Development Programme for Ragpickers in Kolkata

We express our sincere thanks and gratitude to Caritas, Germany, for supporting this project

A call to come together
The “Development Programme for Rag Pickers (DPRP)” was initiated in November 2008 in four clusters under jurisdiction 57 & 58 ward of Kolkata metropolitan city namely Kilkhana site, Lanedhar, Kuliatangra and Muslim camp. The habitats of these places are mostly the vulnerable and neglected population of Urban Kolkata. They migrated as unskilled labor mostly from Bihar and other parts of the country. Their temporary residents can explain why government has designed very few policies to improve their condition.

Most of them don't have identity cards or birth certificate and therefore have been struggling to access to basic governmental facilities. 'Social Exclusion' from the large society has affected their lives badly in terms of social, intellectual and economic growth. SKC has been successful in its effort to gain acceptance in their communities through rapport building and empowering these people to meliorate their living conditions and make them aware of their rights.

Impact Vs Activity
Identifying self worth – Using the 'being with' approach, various capacity building training and awareness meetings were organized. SKC along with the ceaseless efforts of the eight animators who are from the same community helped the participants believe in their worth. Training in various subjects like problem assessment, leadership, communication, HIV, tuberculosis, DOTs, climate change, etc. were provided to them. They have made a respectable place for themselves in their society.

We can do – Four groups namely Children parliament, Youth group, Task Forces and Mothers group in four clusters were mobilized and capacitated by trainings. Group activities have also been organized.

The President
Dilshad, a boy from the slum area of Tangra with only a primary school education, has now transformed himself into a great social worker. Three years ago he was just another common boy of the community. After joining a youth group under the “Development Programme for Rag Pickers” (DPRP), Dilshad's leadership qualities were discovered and developed. His hidden talents were brought to the forefront when Dilshad became the President of the youth group named Notun Asha.

He started to organize and conduct social activities in the slum for the development for the city-beautifiers. Soon the people of the slum started to address him as “The President”. Even the Headmasters of the local Government schools and the Tangra Police officers know him for his social involvement. Around a hundred poor students were trained by Dilshad in “Kiran Computer Centre” a project of Kolkata Police, free of cost. Dilshad also undertakes awareness campaigns in the slum area and helps the corporation to keep the area clean.

Dilshad is grateful to SKC for providing him a platform and encouraging him to explore and utilize his inherent leadership qualities for the benefit of his area and his community.

Enlightening and competitive programs for the rag picking community of all age group have been organized with the purpose of generating awareness and maintaining cohesiveness among them. Intern groups have started to respond to their social issues. The success they have achieved so far has further helped in cementing their firm belief in 'we can do by ourselves'.

Our lives our responsibility – Participatory Learning Action (PLA) has positively helped in changing the mindset of the people about taking personal responsibility in bringing the desired change. People have become aware that there are opportunities available to pull themselves out of the prevailing hazardous and deprived situation. In order to properly plan and carry out the development work effectively they have organized themselves into 20 task force groups in four clusters. I care for myself and my 'basti' - The youths and children were educated, mobilized and capacitated through capacity building trainings by forming groups in the four clusters. They are now involved actively in group building by enlightening others and organizing competitive programs for themselves and the people of the community of all age group. These steps taken have gone a long way in generating awareness and strengthen cohesiveness among members of the group.

Working together as a change agent – As members of these groups and also at times acting alone the people are organizing community meetings, participating in Para level meetings, Stake holder meetings and mobilizing the target people to attend the programs. The ceaseless efforts of the animators, Task Force, Youth and CP members, could make this possible. Trainings in various subjects like Participatory Learning and Action, Leadership, Communication, HIV, Tuberculosis, DOTs, minimum safety measures while waste collection, importance of vaccination, Climate change etc were provided by SKC.

Challenges Faced
- High turnover of working force – All field animators are graduate or under graduate students, therefore regular participation is often challenging
- Dependency – people expect overnight and quick-fix solutions to their problems and also want others to solve it for them
- Identifying 'interested people' – Affected people are interested in solving their own issues and give up easily on working together to solve them
- Future Plan 4 More focus on capacity building trainings and activities for various groups
- Establish interest based 'Open Network' 4 Expansion of working areas