By the government’s own admission, there are 3.42 lakh manual scavengers in the country. This degrading practice was banned 15 years ago. But like most well-meaning legislations, this too has been forgotten in the mists of time. If the government won’t do its job, enter the noble NGO. A novel way to focus attention on scavenging has been devised. A group of hapless scavengers will be flown to New York where they will walk the ramp with the likes of the paradisiacally beautiful Leonardo di Caprio and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Wait, it gets better.
The scavengers will be attired in clothes designed by the man who manages Michael Jackson’s (Michael Jackson who?) wardrobe. Those who will be at the meet that will be held in the UN General Assembly will include big ticket stars like Matt Damon and Hillary Swank. The UN Secretary General will deliver the keynote address. Even by the congenital do-gooding standards of our NGO brethren, this attempt staggers the imagination. It’s difficult to imagine that sashaying down the ramp will actually translate into the ramp-walkers returning home to a better life. But certainly, showcasing the plight of these people will translate into a few pennies coming into the NGO coffers. All the better to leap into the next jetliner and study ‘best practices’ in other exotic lands.
If issues like scavenging or trafficking were to be solved, what would our growing tribe of NGOs do? It would put them out of business. As Ross Coggins so eloquently wrote in the foreword to Graham Hancock’s seminal book The Lords of Poverty: “The development set is bright and noble/Our thoughts are deep and our vision global/Although we move with the better classes/Our thoughts are always with the masses.”