In India, an estimated 1.5 million people make a living from waste picking. In Delhi alone, the number is guessed to be around 100,000. Who are the waste pickers? They are people: men, women, children, who make a living from sorting through the trash and pulling out recyclables to resell. In Delhi, these people are denied citizenship because they cannot present the government with birth certificates formally documenting their existence. They are denied rights to their livelihoods, which divert nearly 20 percent of Delhi’s waste from landfills, by state laws decreeing that trash is municipally owned, so taking recyclables is considered stealing. They are constantly harassed by police, and their homes, made of refuse salvaged from the landfill, are burned as a means of oppression.
After studying urban planning and public policy in Delhi for five weeks last February I will be returning in September to create a film about the waste pickers and their efforts to organize and advocate for rights. I will be working with Shashi Pandit and the organization that he founded, AIKMM, a member-based organization of over 17,000 waste pickers in Delhi who are fighting to have their work legalized through integration into the formal waste collection system.
The film will follow the waste pickers through their daily lives and struggles. It will focus on how they are attempting to organize and advocate for rights and the obstacles they face in attaining those rights. It will include interviews (translated) with waste pickers asking about their goals and what they need to reach those goals. I hope to also include interviews with experts who can discuss state and global policies that affect the waste pickers. If I am unable to attain interviews with experts or policy makers, I will integrate research on state policy and the impact of globalization and global policies in keeping the waste pickers from accessing rights.
By including interviews with experts who can speak to state policies that affect the waste pickers, I hope to begin exploring the multiple forces that keep the waste pickers from accessing rights. Beginning to understand how social, political and economic forces on local, state and global levels contribute to marginalization will hopefully help inform viable solutions and interventions.
My goal is for this film to be the means by which waste picker’s voices can be heard. With your help, their suppressed calls for recognition will no longer fall on deaf ears. Nobody can know better than the waste pickers themselves what obstacles they face and thus how to help them. What we can do is empower them by giving them an outlet to broadcast their message, and an audience to listen.
The film will be shown at Boston University's sustainable art showcase in the spring, and may be aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting as well.
Waste is not only an issue of the environment, but people too.
Thank you to Avery Williamson for use of her photo as the cover photo for the project, and to Athena Kurry for use of her photos in the project video.
Certainly! For the project I have already spent: Canon EOS 60D (body): $900 18-200mm Canon lens: $400 Plane Ticket to Delhi (round-trip): $1,550 Visa: $75 Mac with editing software (final cut pro) installed: $500 Printing for promotion: $200 Future costs (many are rough/estimates but based on research): 2 terabyte external hard drive: $200 Extra camera batteries (about 10): roughly $200 SD cards (32 or 64 GB, about 10): roughly $200 Tripod: $200 Microphone: $100 Camera bag: $25 Additional lens: ....(as much as I can afford to spend) Food (3 months): $500 Transportation within country (3 months): $500 Costs of Incentives: Thank you cards: $300 Film on DVD: $150 Stickers: $200 Keepsake Cards: $300 Posters: $300 Grocery Bags: $200 Shirts: $150 These are rough estimates and subject to change- the incentive costs I estimated beforehand, and obviously they will change based on how many backers I have and at what levels. For those of you familiar with photography/video, you'll notice my estimates are low- I'm buying as much on ebay/used as I can afford to, the one thing I'd like to splurge on (to enhance cinematic quality) is an additional lens to go with the basic one I have. I didn't put a cost because I haven't decided on one yet and how much I spend will be determined by whether I reach my goal and how much the actual cost of the incentives will be (which I will prioritize and figure out before spending more on equipment). Lenses can easily be thousands. This breakdown also does not include the cost of malaria medications, evacuation insurance, water filtration systems or any unforeseen costs. This also does not include any sort of salary for me. I am not profiting from the amount I'd make from Kickstarter, and working with AIKMM is entirely voluntary- they do not have any money to pay a salary. I decided to volunteer my time and money because I cannot stand to know that thousands of people are forcibly denied basic rights, including the rights to a livelihood that nobody else would do anyway. The amount I asked for is my best estimate based on my previous trip and research on equipment and incentive costs.
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