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Friday, February 7, 2014


The other day in the afternoon, when mild sunshine could penetrate the cloud cover, I decided to step out for my routine walk. My destination is the park close by, which affords me virtually a goldmine of ideas. There in peace, I hold conversations with my inner self amidst the vibrant presence of flora and fauna. The meditative mental stance flows into  a stream of thoughts, correlations and images, which trigger the birth of several blog posts of mine. Sometimes by chance, the spectacle of some  distinctive characters passing by, kindle in me the desire to make them the subject matter of my posts. 

That day incidentally, when I looked around, a vivaciously moving foursome of women, across the  park railing on the road, in the midst of noisy chatting, instantly caught my attention. As they came nearer, it was easy to recognize them as rag pickers. They were carrying on their arms a large piece of sackcloth knotted on both ends hanging from their shoulders in the shape of a loose bag.  The observant in me got interested. I slowed down and waited.  
When they reached within hearing distance, I accosted them and jokingly asked them to pose for a picture. At first, they were reluctant and a little apprehensive but later they agreed, when assured that I would be writing about their condition. The smartest one asked me whether they should keep aside their bags. When I answered in the negative they were a bit dismayed, however, obliged happily for the above picture. Behind their begrimed faces, I noticed young and healthy skin. Two of them had large almond eyes, good features and lissome bodies. One was older than the other three and was pregnant. Her bump was visible from the sides, because of the narrow width of the shirt.

Afterwards they were chatty  with me, and informed me that they were rag pickers and live in tents near the railway station. Then I could piece together so many incidents repeatedly reported in the newspapers. There are other gypsy tribes too scattered here and there in groups engaged in criminal activities

These people live in organized groups. Their children indulge in begging at light points, market places and outside marriage halls. They commit petty crimes. At an opportune moment, they lift unattended luggage in minutes. The menfolk pick pockets and train children into picking purses and other valuables from car seats at light points when the unwary motorist is busy on the mobile amidst traffic din. The women continually pester visitors at prominent religious places for alms. The women allegedly fall prey to anti-social elements that roam about after dark. The police round them up after intense public pressure. However, they come out unscathed because of lousy investigation. After committing thefts or even heinous crimes, they move to another place and escape detection. They've no address.

The sorry saga continues unabated. The law-abiding citizens are the ones at the receiving end from these criminal segments of society.

What is the solution? Identifying and teaching them earning skills, which would slowly wean them away from life of ease and crime. Implementation of Govt. poverty alleviating schemes (too many on paper exist) and help from social organizations which have experts on board, can contribute immensely. It is a mammoth task and requires earnestness and visionary micro planning.

Friends, your views on the subject are welcome.


  1. A serious issue! They have to be taken into society and rehabilitated positively.

  2. These rag pickers also keep the city clean to a certain extent. They are the ones who separate the plastic and paper from garbage and sell it for recycling.

  3. Both Poverty and Surplus Richness pushes people to forget ethics and humanity. Feeling good to see people like you concerning for those you are victims of poverty. As you said, the solution is education. I too believe in the same, rather focusing on the grown ups, I focus on younger generation. Hope we plan the good seeds. Keep writing..

  4. Hi Indrani,
    Rightly said. Ways and means have to be put in place to rehabilitate these people.

  5. Thanks Deepak ji,
    There is another angle which is worrisome i.e. their criminal propensity.

  6. Thanks Propelsteps for the support and analytical appraisal of the malaise. Yes, young generation has a huge responsibility on their shoulders to balance out the stark inequalities.

  7. It is really discouraging that even after 60+ years of independence, the condition is like this and our 'responsible politicians' believe that poverty is an imagination! Applause for your kind effort!

    The Arts & Me

  8. Thanks a lot,Sindhu. Long term approach is required to solve these grave issues. Our rulers should learn to walk the talk.