Sanjana Runwal is a 15-year-old student living in Mumbai on a mission to help out rag-pickers suffering because of the rains.
When Sanjana noticed a couple of people going into an open sewage drain without gloves or masks, she took it upon herself to learn more about their situation and do something to help them out. The more she learnt about them, the more time she invested in trying to help them out.
I started with studying their problems. Their income is not stable; at times they don’t even have money for a one-time meal, forget them having a proper meal. They don’t have any dependable source of income for their family
Her brother's NGO Clean-Up Foundation (which she also co-founded) works towards solving various social issues helped her out, and together they launched a fund-raising campaign. Speaking to The Better India about it, Sanjana says:
Most ragpickers barely have proper housing facilities, and during the monsoon, their dwellings fill up with water, exposing them to more health risks. Due to insufficient education, they do not even realise the extent of health issues and prefer treating themselves at home instead of visiting a doctor. Giving them basic facilities was the least I could do from my end.
Within two weeks, Sanjana's efforts had paid off and she had raised enough funds to buy raincoats and gum-boots for 200 workers, which were then distributed to over 200 workers in an event held at the Bandra Office of the BMC. With the help of the Mahila Udyog, around 400 rag-pickers were provided meals at the event too.
The campaign was a successful one. Although the campaign was her initiative, she gave due credit to everyone else who helped her out and made the event see light.
The success of this drive can be attributed to the donors as well as Chandrakanth Tambe, the BMC ward officer who helped me to identify ragpickers and fulfil other legal formalities
Sanjana's efforts have bought a significant change in the lives of these rag-pickers, and a safer environment for them.
Their safety is another issue because they are not provided with any sort of safety equipment. They deserve at least the basic safety equipment for this hazardous job. It is so saddening to see such people in distress. We encounter this every day but don’t realise it.
Her efforts for the rag-pickers don't just stop at this, she wants to make a remarkable difference in their lives. Sanjana is now working on providing medical insurance to ragpickers. The next step is to introduce them to basic medical facilities, like vaccines and regular check-ups.