Housed in a camp surrounded by garbage, these families have neither electricity nor running water. Why should politicians care, we are not voters, they say.
New Delhi: There is heaps of garbage along the main road leading up to this settlement of Pakistani Hindu refugees in the capital. Sandwiched between the scrap and sewer water in New Delhi’s Adarsh Nagar, are the straw huts that house the 600 refugees from about 100 to 150 families.
For close to five years, the members of the camp have been fighting for Indian citizenship, while living amid squalor. From all parts of Pakistan, they had travelled here in search of a better life in 2013. Since then, they’ve had to endure the elements, disease and indifferent authorities.
The camp has no electricity and no running water. The only available facility, a community toilet, has tube wells installed but no electricity to run them on. As such, people have to depend on the everyday water tankers for all their needs.
Battling the Darkness
The Water Woes
Each Drop Matters
Walking the Slippery lanes
Picking up the Pieces
Walking the dirty roads
Gazing toward the other side
Trying to find the silver lining
Their plight was highlighted on social media on 25 June when a social worker tweeted about the conditions this community has been living in, tagging the prime minister along with some union ministers and rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra.
It prompted Kapil Mishra to tweet against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, accusing him of bias and discrimination.
You have disconnected power supply of Hindu Refugees from Pakistan living in Aadarsh Nagar, Delhi
140 kids and infants are suffering
Don't torture these Hundreds of Hindu families who came to India to live with dignity pic.twitter.com/saIwWcRjsX
— Kapil Mishra (@KapilMishra_IND) June 26, 2018
No electricity for two months
The uproar on social media was sparked by reports that the colony had spent two months of the summer without electricity. It had led to the death of Rama Bai, in her 40s, around two weeks ago, who couldn’t cope with the searing heat.
The residents made unauthorised connections directly from electricity poles but they were cut down by the electricity department.
“We came to India hoping for a good life but nothing has changed. We don’t know what to do,” says Dhuri, Rama’s daughter. Rama is survived by her husband, three daughters and three married sons, two of whom have young children.
Since the incident, however, authorities have made available a generator to provide electricity for 10-12 hours to the families. The community members, however, complain that the voltage from the generator is very weak and isn’t even enough to run fans for a few hours.
Now that the monsoons have arrived, while there is some respite from the heat, those in the settlement have to grapple with other issues.
Battling disease and mosquitoes
The rains combined with garbage, the residents say, bring their own set of problems. Nehru Lal, pradhan (head) of the Refugees’ Committee, says there is stagnant water everywhere, leading to the increased presence of mosquitoes.
“But the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has been really helpful. In every two to three days, they send someone to spray pesticides in the whole area. This has certainly helped in controlling the mosquitoes and spread of diseases,” he says.
This, however, isn’t always the case, say the refugees. They say that whenever they have approached the authorities with their problems, all they have got in return are mere promises.
“Why will they bother about us? We are not in the voting population, else the ministers themselves would have come and picked up this garbage,” says a man in his 60s who did not want to be identified.
The community members say various groups such as the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad have helped them from time to time but none have provided a long-term solution.
They say they have even written to BJP MP Harsh Vardhan, AAP MLA Pawan Kumar Sharma, AAP MLA Kapil Mishra and the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal seeking their help.
‘Tussle over land delays power connections’
MCD officials said that there is confusion regarding the ownership of the land, on which rests the settlement, between the Delhi Jal Board and the ministry of defence. Only after receiving the clearance from the landowners, the MCD will be able to provide temporary power connections, officials said.
BJP MP Harsh Vardhan’s office blamed a lack of co-ordination for the crisis.
“We have been doing everything on our side and have regularly visited the settlement but a lack of coordination between the various agencies has delayed the process to improve the settlement,” the MP’s office said.
Adarsh Nagar MLA Pawan Kumar Sharma’s office claimed that it has written to the electricity department and the L-G to look into the matter since jurisdiction is divided. It, however, provided no such correspondence to support this claim.