Displaced, people languish along roadsides, under flyovers in Delhi

Amid the flooding woes, there was no let-up in the ongoing tussle between the Delhi government and the bureaucrats over arrangements in the relief camps in the national capital

Updated - July 16, 2023 11:36 am IST

Published - July 16, 2023 01:28 am IST - New Delhi

Floodwaters at the Yamuna Bazar area on Saturday.

Floodwaters at the Yamuna Bazar area on Saturday. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

For Premi Devi, a refugee from Pakistan’s Sindh Province who is currently lodged in a government relief camp near the Signature Bridge after Yamuna waters washed away her house on Sunday night, life hasn’t been easy. Displaced from her ‘home’ for a second time in less than five years, she is now swamped by a new worry – finding a toilet every time she and her daughters need to use it.

With no portable toilets made available for the families living in about 15-17 tents in the camp, Ms. Devi says, “We risk our lives and go to the forest area nearby when no one is watching.” Taking a bath is even more difficult. “We go behind our tents and bathe with our clothes on. What to do?” she says.

Ms. Devi, along with 61 more families, used to reside in the Yamuna floodplains under the Signature Bridge up until the floods came. But after moving to the relief camp, the unhygienic conditions and lack of basic amenities have only increased their problems.

People at a relief camp in Mori Gate.

People at a relief camp in Mori Gate. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Mounting woes

A few kilometres away at the Nursery Pusta relief camp under a flyover near Mayur Vihar Phase-I, about 4,000 people have been sleeping on the road in tents. But not everybody is lucky enough. Some are just managing to survive with a thin sheet of plastic above their heads. “Government authorities and NGOs are proving food, drinking water and medicines, but we have got only a tent and a thin mat on the road in the name of shelter here,” says Ganga Dayal, one of the many vegetable farmers from the floodplains living in the camp.

“Even the mat is not there in so many tents . Some of us are using our cots that we saved from the flood,” says his wife, Parvati Devi. While there are a few portable toilets in this camp, many say that the number of people using them is too high and they are “very dirty”. “Most people just go somewhere under the flyover,” says Mr. Dayal.

Also Read | As Yamuna river level in Delhi continues to rise, water supply hit, schools shut

Mayur Vihar Executive Magistrate Vinod Kumar, who has been managing the camp, says that he is aware of the problem. He, however, cites the lack of availability of portable toilets with the authorities.

Officials at the camp also say that the people were asked to move to a nearby government school but they refused. Anil Banka, District Magistrate (East), says, “On Friday night, we arranged over 50 buses and requested people to move out but nobody came. Most people here don’t want to leave their cattle and other belongings, and want to stay close to their slums.”

“How can we leave our cattle here with nobody to protect them? And what if when we are gone, the government demolishes our slums,” says Om Pal, another resident of the camp.

Slightly better off

However, the conditions look relatively better at a shelter inside the government’s Sarvodya Vidyalaya at Mori Gate with people having access to school toilets and bathrooms. People at the camp say that they are being regularly cleaned.

Also Read | As Yamuna River water level recedes, focus shifts to relief camps

Amid the piling crisis, there, however, was no let-up in the ongoing tussle between the Delhi government and the bureaucrats over arrangements in the relief camps on Saturday as Cabinet Minister Atishi wrote to Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar alleging that senior officials have not been responding to her.

“Since yesterday [Friday] there have been complaints regarding the lack of facilities in the relief camps — shortage of water and toilets, no electricity, poor quality of food etc. I have been trying to get in touch with the Divisional Commissioner (Revenue) since morning but he is not answering my phone calls or responding to my messages,” she wrote, directing Mr. Kumar to ensure facilities in relief camps and take action against officials showing laxity.

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