Out of work, slum dwellers in the city start losing savings

Slum dwellers in west Delhi’s Sudhama Puri on Monday.  

At Basai Darapur and Sudhama Puri - slums that are mostly inhabited by daily wage labourers, domestic help and rickshaw pullers - families are finding it difficult to survive. They are out of work, feeling neglected, and trying hard to access basic necessities.

Sangeeta from Sudhama Puri, who worked as a house help, said she is six months pregnant and is concerned over the money required for her child’s birth. “When she [employer] needed me, she used to make so many calls. Now, she hasn’t even asked me how I am managing, whether I am alive or not. She deducted money for 10 days and when I asked for her help, she did not even open the door and treated me like an untouchable,” said Sangeeta. She last went to work on March 22. “Jab waqt aata hai to koi madad nahin karta [When needed, no one helps].”

Sangeeta said her husband, a rickshaw puller, is also out of work.

‘Out of money’

A 25-year-old man, Sajjan Singh from Uttar Pradesh’s Unnao, a rickshaw puller said he walked 17 km from his jhuggi in the hope of getting a bus home but was stopped by the police.

“There is no work. I had savings that lasted for four-five days. I ran out of money and wanted to go back to the village where my family stays but couldn’t. I will have to now wait for the curfew to end,” he said. When asked how he will manage food, he said: “Yahi log khila rahe hain [The people here are feeding me].” He said he has been in Delhi for over 12 years and “have never faced a situation like this”.

With buffalo-litter and garbage around him, the residents of Sudhama Puri slums, also complained of municipal workers not turning up to clean the area. “There is no option for us to stand, sit and sleep away from each other. We are hardly able to take precautionary measures. A majority of us don’t even own masks because they are so expensive,” said Nitu, a house help.

A few meters ahead, in the slums of Basai Darapur, many daily wage labourers were seen waiting for their employers to give them money, which has been due for sometime. Shivam (19), Raju Kumar (20) and Manglu (34), all from Uttar Pradesh, were seen discussing how they will manage the next month’s rent if they are stuck in the city. These labourersmostly pick bricks for a living.

Wapas jaane ke liye bhi to paisa chahiye. Vo bhi nahin hai. Uske liye hi baithe hain yahan [We need money to go back. That too we don’t have and that is why we are sitting here],” said Shivam, adding that there is no point walking home or going in over-crowded buses.

Manglu said: “I have not heard of any poor person being diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s for the rich, but the worst hit are poor.”

While everyone in Basai Darapur shared their fear of running out of food and money, Nisha, a househelp, said she is most hurt by the treatment meted out to her by her employer. “Usne kaha jab bimari khatam hogi tab aa jana. Pata nahin kahan se aate ho tum log. Main ghar main nahin aane dungi ab [She said come when the epidemic is over. I don’t know where you come from. I won’t let you in],” she said.

Right opposite Nisha’s residence, is Badlu Ram’s jhuggi. With just a kitchen and a washing space inside, nine personslive in that house. “We are worried that where will the next meal come from?” the gardener said.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 6:33:41 PM |

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