Five days after arresting several people for allegedly inciting ragpickers to start fires at the Deonar dumping ground, the police slapped a fine of Rs5,000 on nine ragpickers for allegedly trespassing into the landfill on Wednesday.
The ragpickers, all women and residents of Rafiq Nagar slums in Tilak Nagar, had allegedly entered the dumping ground looking for recyclable scrap. However, following the intervention of NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatana, the women were allowed to go home without paying the fine.
“In an attempt to find those responsible for starting the fires at the Deonar dump, the police are arresting just about anybody just to show the Bombay high court that they are carrying out their responsibilities. The livelihood of these women depends on collecting, segregating and selling dry waste from the dumping ground,” said Jyoti Mhapsekar from the NGO
According to the Shivaji Nagar police, the women had entered the dumping ground at around 11am on Wednesday. “The women were brought to the police station for an enquiry under section 447 (punishment for criminal trespass) but were not arrested. They were allowed to leave by 4pm,” said Jadhav Bala, senior police inspector.
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After the second fire at the Deonar dumping ground on March 20, the civic body cancelled the passes of all ragpickers that had been issued by NGOs. “Thousands of families lost their livelihoods owing to this. Even the waste they had earlier collected was kept inside the dump for over a week,” said Nisha Bandekar, coordinator, Parisar Bhagini Vikas Sangha, an NGO that trains ragpickers to collect and segregate waste.
On Thursday, however, officials from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said that they were planning to create a system where ragpickers can enter the Deonar dumping ground again in the next 15 days. “We plan to provide them with identification cards and their information will be submitted to the local police,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, M (East) ward.