The decade of the nineties marked a shift in the provision of social services in India from the public sector to the private sector. The liberalization of the Indian economy allowed for, and indeed encouraged, private participation in the provision of health, education and social services. The role of the state changed from being the provider of services to operating as a regulator of services. The decline of state-provided services was concomitant with the decline in public expenditure on these services, in real terms. The services market expanded for those able to pay for it but shrank for those with limited resources.
This study focused on the barriers and opportunities to increase social inclusion of waste pickers in Pune City, Maharashtra, 80 percent of whom are women. As low-income Dalit women who reside in slums, most waste pickers face multiple, intersecting vulnerabilities and are representative of the most marginalized urban informal workers. Their work provides them with critical livelihoods, but also exposes them to considerable economic, environmental, social and occupational risks, including not being able to ensure payment for their services, exposure to hazardous waste and harassment and the risk of accidents.