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Delhi slums: Diversity or disparity

Delhi, Sat, 07 Apr 2007 Nadeem Bhat

April 7: No doubt the country, the second fastest growing economy in Asia has grown big and powerful but the indelible marks and stains of poverty continue to remain. Not far from the seat of great academicians and statesmen, in the national capital, Delhi, is a place miserable and not worth living. The much aware population talks about 9.3 per cent GDP growth, talks about metros and malls, events and places and altogether ignore the slums that are visible much before the sight fades off.

At a walking distance from Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) and close to the Mahipalpur outskirts, lies some of the poorest slums in Delhi. This small haven of destitute inhabits three communities – Singhi basti, Sapera basti and Kabadi basti. These communities have been occupying the disputed lands of Delhi Development Authority DDA, for last ten years. The quality of their life is below standard and in no way better than the animals they domesticate.

Swines flourish through out the region and are actually greater in number than the combined population of all three communities. Fact is that the surroundings suit them better than it suits humans. The pork sellers come there to nab their prey and kill them leaving behind their remnants in the copious garbage. Small children, the future of India have to work harder to find left over in the dump with the remnants and carcasses. It is worse than what watches in movies and most of us don’t pay any heed, because we believe that reel life is not what real life is, as it cannot be so miserable in practical life.

The level of ignorance is unthinkable and you will find people indulging into almost all heinous crimes, as if they have got a right to do them and it comes to them as a routine. The community people exhibit an aggressive behavior, there is high infant mortality rate, domestic violence is a norm, safe drinking water is just a dream, diseases are but inevitable. Spouses consider wife battering as their right, children take labor as their duty and parents assert their right to make them work, women keep conceiving till it stops naturally. Because of the belief, which is more a fact, parents produce five or six kids as few survive after fighting the living conditions?

Recently few university students from Social Work Department, University of Kashmir visited the communities for a small time survey. Some of the findings as revealed by them are listed below:

• The literacy rate among the female children in two out of three communities is zero per cent and for boys it varies from three to five percent in the three communities.
• None of the three communities have access to safe drinking water facilities.
• A full 100 per cent of children belonging to Sapera basti are employed in various labor activities.
• Child marriage, particularly in the case of females stands as 80 per cent.
• 90 per cent of the families in Sapera basti were having one or more members addicted to drugs.
• Most importantly none of the community members possessed identity cards, any kind of proofs and the same was observed for ration cards as well.

Living in such conditions is a challenge and the communities have neither regrets nor reservations. They are truly downtrodden. Being citizens of the Republic of India, they too are entitled to the fundamental right and the greatest good that any state, any constitution can guarantee – ‘the right to live a good life’. Though NGOs and civil societies report these inequalities but there is more that needs to be done. Policy makers should consider such people as being entitled to equal rights and these poor people must not left to stink and perish.

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