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Fund new livelihoods for ragpickers

Focus: Social Exclusion, Livelihoods

5% Funded
RAGPICKING to pulling rickshaws or vegetable vending may not seem like a big jump. But it’s a quantum leap in terms of dignity of work and daily earnings. Help TSHED fund new livelihoods for 10 families.

While Kolkata’s civic authorities depended on its ragpickers to sort out recyclable waste – from which 1,600 of them earned Rs 300 a day – TSHED focused on improving their working conditions.

But now that garbage compactors have replaced the city’s open vats and incomes have dropped to just Rs 50 a day, TSHED are trying to find alternative means of livelihood for ragpickers and their families.

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Help a ragpicker move to a safer livelihood option!

The funds raised contributed towards covering the costs of Nasima's Livelihoods Grant, which she used to invest in her recycling business. She is already making a 20% profit, and her business seems promising!


Only extreme poverty drives the homeless – often rural migrants to the city – to eke a living out of other people’s rubbish. It is a degrading and hazardous job, especially as Kolkatans do not segregate waste at source, with ragpickers often exposed to dangerous and toxic substances. Without education and skills, plying rickshaws, selling fruit and vegetables or running a tea stall appeal as a viable livelihood options.

Ragpickers are often exposed to dangerous, toxic substances while sorting out rubbish

The ‘City of Joy’ is home to the poorest of India’s poor, with the per capita income being just Rs 27 a day. And now, with the government’s cleanliness drive, ragpickers too have been driven out of work and need alternative sources of income.

The ragpicker, despite doing work that benefits the municipality and society at large is condemned to live a very insecure existence.

Shashi Bhushan Pandit, Secretary, All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (All India Ragpickers Union), New Delhi

In India, the people who handle our waste are invisible: we do not know them and do not acknowledge their role in our society. These people should be looked at as carbon assets. They are negating our carbon footprint.

Parasher Baruah, documentary filmmaker of 'Waste', Mumbai

It is poverty that makes us do this work. If I had an alternative, I wouldn't be doing it. Who would like to collect garbage? I don't want my children to come into the business. I want them to do something better.

Manorama Begum, garbage collector, New Delhi

Based on a successful test project in 2016, TSHED will set up a microcredit programme with the funds raised to give small grants of about Rs 15,000 to rag pickers. These will help them start alternative businesses such as cycle rickshaw and van driving, vegetable selling, garment making, etc. The grants will be conditional on beneficiaries repaying the loan with a tiny interest to a revolving fund and protecting and educating their children.

Selling a cart of delicious guavas is more satisfying than selling recyclable waste
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Nasima invests in her own business
by Tiljala SHED
14 July 2017

Nasima Bibi has been working as a rag-picker, earning a mere Rs 3,000 a month and living on a footpath with family members in Narkeldanga, Kolkata. She has a small business recycling solid, dry waste like paper, metal, glass, wood, plastic etc., which she purchases from rag-pickers, and sells to vendors. She aspires to turn this recycling business into a successful one, but due to a lack of funds, had not been able to invest in it until recently.
She applied for our Livelihoods Grant to help her grow her business and thanks to the funds raised in April, we were able to give her Rs 10,000, with the shortfall made up by another donor.  We are happy to report that Nasima has already started making a 20% profit and her monthly income has gone up to 3600! We hope to see Nasima Bibi's business continue to flourish in the months to come.