‘On an average we earn Rs.300 a day. In rainy season, our collection goes up though the stink from the drain is unbearable’

The stink notwithstanding, the dirty drain choked with waste material of various types has turned into bread and butter for two migrant families.

Maria (45) leaves her ramshackle one-room tenement at Thatichetlapalem early in the day along with her family members. Numbering 10 to 12, they collect every piece of plastic waste in the drain and later load it into the push-cart they bring along when they set out to slog it out in the drain for their survival.

They return before sunset with huge bags loaded with their ‘collection’ for sale to dealers involved in recycling of plastic material. “On an average we earn Rs.300 a day. In rainy season, our collection goes up though the stink from the drain is unbearable,” she says.

‘Only option’

Initially, she was reluctant to talk. After a bit of persuasion, she says “What to do, sir? We migrated to Visakhapatnam in search of work from Vijayawada 15 years ago. Finding no work after a near-starvation, we found collecting plastic waste from drains as the only unexplored option for our survival.”

The drain where they go for their earning is located near the 10 million litres per day Sewage Treatment Plant of the Visakhapatnam Port Trust at the flyover close to Gnanapuram. For a change, they also change their rendezvous now and then.

Srinu (22) first conducts a survey of the drains to assess their depth. Once he gives the green signal, other members of the family venture into the drain for retrieving plastic material. “We get Rs. 20 for plastic material, Rs.10 for milk sachets and Rs.25 for water bottles per kg from the dealers,” he says.

Association for Regional Tribal Development (urban wing), an NGO, has identified around 1500 ragpickers in the city. ARTD activist P. Vasu said the city has around 3,000 ragpicker families who regularly contribute to cleaning of the streets, drains, railway station and other public places.

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