Please accept [renew_consent]%cookie_types[/renew_consent] cookies to watch this video.
phosmag - Debmalya Ray Choudhuri -

Life in the Wastelands

Kolkata -one of the most important  economic and cultural hubs of India. A concrete jungle of sky high buildings, swanky malls and offices, yet with a life refulgent, simple and laid back. In the suburbs of all this noise and humdrum of daily city life, lies  one of the biggest open air waste disposal  sites and the area around it which has a life of its own-a life shrouded in squalor and an uncanny solitude .Every day the city generates tons of waste and where does this go -Dhapa ,that is what it is called-a hinterland so different that it hardly bears a semblance of being a part of a metropolitan busy city.

 

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series "Life in the Wasteland" - A woman returning from work to her own small hut in the middle of fields .She is a widow and does this for a living on a daily basis.

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series “Life in the Wasteland” – A woman returning from work to her own small hut in the middle of fields. She is a widow and does this for a living on a daily basis.

 

Dhapa dumping ground spread over 60 acres of land started operations in 1987 has long outlived its utility. It was built with the capacity to accommodate city’s wastes for 15 years. The people who are  engaged in segregating the waste and collecting and trashing them are mostly migrant labourers from the poorest sections of the society. They live in abject poverty in thatched frail houses in the hinterland away from the crowd .The government has established a local school and some medicine stores, most of which are dysfunctional or closed. These people are exposed to toxic fumes and gases, which rise from the burning of the waste. The children are often seen engaging in the same labour for an additional daily income which by world standards is much less than the minimum for basic sustenance. These people have built a life around the place and it is in stark contrast to the luxuries of a city life. Relentlessly working throughout the day for a meagre wage has become a way of life for them, a quagmire of sorts. Working long hours, mostly from day break to dusk often takes a toll on their health.

 

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series "Life in the Wasteland" - The brick field furnaces in operation .The scrap ,leather and cloth and some products which cannot be recycled are burnt in large open furnaces like these. They generate huge amount of toxic gases and people here are exposed to them .They believe it is not so harmful to work and keep on going.

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series “Life in the Wasteland” – The brick field furnaces in operation .The scrap ,leather and cloth and some products which cannot be recycled are burnt in large open furnaces like these. They generate huge amount of toxic gases and people here are exposed to them. They believe it is not so harmful to work and keep on going.

 

The “Jomadars” or the people living in the area responsible for the waste segregation and disposal, as is popularly  called is the most overlooked section of our society. Their state is just testimony to the growing economic disparity particularly ubiquitous in our country, India.

 

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series "Life in the Wasteland" - Md Azhar ,a casual day labourer ,a refugee from Bangladesh at work .Many of the people working and living here are originally from the other side of the border ,who lost their land and came here for work .They eventually end up being casual labourers working under daily labour contractors. The money they make is far beyond world minimum.

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series “Life in the Wasteland” – Md Azhar ,a casual day labourer ,a refugee from Bangladesh at work .Many of the people working and living here are originally from the other side of the border ,who lost their land and came here for work. They eventually end up being casual labourers working under daily labour contractors. The money they make is far beyond world minimum.

 

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series "Life in the Wasteland" - The only hair salon in the community -bears a testimony to how these people themselves have developed a society away from the city, still being an integral and neglected part of it.

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series “Life in the Wasteland” – The only hair salon in the community -bears a testimony to how these people themselves have developed a society away from the city, still being an integral and neglected part of it.

 

This place is soon going to be overloaded with all the waste beyond its capacity  and the government fears that it cannot sustain for long .The place needs to be shifted  soon to a more remote location away from the city .Sadly, this may entail a huge amount of expenditure ,something that the government has not yet planned or taken into account given the sheer ignorance of this place piling up with waste and stench. It is only a matter of time ,maybe a few years more until this place can no longer be used as a dumping site . What might happen to these people who have built a locality of their own around them?No one knows. In a developing country like India where labour is cheap ,every place caters to casual and migrant workers who are ready to work on meagre wages only to survive through the day. Soon the workers in the former parts of this place may disappear into oblivion and take to other menial jobs or migrate somewhere else.

 

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series "Life in the Wasteland" - The labourers taking a rest from work .Most of them work relentlessly under extreme conditions for minimal wages and even the hands of the so called daily contractors are tied up as they are on a budget as well.

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series “Life in the Wasteland” – The labourers taking a rest from work. Most of them work relentlessly under extreme conditions for minimal wages and even the hands of the so called daily contractors are tied up as they are on a budget as well.

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series "Life in the Wasteland" - Man and the Hinterland.

© Debmalya Ray Choudhuri from the series “Life in the Wasteland” – Man and the Hinterland.

More info:

Debmalya Ray Choudhuri

Instagram