Finding dignity in discard

Photos by Ravi Choudhary

Delhi′s Ghazipur landfill site is a ticking garbage bomb. But for the children in the neighbourhood, it is a mine of interesting finds. Photojournalist Ravi Choudhary showcases their search for clothes, trinkets, broken toys and junk jewellery on a mountain of waste.

Sahana (above) loves to dance. She makes ₹2,000-3,000 every month to contribute to her family′s meagre income. “I rummage through waste to find any valuable items. I found these blue bangles here,” says Sahana, who quit school after Class 4.


Hussein, 9, a Class 5 student at a government school, plays with a discarded teddy bear that he found in a pile of garbage at Ghazipur. It is one of his few prized possessions.


Shahadat worships Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan. He lives with his family of seven in a shack on the boundary of the landfill. He found a pair of denims, colourful shirt and tinted sunglasses here. He styled his look on his Bollywood idol.


Sabir may not know football legends Messi or Ronaldo, but this ball that he found here stoked his interest in the sport. Many years ago he visited the dumpyard for the first time with his cousins. “After that I started coming here every day. Now I work here along with my mother,” says the 10-year-old, who has four siblings.


His friend Nazir′s father is an addict. “My mother works at the illegal industrial units while I come here. I enjoy working here. Especially the games I play with the others,” the 14-year-old Bengal native says.Problems like asthma, cough, chest congestion, shortness of breath are common among people in the nearby colonies of Ghazipur as clean air is a luxury. Atop the garbage mountain, it is ground zero.


Jamshed, 15, is the eldest among three sisters and five brothers. “My mother and I make ₹8,000 per month. Where is the time to go to school? My siblings study at a centre run by an NGO,” he says.


Sakibul′s family came to Delhi from Kolkata in 2003. “I used to go to school but had to quit. My three elder sisters are married. My mother and I work hard to make ends meet,” says the 14-year-old ragpicker.


Sakir Ali, 15, is happy with his work. “Me along with my parents make ₹13,000-15,000 every month. Life is good if you can ignore the stench. I don′t want to go back to Bengal,” Ali says.


Ghazipur is one of four landfills in Delhi, all saturated to capacity. Garbage shouldn′t even be dumped there, but lack of alternates has left the East Delhi Municipal Corporation with no other option.

Web Producer: Abhinash Kumar Jha