Paul Colombini

Paul Colombini (Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group): Paul graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a BA in art history and a BS in international business. He also taught English abroad for several years, first in Japan and then in China. At the time of his fellowship, Paul was studying for a Masters in international development at The American University in Washington, DC. After his fellowship, Paul wrote: "This experience helped me understand India and Indian society and also gave me a greater appreciation of the enormous difficulties of development and grassroots efforts in particular."

Meeting the Wastepickers

03 Aug

Every week, members of Delhi’s wastepicker communities gather for meetings to discuss their work, their lives, and their problems. These community meetings are organized by Chintan, and each staff member is responsible for meeting with a different community on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Although the communities are diverse, the goals of the meetings are similar: to help the wastepickers organize themselves to solve their problems, and to help formalize their work. The second goal is addressed by Chintan’s ID card initiative, which provides official wastepicker ID cards.

Reading jokes from my Bengali phrasebook brought smiles at the end of a weekly Chintan wastepicker meeting in Seemapuri, on the outskirts of Delhi. Weekly and bi-weekly meetings are the means by which Chintan stays in contact with wastepickers and helps them organize to address their issues. In Seemapuri, for example, Chintan recently helped female wastepickers organize to demand a toilet for their community (See my previous BLOG below, “The Seemapuri Toilet March.” This photo was taken by Mackenzie Berg

Yogesh, a member of the Chintan staff, prepares to hand out official Chintan Wastepicker ID cards to the attendees at his bi-weekly cycle kabari meeting in central New Delhi. The meeting is held in the famous Lodi Garden, a public park, which is easy for the cycle kabaris to reach and has space for them to park their bicycles. Usually one or two kabaris stand guarding the bicycles during the meeting.

Rajumathur, a Delhi cycle kabari, shows off his new Chintan ID card. Chintan views the cards as the first step towards helping the wastepickers attain professional recognition. According to wastepickers I have spoken to, the main advantage of having an ID card is that Delhi police are less likely to harass wastepickers with IDs. Chintan charges each wastepicker 40 ruppees ($1) per year for an ID card, the cost of producing them. This fee also gives the wastepickers a sense of ownership and pride in their ID cards. Every time I have seen Chintan staff handing out the cards the wastepickers receiving them have been very happy.

Fellow Advocacy Project Fellow Mackenzie Berg meets a cycle kabari at their weekly meeting and asks for a photo. Mackenzie has taken some amazing portraits of wastepickers during our work here and you can see them at this site: many of the weekly Chintan meetings has given Mackenzie and I a unique opportunity to meet the wastepickers face-to-face this summer and see what genuinely good and hardworking people they are: an experience which I will always remember.

Posted By Paul Colombini

Posted Aug 3rd, 2008


  • Mackenzie

    August 5, 2008


    Your photos are really great too! You should put up a flickr account and get more traffic directed to them.. just a thought.

    Fantastic work as usual, Mr. Paul 😉

  • Ash

    August 9, 2008


    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog Paul. Great job this summer.

    Ash, fellow Peace fellow

  • This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally
    I’ve found something which helped me. Many thanks! line feed payday loans

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