Boats are usually parked at the shores for travelling in Yamuna. The village also has around three boats parked for travelling within the waters | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
In this Delhi village, people keep boats parked on the shores of Yamuna. The village shares 3 boats | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
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New Delhi: In Delhi’s Chak Shila, a remote village that is only accessible by a boat, Covid-19 is not the biggest concern for the villagers.

Situated in the Yamuna Khadar area in North Delhi and home to almost 80 people, the villagers struggle for basic amenities like food and electricity. They do not wear masks or have hand sanitisers as they believe that none of them can actually contract Covid-19 considering how inaccessible the village is. There has not been a single Covid-positive case from here.

The main road from the village, in Mayur Vihar, is around 7 km from Chak Shila. One has to cross farm fields, small temporary settlements and a part of the Yamuna river to reach the village.

Most of the villagers, who have been residing here for the past 30 years, work on agricultural fields while some women used to work as domestic helps before the lockdown.

Budhni Devi, a 54-year-old farmer, recollects how nothing has changed in the village since she was a child. “We used to travel in boats when I was a child, and now my children also use the boat to go school,” she says.

Before the lockdown was announced in March, the children of the village used to go to school in Mayur Vihar and it took them nearly two hours to reach the school.

Once the lockdown was announced, the villagers faced a new set of problems. Most lost their jobs and many crops were ruined during these months. Children, who had to now access online classes, did not even have money to recharge their internet packs.

The village also does not have any electricity and they rely on small solar lights provided by local NGOs to use at night.

The Yamuna river is the only source of water for the village but for drinking water, they have to travel to Okhla in boats and fill huge cans.

The river that sustains them, also turns deadly during the monsoon. When it rains heavily, the village gets surrounded by water from three sides and the villagers have to move to the nearby Delhi-Noida highway to seek shelter.

They stay there in temporary tents and come back again once the water recedes. This has become an annual cycle for the villagers.

Almost all residents of the village have Voter ID cards, ration cards and Aadhaar cards, but this have not provided them access to any facilities.

For now, they demand that the government construct proper shelters for them so that they can at least stop their annual cycle of relocation.

ThePrint’s photojournalist Manisha Mondal visited Chak Shila for two consecutive days to capture life in this remote village, flanked by the Yamuna river.

Children in the village use a night lamp to study. The night lamp is charged using a solar plate provided by a NGO| Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Children in the village use a solar night lamp to study. The night lamp is charged using a solar plate provided by an NGO | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
The homes in the village are scattered all over, families take these undefined paths through the jungle | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
The homes in the village are scattered across the area. Families know these undefined paths through the jungle like the back of their hand | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
As children grew in the village have to use boats, most of them have learnt how to ride a boat | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Children learn how to row boats early on since it is the only way to access the main road in Mayur Vihar | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Some of the houses have cylinders and stoves provided by the local land owners | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Some of the houses are equipped with cylinders and stoves that were provided by local landowners | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
They still like to use the old fashion ovens to cook in order to save | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Some villagers still use wood fire and and coal pits to cook food, in order to save money | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
In a blue bedsheet, villagers collect wild plums | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
The diet here includes wild plums that villagers collect from the trees by holding a bedsheet under it | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Most of the villagers are from Bihar, hence there is a small Chat mandir at the entry of the village | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Most of the residents here hail from Bihar, and therefore there is a small Chat mandir at the village’s entry | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
A woman uses the boat to go to the nearest shop to buy groceries | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
A woman uses the boat to go to the nearest shop to buy groceries | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Sikha Kumari, a 23-year-old, worked at a beauty parlour in Noida, lost her job during the lockdown. She scored 64% in class 12, unfortunately, due to financial restraints could not continue her studies | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Twenty-three-year-old Sikha Kumari worked at a beauty parlour in Noida but lost her job during the lockdown. She scored 64% in Class 12 but could not continue with her studies due to lack of finances | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
The residents stand at the shore bidding goodbye | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
Village residents wave goodbye as this journalist leaves | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

Also read: Afghan Sikhs look to India for a better life, but those already here are still struggling


 

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