Rag pickers freed from debt
Old coins, waste paper, copper, plastics, wire and other metals found in household rubbish have for years provided a meagre income for rag pickers from thirteen Madurai slums. But these Dalit workers have had no freedom to bargain for fair prices because they are indebted to the shop owners who buy these recycled items. As a result they have been trapped in debt and poverty.
Today things have changed. After establishing a cooperative under a UnionAID funded project, they were able to borrow interest free loans to pay off their debts and start out collectively as free agents.
In addition, the rag pickers learnt how to separate and manage waste for higher profits, to read electronic scales to avoid being cheated, and to deal directly with buyers. Freed from the shackles of debt and working cooperatively these men and women are already seeing their incomes increase from $1 to $2 or more a day.