India is facing a colossal problem of waste management especially in the cities where waste increases rapidly. This has engaged the street urchins in the most unhygienic job of ragpicking. It serves a dual purpose, while becoming a part of waste management; the rag pickers earn their livelihood by collecting recyclable refuse, scrap and empty bottles.
Child ragpickers are an indispensable part of the army of ragpickers. They start this dirty work as early as when they are 8-10 years old or even before. Most of them are illiterate and never go to school throughout their life. They always remain shabby and uncouth. Ragpicking is quite a time consuming job. They start early in the morning when they are seen rummaging in the garbage bins lying outside the residential colonies. Some ragpickers work till late in the night to collect discarded beer bottles. They generally work for middlemen, and eat filthy leftover food from the garbage bins. Dysentery, diarrhoea, worms, jaundice are a few common diseases the ragpickers suffer from. They are often bitten by stray dogs who want to share leftover food with them.
The government has included waste pickers among hazardous occupations banned under the Child Labour Act 1996 but rag pickings by children are completely ignored.