Sangam Vihar is one of the largest unauthorized colonies in Asia and has a population of close to 2 million. We only saw a very small part of it. The” Rag pickers” slum is one of the many slums within this unauthorized colony and the rag pickers slums have some of the poorest people I’ve ever seen living in absolute inhumane living conditions.
There is no potable water for people to drink. Slum Clusters (houses) are made of plastic and low cost materials. People go to the city very early in the morning to collect garbage and bring it back to their slum and sort the garbage into plastic and metal, for re-cycling. The schema of how this works is beyond comprehension. A wealthy landlord owns 1/8th acre parcels of land. He hires a “contractor” to manage theses properties. Rag pickers rent a 1/8th parcel of land to live on. The rent is about $300 a month, much too expensive for one just one family. So 9 families share that 1/8th parcel of land, and share the monthly rental cost. Once the garbage is sorted, a bushel bag of let’s say plastic is sold to the contractor for $1. The contractor in turn sells the same bushel to a recycling plant for $50. A large portion of that goes to the land owner, the contractor keeps some, and the rag picker gets a dollar. You can begin to see how many bushels of garbage needs to be picked and sold to the contractor for $1 in order to pay the rent and live. Parents do not want their children to go to school as they are needed to go out and collect garbage in order to add to the income of the family. This is one of the neediest areas for medical care as almost 20% children do not see their 5th birthday. These people are from West Bengal and speak only Bengali which makes it difficult to get jobs to earn any better income. This is where we spent the day today. This is where we saw 346 children. This is where we began to understand that no matter how hard we try, we’ll never know why life is dealt out the way it is. The haves and the have not's.
For now, we just keep going, waiting to see what tomorrow brings. And hope that it is a little better for those who live here. It is a difficult time for us. Asking questions, knowing that there are no answers. Why young girls are sold to the sex trade. Why people are kidnapped, drugged and operated on, only to wake up and find that both of their kidneys have been removed and sold for a great deal of money, and they now will die unless they can find the money to pay for someone's else's kidneys. I know that I will close my eyes tonight to go to sleep , but will find sleep illusive, as the questions are posed over and over again all the same. And if I do fall asleep, I pray that I dream that those whom I saw today, find a better life. It’s been said, that dreams can come true. Will you dream with me?
In all things give thanks,