Under lockdown, life in Nizamuddin

After news of the outbreak from Nizamuddin in late March, residents have been living behind barricades.   | Photo Credit: THE HINDU

Bang next to the Hazrat Nizamuddin police station, a lane going towards the basti is barricaded and guarded by CRPF officials. A huge white building hidden behind lush green trees is visible. It’s the infamous Nizamuddin centre where members of the Tablighi Jamaat gathered and were then being villifed for a massive spike in COVID-19 cases.

After news of the outbreak from Nizamuddin in late March, Nizamuddin residents have been living behind the barricades and for most the world outside the area has been reduced to an apprehensive stare.

As this reporter walked from the police station, to the left and the right, all entry and exit points could be seen heavily barricaded with thick ropes covering the little space left uncovered by the barricades.

From behind one barricade, Shamim Bano, a 30-year-old resident of the Basti’s Nizam Nagar area, who used to work as a sanitation worker in the UPSC Building on Shahjahan Road, was seen walking around, tragedy writ on her face.

When asked, she began to share an ordeal she won’t forget — the birth of her grandson about two weeks ago. “My daughter went into labour. I called for ambulance but no one picked up. I went to the police station and they told me to call PCR. Though the van came in 20 minutes, my grandson was already born. She still hasn’t got injected with tetanus,” she said.

Ms. Shamim said that while there were medical shops opening inside the basti, there were no doctors available inside 24x7. “The medical shops open only for a limited period of time, about two hours each in the morning and evening. Only basic medicines are available there. No clinics are open here and no doctors are available. There’s a dispensary accessible for us where doctors come for a particular time,” she said.

Inside the basti — where the houses are as small as the size of a large trunk with seven-eight family members cramped — is a contrast to the empty spaces outside. Grocery, chicken, fruits and vegetables vendors have their shops and stalls open as a loudspeaker message from Delhi Police runs on loop asking people not to step outside without a purpose.

“There is no problem for fruits and vegetables for buyers inside because we bring them from Okhla Mandi every morning after standing in queue for four hours, which is an issue for us vendors. We have been issued travel passes for movement,” said Mohammed Azhar, a vegetable vendor.

Constant vigil

Assistant Sub Inspector Rakesh Kumar holds a stick and asks people to remain in their houses. But how could he prevent children from walking into public toilets? Most houses in Nizam Nagar are dependent on public toilets, which are cleaned by the municipal corporation workers in the morning. However, Mr. Kumar keeps a vigil on those moving about aimlessly and ensures they go home.

A shop owner sitting inside his grocery store, who gave his name as Raju said that over the last one month, there had been no change or relaxation in the restrictions inside the basti due to which the situation is under control. Police sources said that the last person who was reported positive was on April 24

Restricted entry

The famous Nizamuddin Dargah also has its doors shut for public, but three persons are allowed to offer prayers every day inside this Dargah and about 18 other mosques in the area. The three persons sanitise themselves and pray every day, locals said.

Altamish Nizami, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s ancestral descendant and also member of the Dargah Committee, said that everything was available inside and even home deliveries were happening. He also said that during Ramzan security personnel have allowed people to move around “only a little” in the evening while breaking the fast.

“There’s absolute restriction on entry and exit but for people residing inside, they are allowed to step out a little for opening their fast in the evening,” he said.

Mr. Nizami also shared how the Dargah Committee is preparing and distributing about 500 food packets every evening for the needy. “Every year, about 2,000 people break their fast at the Dargah and we prepare food for them. This year, we can’t host them but still we are sending food,” he said.

When talking about the religious centre, several residents were sympathetic towards the members of the Tablighi Jamaat. “They were evacuated but not all of them were infected. They should not be villified like this,” Mohammed Shahnawaz, another resident of the area, added.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 4:43:58 AM |

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