BY SAUMYA KHANDELWAL
A truck perched on a terrace, a Maruti 800 sitting on top of a Tata Sumo; terrace after terrace covered with vehicle doors and bonnets, roads and invisible pavements encroached with greasy machine parts, and a public park devoid of grass or people and occupied with machines and scrap instead. The constant murmur of machines never stops. The hammering that is the sound of vehicle being dismantled, the movement of metal tyres on stone laden passages, the groaning of the earth mover which moves around the engines, and the clunk of the parts when they are thrown at each other one after the other. These are the sensual identifications of a vehicular scrap market.
Mayapuri junk market is India’s largest. Vehicles bought in retail or from auctions travel to Mayapuri to be dismantled in its muddy lanes. A truck can be dismantled in an hour and a half; a car will take less. The parts to be re-sold are extracted and moved to second hand shops, and the rest is left for metal scrap dealers. They collect the metal from the remains. The seats, rubber and plastics are gathered by yet smaller scrap dealers. And the last bit of scavenging is done by women and children who use magnets to gather the little metal that falls down on the roads and burn the plastic and wires that are collected at the market for their metal contents.
The scrap is then pressed into bales which travel to other parts of the country like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal and Haryana for further processing in furnaces. Furnaces melt the scrap at temperatures around 1650 degrees Celsius and convert them into pig iron. Pig iron then can take any shape. The cycle has now been completed. A truck or a vehicle is now recycled and has acquired a new form.
India recycles 20-25 per cent of its metal waste which is way too insufficient for its requirements. An unorganised industry, it runs in the hands of private players with little intervention or help from the government.
In pursuing this project, undertaken as part of Neel Dongre Photography Grant 2015, I have spent days in Mayapuri to understand and document the processes and the market. The documentation became complete at a furnace in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh where the scrap was processed into pig iron.
(Saumya Khandelwal is a photojournalist based in Delhi.)
(Published in the July 2016 issue of Fountain Ink)