Launching a unique initiative on the occasion of International Waste Pickers’ Day 2021 (March 1), Pune-based NGO Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) has started a campaign to demand increased scholarships for children of waste-pickers, as promised to them.
All children of waste-pickers are eligible for the scholarship under the centrally-sponsored Pre-Matric Scholarship of the Children of those Engaged in Occupation involving Cleaning and Prone To Health Hazards. In 2018, the central government announced an increase in the amount from Rs 1,850 to Rs 3,000 per year.
“The hike in the scholarship amount hasn’t come into effect. It has been three years and we have given them constant reminders. In March last year, just before the lockdown, a meeting took place where state minister Dhananjay Munde and deputy chairperson of the legislative council Neelam Gorhe, among others, were present. They agreed to disburse the increased scholarship amount but then the lockdown happened. The GR was not issued and since then things are in limbo,” said Poornima Chikarmane, a volunteer at KKPKP.
Nearly 1,500 children of waste-pickers who are beneficiaries of the scholarship scheme have started a campaign to remind the government to keep its promise of increasing the educational assistance provided to children of waste-pickers.
The children are writing postcards and rallying with posters and slogans to create awareness around the Cleaning Occupations Scheme.
Rutuja Mote, a Class VIII student of PMC-run Vithhalrao Gadgil School who is the daughter of Bhagyashree Mote, a waste-picker from Yerawada, said accessing online classes has become increasingly difficult for her during the pandemic due to the high costs involved. Like her, several students were hoping that the increase in scholarship amount will help in bridging the additional costs which digital education had thrust on their families, which are already struggling to make ends meet.
“We hope that our handwritten letters will hasten the process and we get a sum of Rs 3,000 as the scholarship starting this year…,” she said.