Last ray of hope for destitutes fast fading

NEW DELHI DEC. 7. For the past six years, the Delhi House Society has been working among the destitute, addicts, sick and dying underneath the flyover at Yamuna Bazaar near the Inter State Bus Terminus. While the most serious cases from among the streets get immediate attention and first aid at their rescue centre at Yamuna Bazaar, those requiring long-term rehabilitation are taken to "Sewa Ashram'', a rehabilitation centre in Narela.

This centre has been built on a land bought by the Delhi House Society and at present 40 patients suffering from AIDS and Tuberculosis receive treatment here. "Over the past four years, more than 400 people have been treated here,'' says Ton Snellart, a Dutchman who has made Delhi his home after the plight of a street adult without any clothes moved him to tears when he was on a visit to India some years ago.

"Many of those who are brought to our centre are mentally unstable, handicapped and unable to cope with life on the streets, it is for these children and women at risk that Sewa Ashram hopes to give an answer,'' points out Ton.

However, this project is threatened with closure thanks to an official notification issued by the Land and Building Department of the Government of NCT of Delhi. "We bought this premises from a resident of the area who did not tell us that the LBO was planning to acquire the entire area here for relocating the industries. And it has been really a hard task for us to collect the requisite money for purchasing the building.''

When Ton Snellart started his work in Delhi, he looked around for a suitable place to house the destitutes. Initially, he moved to a rented place in Narela on the suggestion of one of his friends. "This place is close to Delhi and yet far away from the madding crowd. That is why I decided to set up an ashram here,'' he informs.

Commuting from and to Delhi is quite a problem but Ton manages it quite efficiently. The serious cases picked up from Yamuna Bazaar are admitted to St. Stephen's Hospital and other Government hospital like G. B. Pant Hospital. "We needed to move into our own premises and so, we identified this land in Krishna Nagar, Narela, where we are located at present. Alas, we did not know that its previous owner was trying to fool us,'' rues Ton.

At Sewa Ashram, there is a centre for the destitutes and a separate home for the kids. Those who have got cured are employed in the centre an there is an institutionalised atmosphere of love and care that brings the half-dead picked up from the streets back to life. And many of them have found the zest for life once again. "When they are brought here, they are almost dead. But they spring back to life when they receive love and care here,'' an imate said.

Appealing to the Delhi Lieuetnant Governor, Vijai Kapoor, to help them retain their "Sewa Ashram'', Ton invites him and others to come and see for themselves the institutionalised care and support that they receive. "No one cares for the adult destitutes and on any given day, there are 300 of them in the Yamuna Bazaar area alone,'' he says, pointing out that the adult destitutes suffering from complex health problems are left to their own fate.

And for such people, Sewa Ashram is their only hope. A hope which might also fade away, if the authorities do not lend their empathetic support.

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