyone knows me here, right? I have worked in the same place too. I have worked in the book market as well. I have done a lot of work with books, right, in wholesale… so everyone knows me. So, in the same place, today… like they say, right… time also becomes heavy on the person (waqt bhi insaan par bhaari paadd jaata hai). So, one shouldn’t get worried… this is what the meaning of a warrior is. As in, today, I’m having to face such a situation wherein… people who would join their hands when they saw me… today ask me “brother, what are you doing?” (jo log mujhe door se haath joda karte the, woh bolte hain ki “bhai, aap kya kar rahe ho?”) (shocked). When I’m doing this door-to-door [garbage collection] right, they ask me if I didn’t get any other work… “You had to do this?” (“bhai, aapko aur koi kaam nahin milla…yehi karna tha?”). People give me a speech in this manner. So… so, I say that… time beat me “waqt ki maar hai”… haina. In a shortcut, I will say that there is a need for money, so I found this work, and there’s no other work in times of Corona. Little… in this, one gets free earlier… the body also relaxes. So, in this manner, I tell them that… this is why I’m doing this work. Some time later, I’ll do some other work. So, they say “No, no, brother… don’t do this work… you have a stall (street vendor)… you should run your stall” (“nahin nahin yaar bhai… yeh kaam na karo aap… aapki toh stall hai… aap apna stall chalaao”). I said that I’m not even able to make a living out of running the stall. It’s not working… there, the customers are close to nothing. If my stall were running well, then why would I do this work at all? I’m not mad (mera dimaag toh phirra nahin hai). Because I have responsibilities on me (mere upar zimmewari hai). The work that I’m doing, I’m not doing this happily. I’m doing this work for my responsibilities. And I should do it… not just me, how many ever people are there, right? Everyone has responsibilities, so I just want that everyone should fulfil their responsibilities. Don’t look at the work that you’re doing. You’re not stealing, you’re not robbing anyone’s house, you’re not lying to anyone, you’re not breaking anyone’s head. So whatever work you get at a point in time, just do it. So, everyone teaches… teaches… our elders also used to say this before: “You should never be ashamed of doing work, be it any work. Child, don’t feel ashamed. There is shame in stealing” (“kaam karte samay sharam nahin karna… koi bhi kaam ho… beta, sharam nahin karna…chori karne mein sharam hoti hai”). So, I said, I have seen from my childhood experience… I have enough experience… so that’s why I said let’s do this work. I got this, right, I will do it. So, when I lift the sacks (bori), when I went from house to house, everybody already knew me. They said “Friend, how come you’re here?” (“yaar, aap yahaan kaise?”) (shocked). I said, what to do? Corona is going on, everything is closed. So, some people cheered me on. They said “Brother, we can’t do this work. How did you? Anyway, it’s good that whatever work you got during the time, you did it. You have to run the house” (“shabbashi di…ki bhai, hum aapko maan gayye…ki bhai, hum toh nahin kar sakte…aapne kaise kiyya? Chalo, accha hai…waqt mein jo bhi kaam mila…aapne kiyya…ghar toh chalaana hi hai”). I said, yes. Everyone cheered me on. They said good things, that you’re doing well.
And I would also like to say that spares should also be kept. Because a human’s body, it can work steadily for one year, two years. But at some point he will fall sick, because a sickness can happen. Just like how spare vehicles, drivers are kept. In the same manner, they should keep spare workers too. Everyone is desperate, everyone has happiness, everyone wants to go on leave. All life has gone in this. People say, right… there’s a saying… some people also say… that all my life has gone in earning a piece of paper and yet nothing has come in my hands, right? All the time has gone in earning two meals a day, my time has gone. Then my child, their time will also go away in earning two meals a day. Death will come at its own time right. It can’t come before time, no matter how many wounds you get, no matter which problem you’re in. Death will come at its own time, when it is written for him.
All of us are at home only. No earnings at all. It has been a tough, very tough 2 ½ months. We have never faced such difficulties in our lives. If we had not received any support from this organisation, it would have been very, very tough. They gave us one month’s provisions, and then we got some from the public distribution system (‘ration shop’) which helped us maintain our lives.
If we have a lockdown, poor people like us will suffer a lot. Although others who have to move around outside are somewhat similar to us in that sense, we [the poor] cannot survive a lockdown. If a lockdown is imposed, about half the people like us will die because we won’t have anything, that’s a guarantee.