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Life, labour, recycling: A study of waste management practices in contemporary Kolkata
D. Bagchi,
Published in Springer Singapore
Pages: 149 - 163
This chapter attempts to foreground the question of migrant labour and their survival in contemporary Kolkata with a study of workers in both ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ sectors of the solid waste management industry. In the age of ecological awareness and hygienic aesthetics, the image of a solitary woman/man sweeping the city streets in the early mornings, carrying the hazardous waste on her/his shoulders, clearing the overflowing litterbins with sharp dexterity produces a strong and darkly ironical visual effect. Apart from these heart-wrenching stories of exploitation and under-appreciation, there are other aspects of the waste disposal industry which deserve attention-especially the institutional details of their participation in the city workforce. In this chapter, the authors look at these issues by exploring work forms and life stories of conservancy workers who have migrated from different parts of the country and have been employed by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and of homeless rag-pickers who participate in the apparently non-official systems of waste management in the city. Closely looking at a group of ‘settled migrant’ rag-pickers, mostly women, this chapter seeks to understand the time, territory, family structures and the pattern of shifts in occupation taking place in and around a particular dwelling area. Put differently, it explores the relationship between the contingencies of occupation and the question of social reproduction, keeping the question of space alive in the context of a burgeoning rent economy in the city. © Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group (MCRG) 2017.
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Published in Springer Singapore
Open Access
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