Drain separates the haves from the have-nots

Drain separates the haves from the have-nots

Located along a drain, the Taimur Nagar slum is home to around 10,000 people working mainly as domestic servants and roadside vendors in nearby New Friends Colony, Batla House and Jamia Nagar.

Neglected by the city's administration, residents of this slum have been waging a daily fight with unhygienic surroundings, health issues, drug addiction and above all poverty. Running a small tea shop, situated at the entry of the colony, 28-year-old Abdul Rahman looks older than his age. "I have a family of 10 people. I got married when I was only 18, and my eldest son is nine years old. I and my brother are the only two earning members of our family of 10," he says.

The drain divides the slum from the Taimur Nagar colony, and has become an unlikely landmark for it. "People call us those who live at the other side of the 'nullah'," he adds. Living at the mercy of nature, slum dwellers have a tough time during the monsoon when the drain springs back in life and flows with its full might.

"During rainy season, the drain starts overflowing and water spills over into our houses and shops. I have to shut my shop during the season which affects my earnings. Even at home we can't step down from our wooden beds as the floor remains awash with water," says Rahman.

Despite living in such conditions, relocation doesn't' excite the local people. In 2013, the government announced allotment of flats for them to the outskirts of Delhi near Dwarka.

"Few years back, the previous government wanted us to leave this place and promised to give pucca houses with better facilities. We were given the allotment letters also after we deposited Rs 68,500 for one-bedroom and Rs 98,000 for two-bedroom flats. However, three years since then, we haven't got anything," says Rahman. On second thoughts, Rahman adds that the thought of leaving this place for a new one fills his mind with fear and uncertainty.

Reluctant to move

"Even if we get the houses, we will not go there willingly. We were born here, and somehow managed to learn how to survive in these kinds of circumstances. In a new environment we will have to start from scratch, I don't know how we will survive there. If given a choice we would like to remain here. Anyway, how can a family of 10 live in a two-bedroom flat," says Rahman.

Squeezed between the desires of city planners for a more beautiful skyline and lack of funds for adequate housing for urban poor, slum dwellers have become a pawn in the hands of politicians who use them strategically to propel themselves in power.

"The present AAP MLA from this constituency Amanatullah Khan, used to visit regularly during the run-up to Delhi election in 2015. However, after becoming an MLA, he hasn't shown his face even once here," says Pappu Morya, another resident of Taimur Nagar slum.

The children are caught in the cycle of poverty. School going children of the slum can't seem to relate with an education model where they have to study for 15-18 years, when all they are concerned about is their daily bread and a bit of 'fun'.

Juveniles as young as 9-10 years are using the money which their parents give them for daily expenses to buy drugs, including something called `solution.' Sometimes a group of juveniles pool in money to buy expensive drugs like smack also.

Drug menace

"Few years back, unemployed youngsters and vagabonds introduced drugs like, smack, ganja, and solution in the area. Now even school going children use it,"says Morya, also a father of a 12-year-old boy.

"Juveniles roam around in gangs and at night commit burglary at nearby colonies and in their own slums also. All of them are addicted to drugs and constantly require money to purchase them, hence thefts and burglaries are a constant problem here," he adds.

Eve-teasing and rape, crimes unheard of in the slum few years back are beginning to be reported here, and according to the local people drug addiction is one of the biggest reasons for the deteriorating moral fibre.

"Young and nubile girls are especially at risk here, as the unemployed boys and men keep roaming in the area looking for such targets," says Morya.

"Three-four months back, a married woman with two children was raped in her house on knife-point in front of her husband by a local goon," he says. The assailant then dragged the woman on the low rooftop, and then pushed her down from there to instill fear in her and her husband.

"The culprit, however, was arrested later but the family vacated the area and went back to their village out of fear," he says.

Amid the despair, however, is the fact that no communal flare-up has ever been recorded in the area with a sizable population of both Hindus and Muslims living together. "I am Abdul Rahman and he is Pappu Morya, and we both are poor, that's our identity," says Rahman.