The Modi government has completed one year, and Kejriwal’s government has completed 100 days in Delhi. Both of them came with humongous support from the masses. But even now there seems to have been very little change in the lives of the people living on the margins of society.
As you walk around Connaught Place in Delhi, you can see people sleeping on the streets, children begging and some engaging in narcotics- everything in Delhi’s heart. The middle class of India’s capital considers this nuisance, but fails to provide any solution to it. Sadly we have never heard any concrete plans by any government to tackle this.
“This is not nuisance. This is the reality, and is an evidence that our governments have failed the people. Also, there is no popular plan to take care of the people sleeping on streets.” says Rohan, a freelance journalist and social activist. Rohan rightly points out that there is no popular plan to rehabilitate the homeless people in the city. Whenever any politician is asked about the people on the streets, there is a standard reply that they are working on a concrete plan. There might be plans on paper, but the reality of Delhi looks different.
Several days ago, while covering the Delhi elections, I had a conversation with one such homeless person near the Hanuman Temple in Connaught Place. The person told me that there is a strong Kejriwal wave in the poorer segment of society because they felt Kejriwal will ensure better living standards for them. Nothing concrete has been done so far. “He is doing something. There are lot of work to be done. It is too early to expect anything from Kejriwal.” said another homeless person in a recent conversation. The popularity graph of Kejriwal has not gone down as of now.
There is no clarity on the number of homeless people in Delhi. From 25,000 to ten times the number, the divergent figures have made everybody confused. The population of slum dwellers in the city is at a whopping three million according to the latest census survey. The population pressure has caused many problems which the government has not been able to tackle. For instance various governments in Delhi have been promising the slum dwellers to legalise their settlements, but there is no plan of better livelihood around these promises. Sheila Dixit, the erstwhile Chief Minister of Delhi, had confessed publicly in 2013 that there is a vested interest of political parties to allow the slums to grow, but they need to do something now. She had admitted that the political parties see the slum dwellers as potential vote banks, and thus the people are left to their ill conditions.
The homeless and the slum dwellers constitute the majority of the city, as only 25% of the population lives in organized colonies within the city. The Kejriwal government seem to spend too much money on the posters of the Chief Minister with a vow to end corruption, but has not spend much on the blueprint of the plans relating to electricity, water supply and sewage plans in the slums of the city. Also, the homes in many slums are too clustered that a minor earthquake could lead to major destruction. Delhi falls in a severe earthquake prone zone, and the governments do not have houses built keeping this in mind.
There are problems in the national capital that we face, but sadly we do not have solutions to them. We hope the government and civil bodies work together to ensure that solutions are found soon- very soon- because it has already been too late.
This article was first published on LokMarg on May 26, 2015