In the first of its four-part series on the homeless, The Hindu takes a look at those who, driven by circumstances, have made the India Gate lawns their home
Even the Capital’s who’s who cannot claim a posher address. Living in the sprawling lawns of the Boat Club at India Gate are over a hundred men, women, children and families who call this place their ‘home.’
They don’t pay any rent, nor power or water bills.
While there are some who have been staying here for over a decade, there are others who were born here and have never known any other residence.
Sixty five-year-old Kuchbena from Uttar Pradesh is one of the many people who have settled here ‘permanently’. He came here for treatment and never went back home.
A permanent figure near the Vayu Sena Bhawan bus stop, Kuchbena said: “I came to Delhi over two years ago for my treatment and then later realised that I wasn’t really missed back home.”
He said nobody wants to look after an old man with no income, huge medical bills and who is physically too weak to walk even a metre without assistance.
“I live on people’s charity and I have rarely missed a meal in the past two years. I bathe and wash at the Boat Club. I am happy living here at India Gate,” he said.
His neighbour, Bishwanath, a person afflicted with leprosy, made the Boat Club lawns his home a decade ago.
“I used to have my own shop in West Bengal but came to Delhi for treatment and never left. I go back whenever there is a need at home but that is very rare,” he said.
Bishwanath showed the various government identification cards that he has acquired over the years.
“But they mean nothing to us, as do the various schemes brought in by the government for the poor. I have my friends here and the policemen posted here rarely trouble us. Of course we are required to move when celebrations are organised at India Gate, otherwise nobody really bothers us,” he pointed out.
The police at the Boat Club agree that the lawns are used by several shelterless poor as their home.
“They are rarely involved in any organised crime. Most have either been abandoned by their families or live with their families here. There are occasional fights but we are yet to face any major security concerns from them,” a police officer said.
“Many have various diseases and almost all of them use drugs and smoke but we understand that most of them do this to cope with the life on the streets,” he added.
Interestingly, none of those on the streets at India Gate want any help from the government in terms of food, clothes or even shelter. “We are fine here. The people of Delhi and the God above takes care of us,” said Kuchbena.