The children joke that they live across the street near the Prime Minister’s residence. But as you cross the road that divides the country’s most important address, 7 Race Course Road, from the slum clusters it is a journey from what is the very best to the most neglected.
Huddled together and surrounded by filth is a cluster of about 100-odd slum dwellings which stands on the land once owned by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Mansingh. Cut to the present, the people living in what has come to be known as Bhaiyaram Camp are disappointed that they have been left untouched by the frenzy of development linked to the Commonwealth Games.
“We have been promised development for years now. We have voter identity cards, ration cards and survey records, yet all we have today is promises made by politicians over the years,” said a resident of the camp, who wished to remain anonymous. Pointing to the overflowing toilets, heaps of garbage and blocked sewers, he said: “The stench is unbearable, our children have to walk through this everyday and our health remains at risk.”
Proximity to the Race Course grounds too has compounded their misery. “Though men in the camp are mostly employed in various ways at the Race Course grounds, we have to face great difficulty when the races are on. The entry and exit to the camp is restricted. Also in the morning and evenings when the horses are let out, it is dangerous for the children,” said Ramesh Kumar, the Pradhan of Bhaiyaram Camp.
Water for drinking and other uses comes from a common tap, electricity is limited though paid for and roads are punctuated by potholes. “The roads were laid in 1982 when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi came to inaugurate a temple here. The roads were repaired once thereafter, but by and large they have remained neglected,” said Mr. Kumar.
A little away from Bhaiyaram Camp is another cluster of hutments and semi-pucca houses. With no nomenclature, this side of the habitation has “near Masjid on Race Course” as its address. “Even a few minutes of rain is enough to flood the area. We have slush for days and when children go to school with muddy shoes they get punished,” complained Naeem Ahmed, a resident.
There is one tap for the 80 households, no sewer lines, and only a single streetlamp. “I dial the municipal complaint number so frequently, I don’t need to look up the phone book anymore. But their response is always the same, they promise to come and fix things. Meanwhile, we continue to suffer,” said Mr. Ahmed.
Residents are upset that while the city is undergoing massive changes, they have been left out of the development juggernaut. “Forget a dispensary or a school, we have to live in jhuggis that are barely big enough for two people. After at least two surveys, the Land and Development Office has identified 133 households in Bhaiyaram Camp, even though there are 512 for rehabilitation,” said Mr. Kumar.
Waiting for rehabilitation, the residents want the Government to ensure that they are not uprooted to the faraway fringes of the city. “Seventy per cent of the women here work in the nearby embassies and markets, the men work in the Race Course grounds. So if we are sent to someplace like Bawana, it will mean an end to our earnings,” said Mr. Kumar, and demanded in-situ rehabilitation by the Government.