This place is near the eastern expressway towards Thane on the eastern side of Mulund, a place called Hari Om Nagar, the dumping ground is spread over approx. 20 hectares. The dumping ground is partly surrounded by high-rise residential buildings. And we would generally imagine that the dumping ground is just that. A place where huge truck loads of refuse from the city is dumped and a ground infested with some dogs, rats and scavenger birds. But what would come as a surprise to anyone has been a reality of the people who live in the dumping ground and call it their home. I never could imagine that I would find 80 families staying in the dumping ground scattered about in small chunks. When I spoke to them I realised that they were from various parts of India, UP, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra (Malegaon, Nasik, Jalna etc.). Few of the families have been on the site for couple of generations even, like Krishan Rama Manakar his daughter Juhi Bai Sabre, who is 47 years old. I met families who used to be farmers or agricultural labourers in other districts of Maharashtra but due to lack of water for irrigation resulting in low yields they had to leave and look for other livelihood options, which brings them to this part of Maharashtra. Those who used to be farmers now consider the dumping ground itself their farm. For a mere Rs 100 or 200 these people scour the garbage in the grounds in the hot summer sun and the muggy Mumbai monsoon, collecting and separating different kinds of plastics and metal which they sell to the garbage dealer. Their houses too are made up of various kinds of material found in the ground.
Their problems are further compounded when the municipal department officials come and destroy their houses without any prior information. The municipal officials keep removing them and creating new problems for them, and the people living around the site in the high-rises accuse them of criminal activities, theft, pollution etc. They don’t have any kind of basic amenities necessary to live, such as electricity, sanitation or water supply. There is a small water source that runs through the dumping ground, which is the only water supply they have, but that too is dirty and undrinkable and over flows during the rainy days to flood their houses. They use this water for all kinds of needs like, cleaning, bathing etc. and for drinking water they have to travel 2-3 kilometers. The basic things we look for in our life such as social, financial, and educational security, none of these are of any meaning to them when other more basic things are inaccessible. It was a very shocking experience for me, to see them living in such conditions. As it’s easy for us to know it and talk about it. But to actually be there in person and among them left me a bit rattled. But they were really warm, they were happy to talk to me and share their problems with me, although it was tough to not see myself in their shoes which only made me more angry about the fact that I was there to merely document their struggles and could not help them in anyway.
Every day they face the reality of life and every day we try to escape it by various means. For them every day is struggle and us… we just try to ignore these things, rather we get bothered by some petty issues and blow it up. Despite all these problems in my eyes they are really brave people. No matter whatever the condition they fight and support their family and even neighbours.