One of our longest struggles has been to include the children of our members into ‘Pre-Matriculation Scholarship for children of Parents in Unclean Occupations’, a scheme under the  Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.  

Our fight for inclusion in the scheme began in 2002 with one member- Rahi Ingle. Back then, her son was studying in a municipal school in the area where she used to collect waste. One day his teacher asked the children whose parents worked in unclean occupations and Ingle’s son was among those who stuck up their hands. When they did, she told them they would get a scholarship under some government scheme. The son came home with an application form. Rahi is a conscientious parent who believes that her child should get a good education. She had someone fill the form for them, she put together all the documents required and submitted it to the teacher. 
The following day she was at the municipal container near the school rummaging through it, as usual. She was diligently taking out plastic and paper and metal scraps and dropping them into her sack alongside the bin when her keen eye spotted a familiar looking document that had been crushed. She pulled it out and straightened it out with trembling fingers. It was the application form that her son had submitted the day before. She marched off to the teacher to ask for an explanation. The teacher nonchalantly told her that she had made a mistake. The scheme was only for those in unclean occupations. Rahi was aghast, “Are you trying to tell me that the work I do is clean?” 

Our children did benefit from this government scheme for 4 years between 2002 and 2005 until an objection was raised in the audit that the scheme was only for children of sweepers, tanner, flayers, scavengers, with no mention of waste pickers. Many of our children continue to be denied the benefits of this scholarship while the money allocated under this scheme remains underutilized.  However, after much fighting and agitating, in March 2016, a small group of 540 children received this money in their accounts. Many more still wait in anticipation for the scholarship or the next agitation with the department of social welfare.