EMPOWERMENT– This is what sets Tiljala SHED apart from other NGOs. Not hand-outs but enabling people and communities to transform themselves. Vocational Training, livelihood grants, empowering communities to take up their own cause, facilitating the liaisoning with government agencies for acquiring voter cards, birth certificate and other legal entitlements etc.
Tiljala SHED has facilitated the creation of Association of Rag Pickers of Calcutta (ARP) which is a registered legal entity and the only such association for the entire rag pickers community in West Bengal. It is important to note that it is the effort of Tiljala SHED and other NGOs working together in this sector that has push the government to include the Rag Pickers in the State Assisted Scheme of Provident fund for Unorganized workers (SASPFUW). Rag picking was included as a profession along with other professions in the list of unorganized work. Rag Picking was never recognized as a work by the government agencies. Tiljala SHED also works closely with other Pan India organization like Chintan, Nidaan, etc. whose work are focused on the overall development of the rag pickers.
Tiljala SHED is now handholding the association members to run and execute their organization effectively which requires day-to-day facilitation and hand holding. ARP is a strong tool for these rag pickers and now the government also listens to them, solves their problems. Earlier 90% of the population did not had voter cards and now 70% have all the legal entitlements thus making them powerful with the power to vote. The government agencies and elected leaders never used to hear them and now they are being heard and supported by the elected representatives. Earlier their children were treated as untouchables in government schools, which was resulting in drop outs. It was due to Tiljala SHED’s & ARP’s joint intervention that the school authorities now take due care and treat them at par with other children.
Under this program Tiljala SHED works for all those rag pickers and other vulnerable communities who have been deprived of legal entitlements and documents and are not recognized by the local government. We have been instrumental in opening thousands of Bank Accounts under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. Under this scheme many people opened their bank accounts which they could not open for years because of bureaucratic formalities.
Regular meetings with the Election Commission, Municipal Corporation, Ration department, Councillors, MLAs and MPs have instill confidence in them and their matters are now getting resolved faster. They have an annual rally where they march to Esplanade Y channel (famous for all political rallies) and hand the memorandum to the Secretariat and express their claims on a stage in front of the mainstream media. More than 5000 rag pickers participated in the rally in the last two years in 2016 & 2017. They have also claimed their demands to Ms.Mamata Banerjee (Hon’ble Chief Minister, West Bengal). The government has shown willingness to work for the development of rag pickers.
Tiljala SHED has a long way to go. The journey has just started and the Association has got its breakthrough with the government. Tiljala SHED is already in talks with the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation for involving rag pickers in solid waste management of the Salt Lake area. We are trying every bit to increase their income through government and other private interventions.
We have also collaborated with Corporates, bureaucrats, police, journalist and other respected people of the city from all walks of life and organize a yearly seminar where these people get to hear directly from the rag pickers- their pain, struggles and solutions.
We had also been a part of dine and dialogue where rag pickers and people from the influential society exchanged over a sumptuous dinner.
Razia one of the women from Topsia said that “I never got so much respect in my life”.
Another women Manowara Bibi who is the secretary of the Rag Pickers Association said “it is unbelievable that I am sharing a table with these respected people over dinner”.
Connecting Rag Pickers and other vulnerable families with the mainstream society is also of the goal of this program.
Solid Waste Management:
Members of the Association of Rag Pickers of Calcutta has been collecting solid waste from corporates, business houses, amusement parks, housing complexes, etc. for their sustainable income and scientific waste handling. Tiljala SHED monitors the collection. Cognizant, TATA Consultancy Services, Science City, Atmosphere and a few housing complexes have been a partner of Tiljala SHED for long in solid waste management. The entire program has been supported by Misereor (Germany).