rag picking, their
source of income
By Upasana Banerjee
Bengaluru: Rohingya refugees living in Dasarahalli near Hebbal are struggling to make a living because they are not entitled to any facilities.
Tagged illegal immigrants on Indian soil, they cannot avail of rations or basic medical facilities. The only identity they hold is the United Nations Human Rights card. It doesn’t seem to suffice their needs.
Satchithananda Valan Michael, the officer-in-charge of the refugee department in the UNHRC, informed The Observer: “We just came to know about them one year ago, so we did a quick registration of the families. We could register only those under the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) who have achieved the required criteria under the international guidelines.”
The Covid-19 lockdown has put the Rohingyas in a lot of difficulty. After the first lockdown was imposed, rag picking, their only source of income, came to a halt due to the closure of scrap disposal factories.
NGOs that assign them disposal jobs are supposed to pay them Extended Producer Responsibility funds, a sum paid for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products such as used soft-drink bottles and plastic cans. But this money never reaches them.
R. Kaleem Ullah, a human rights activist and member of Swaraj Abhiyan, said: “These poor rag pickers are often exploited by the garbage mafia under the name of MLAs. Pregnant ladies and young women from the Rohingya community are beaten up by these local goons.” The police do not take their cases seriously.
The officer-in-charge of the Amruthahalli police station, Ravi Bhat, said: “We are aware of their presence, and take complaints when someone from the camp comes and lodges one. Otherwise it’s their problem; they will solve it.”
Medical treatment is another area where they struggle to get facilities. No government hospital admits them due because they don’t have the necessary documents. They don’t receive any water supply or electricity.
Laila Begum, a Rohingya immigrant who is two months pregnant, informed The Observer: “I was diagnosed with jaundice while being pregnant but still couldn’t go to the hospital because they didn’t want to take us. We didn’t have money to buy expensive medicine from a private hospital. I suffered.”
All women here deliver their babies at home without proper hygiene. Their children grow up severely malnourished. At birth, these children are denied vaccination. Absence of birth certificate denies them access to education in schools.
The only right they are assured is the right to life; but it is often violated when Bangladeshi immigrants, their neighbours, attack them. The two groups are not on good terms with each other.
Bisma Begum, a Rohingya immigrant, said: “Our communities often get into a tussle with each other. But I believe Allah has made us all the same; we have the same blood, and we should stay together in harmony.”
The men of the Rohingya community are often jobless. They can only work as unskilled labourers, and are frequently underpaid. They can’t bear the expenses of their families and often resort to robbery.
Mathew Thomas, campaigner for legal rights at the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring, said the Indian government needs to provide the Rohingyas food and medical treatment.
They complain that the UNHRC’s Chennai division is not doing enough for them. “We are trying to tie up with the Child Rights Commission and other branches of the Indian government to get them the rights they deserve,” Thomas added.