All through August last year, Sandeep Kumar Singh and his four classmates from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) spent their days wading through the muck of the Deonar dumping ground. Armed with video cameras, these students of TISS’s Master’s course in media and cultural studies filmed the lives of ragpickers in an unseen corner of Mumbai where 4,000 tonnes of the city’s waste is piled up every day.
Their 19-minute documentary, City’s Edge, is part of ‘From the Margins’, a series of six documentary films on the problems of M-ward, the city’s most underdeveloped municipal ward, comprising Chembur, Govandi, Deonar and Trombay. The documentaries are in turn part of the M-Ward Initiative, an ongoing project in which TISS has adopted the ward with the aim of structuring and implementing a large-scale human development model for it.
M-ward has the largest slum population in Mumbai, the lowest literacy levels and highest malnutrition and child mortality rates. By the end of June, TISS will release a report on their research and begin working with the government, municipality, local communities and NGOs to improve conditions here.
“In five years, we want to see the infant mortality rates in M-ward drop to the city average, which is possible only if overall health and sanitation conditions improve,” says TISS director S Parasuraman. The institute has already launched a midday meals programme for children and is working to set up six day-care centres in M-East ward.
“The students’ documentaries will be used to raise funds and awareness about the larger project,” says KP Jayasankar, a professor at the TISS school of media and cultural studies.