Brightening up Diwali for the vulnerable layer of society, the Mumbai-based teenager, Sanjana Runwal donates sanitary pad vending machine to women rag-pickers through her NGO, Clean Up Foundation
At a festive season like Diwali, most of the teenagers would be reveling in bursting crackers, lighting lamps and indulge in merry making during the festival of lights. A 15-year young girl from Mumbai, Sanjana Runwal, had decided to do something for a change. And what a change! The teenager, through her non-governmental organisation, Clean Up Foundation had brightened up Diwali for one of Mumbai’s most essential, yet, vulnerable communities – rag-pickers!
At an event held in the posh locality of Bandra, Clean Up Foundation, forging alliance with the ‘H’ West ward of MCGM, Sanjana Runwal donated a sanitary pad vending machine to the women rag-pickers in addition to offering a health meal to around 200 of them. What’s more, the Foundation also provided financial assistance for the education of the children of the rag-pickers.
Littered roads and ineffective solid waste management are probably two of the worst externalities of economic advancement, especially in developing nations like India. Imagine getting up early in the morning each day to go to work; work that involves cleaning the garbage from gutters, sewers, drains, and streets of the city. The downsides of the job: low income, health hazards, short life expectancy and lack of dignity. Add to that widespread substance addiction and abuse. Yet, there are people who do this job relentlessly, each day. A broad estimate would put the number of rag pickers in India anywhere between 15,00,000 to 40,00,000. Mumbai itself is estimated to have more than 300,000 rag pickers.
As per the data from a sample study by MCGM, 40% of these rag pickers have an average per capita income of less than Rs.3500 and a whopping 70% are illiterate. Their health is a major concern. Almost 94% of the rag pickers in this survey were addicted to alcohol, tobacco or drugs and 43% of these were minors. The study found out that 63% of the surveyed population are exposed to diseases like TB, Dengue, Malaria, etc.
A few months back, Sanjana Runwal had kick-started a yeomen initiative, ‘Revolution for Rag Pickers’ with the noble intention of improving the living conditions of those who keep the metropolis clean, the garbage cleaners and rag-pickers and others who come under the most essential, nevertheless, vulnerable communities.
While elaborating on the initiative, Sanjana Runwal said: “Rag-pickers are the most neglected community in our country, nobody acknowledges them. I want to bring a positive change in their lives. They too are human beings like us but are conveniently ignored by us. They deserve much better living conditions. Providing health, safety, hygiene and education assistance is to them is a baby step in this direction. I am trying whatever little I can do to improve their lives and I would request others to help me do this.”
Earlier, at the onset of the monsoon season, Sanjana’s Clean Up Foundation had donated raincoats and gumboots to over 200 rag-pickers which ensured their safety from rain and hazardous materials. Sanjana intends to widen the area of operations for her activities and wants to carry out many more such activities. The Clean Up Foundation has already donated numerous water purifiers to different ward offices of BMC, which have helped hundreds of garbage cleaners get access to clean drinking water.