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Long days, anxious nights for 'cart people'

Basic recyclers have a tough life outdoors

Cart people Cart people
  • Chelluz Pahun, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • March 13, 2012
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Who are the “cart people?” In Jakarta, it is the name given to the people who spend their day pushing a handcart through the city’s endless streets, looking for any trash they can re-sell.

An estimated 2,500 people live this way in Jakarta and Samsiah, a 42-year-old widow, is one of them. Every day she works from dawn till sunset, picking up things that other people throw away - plastics, cans, papers, boxes – in the hope of trading them for a few rupiah.

She cannot afford to educate and can scarcely afford to feed her two sons, so they come with her on her scavenging route. One of them was sleeping in the shade afforded by the cart while she stopped to talk.

“My other son has been ill for the last few days,” she said. “I’m having to work longer hours so I can buy medicine and food.

“I take a rest, but then I have to get up and start walking again.”

Virtually all cart people are homeless. When the long day’s work is over, they settle and sleep anywhere they can find a space: in temporary shelters, under bridges, in abandoned buildings, in the parks or around the railway stations.

“Any time, we can be driven away by the authorities,” said Samsiah. “We get trouble from security guards if we try to bed down in a public place. We’re often forced to move on.”

Rintho Trihasworo, of the Institute for Ecosoc Rights, pointed out that “the cart people are unskilled.  Living this way is their last option because it doesn’t require any particular skills. All it takes is endurance and a survival instinct.”

Trihasworo added: “This is a real challenge for the city administration, to bring them education, healthcare facilities and a proper place to live.”

 
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