Dipti Bapat is a social anthropologist, specialises in urban informal livelihoods and works at the intersections of research and practice. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Central University of Hyderabad and a Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She was a University Grants Commission’s Senior Research fellow and an Inlaks Grant Awardee.

Her research focuses on Indian’s De-notified Nomadic communities involved in informal waste-based livelihoods in Indian cities.

Currently, she works at India’s Urban Livelihoods Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, as a Social Mobilisation specialist, to support to the Mission’s implementation

What happens to India’s used textiles?—Second Hand clothes recycling and its informal workforce

Keywords: Second hand clothes, Indian clothes recycling, Waghri community, Informal vendors, women workers

Abstract: Within the discussions on the textile crossings and larger debates on the explosion of global “fast fashion” industry; little is known about what happens to the clothes once they are discarded. This slippage of the massive second hand clothes market, driven by the global North, further perpetuates informal threads of labour in the global South. Studying the impact of the global North’s worn clothing disposal patterns on the third world nations, and India in particular; this paper brings in the story of India’s second hand clothes recyclers or Chindhiwallis. Chindhiwallis—majorly women workers of a nomadic tribal community named Waghri , practice an itinerant trade of exchanging old clothes for utensils from India’s urban households. With minimal access to either the capital intensive Indian imports of old clothes or large-scale exports involving high end players; this community operates a unique family based recycling trade since four generations now. Chindhi Bazaars or India’s street based urban second hand clothes markets operated by this community are their main sites of trade negotiations and market opportunities. This paper is based on an ethnographic research of the Waghri community, exploring their rural-urban industry networks, intra community gendered trade roles and deplorable working conditions as nomadic vendors in Indian cities.