India: Rescuers dig through trash dump for 12-year-old ‘rag picker’

Ahmedabad: Rescuers searched frantically Monday for a 12-year-old girl believed buried for two days under a vast garbage heap which collapsed while she was scavenging in western India.

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Neha Vasava and a six-year-old boy were on top of a 25-30 metre (80-100 feet) mountain of trash at Ahmedabad’s biggest rubbish dump when it collapsed on Saturday evening.

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An estimated four million Indians – many of them children – work in filthy, dangerous conditions, as as “rag pickers”, sifting through trash for metal and other materials to sell.

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“The boy was also buried in the garbage, but since his head could be seen locals rescued him,” deputy chief fire officer MP Mistry told AFP.

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“Our operation will continue till we find her.”

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Mistry said rescue conditions were very difficult “as one cannot breath properly surrounded by tonnes of garbage”, and also because of packs of roaming feral dogs.

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The dump, which receives around 3,500 tonnes of garbage a day from the city of 5.6 million people, is home to several hundred impoverished families who work as rag pickers.

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According to UNICEF well over 41 million children aged under 12 are forced to work in South Asia.

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Experts say lockdowns imposed to combat the coronavirus have exacerbated the child labour problem.

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