A year after Delhi deluge, slum victims wait for rehabilitation

Savitri has not been able to pay house rent — ₹8,000 — for the last two months. She is worried as she doesn’t know how she’ll manage this month’s as well.

A year ago, Savitri and nine other families lost their homes to a natural calamity. A heavy downpour swept away 10 houses in Anna Nagar slums, leaving their lives uprooted in a day.

Nearly a year after, the affected families are now scattered across East and Central Delhi and are living on rent. The Hindu met a bunch of families who had to move to VinodNagar and are now struggling to make ends meet while waiting for rehabilitation.

Lived in tents

Along with her two children, Ms. Savitri recalls living in a tent for nearly 15 days, the Delhi government had set up right after the incident. They stayed there opposite to their damaged houses, close to Indraprastha metro station. “It was raining for days even after the incident and we used to lie wet under the tent. Sometimes, we took refuge at the metro station,” she said. With a permanent solution not in hand, the authorities asked the families to move to a school where they lived for a month and a half.

“When the school had to open for an examination, the officials again asked us to move to a rain shelter house at Sarai Kale Khan. It was so dirty, we refused. We were then asked to live with our relatives for a few days and were promised that we’ll be allotted houses. However, days passed by and no one even came to look for us,” said Janki who lives with her three children, husband and parents in-law in a house where she has to pay ₹4,500 as rent every month.

Space constraint

Of the four families, presently living in VinodNagar, one is 60-year-old Jhima Devi. In a single-room accommodation, she lives with her husband and her 100-year-old mother-in-law. Her two sons and their families who used to live together with them in Anna Nagar, now live in separate rented accommodations because of space constrains.

I haven’t paid rent for four months, said Ms. Devi. The COVID-19 induced lockdown only added to her woes.

Ms. Devi’s husband, Nand Kishore, works at a hotel in Connaught Place and while he didn’t lose his job during the lockdown, he was paid nothing for two months. He was asked to join work only a week ago.

“We have not paid rent for four months. Thankfully, one of my sons who works at a government school has been getting his salary. He helped us with money for food and other essentials,” she said, adding that her 100-year-old mother-in-law fell while walking and broke a bone and was had to be hospitalised. “Though the treatment was free of cost, we had to bear the cost of some medicines”.

Adding to the woes

Ms. Devi has been getting calls from the landlord to pay up the rent which is now long overdue. “I told him that my husband has just resumed work and will pay up soon”.

Adding to the miseries, Ms. Devi’s daughter, Manju, also lost her job six months ago due to the pandemic. The family faced the same problem during the lockdown last year but they didn’t have to bear the rent as they were at their own home last year.

Kamla Devi (58) and her husband Pan Singh are also struggling to make ends meet as their sons who used to previously stay with them now live separately on rent. “We need money. My husband can’t walk properly. He works as a security guard outside an ATM,” she said. “I hope we don’t die waiting for the house”.

It’s Ms. Savitri daughter’s fifth birthday next month and the mother is disheartened because due to financial crisis she won’t be able to celebrate it the way her daughter is expecting. She started working as a house help in AshokaNiketan is East Delhi. “I need to first take an e-rickshaw and then a bus to reach the house. Sometimes, I walk the path instead of taking an e-rickshaw to save some money”.

Dodged by officials

Her husband Kuber Chand Kotiyal works as a security guard in Old Delhi and rides a cycle to work. He has been to goversnment offices a multiple times to get updates about their house but has been dodged every time.

“In the last one year, I have tried to meet several officials in municipal department and the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board [DUSIB] but they keep telling me that our work will be done. On July 5, along with a member from each affected family, I visited the DUSIB office in West Delhi. They told me to come next month. I told them that if nothing happens till next month, then all the families will come here and stay outside the office”.

It has been learnt that survey of this JJ cluster has been conducted by the DUSIB for rehabilitation.

DUSIB member Bipin Rai said that the government body has completed the formalities for rehabilitation of these families. “However, the Central government is intervening and asking the DUSIB to allot houses on rent. The discussion over the matter is ongoing,” he said.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 6:25:42 PM |

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