Reshma Parveen, 45, and her eight children live in a shanty which can hardly accommodate two souls. Outside its broken wooden door, a lane criss-crosses the slum in Seelampur where she lives. A drain flows through the lane that carries everything from human excreta to polythene bags to the big nullah .
A makeshift structure which has wooden planks for pillars and old sarees for walls serves as toilet for Reshma, a domestic help, and her family.
Elsewhere, Mukim, a member of Gondhali community of Nasik , lives in a jhuggi in Kalyanpuri with his family. A makeshift toilet is there but many of them prefer to go to the nearby drain to relieve themselves. Besides, living with the nauseous, pungent gases that the drain emits, Mukim’s house is often filled with drain water when it overflows during monsoon.
Reshma and Mukim live about 10 kilometres from each other in northeast Delhi — home to Delhi’s biggest slums and most congested illegal colonies.
About one-third of Delhi lives in sub-standard housing, which includes 695 slums and JJ Clusters, 1,797 unauthorised colonies, old dilapidated areas and 362 villages. Among them, those living in slums and JJ clusters put up in the most inhuman conditions lacking even basic facilities like toilets and sewer.
According to a rough estimate, 300 of the 800 slum clusters in Delhi are located in east and northeast Delhi.
In its manifesto for 2012 MCD elections, the BJP had promised door-to-door collection of garbage, sewerage, dispensaries and controlling spread of mosquito-borne diseases. Five years later, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari stayed in slums in January this year to see whether or not his party’s promises had been fulfilled.
Officials say they don’t have funds to carry out development of slums. The civic body, smallest in terms of number of councillors, is also the poorest of the three corporations. Running a budgetary deficit of over Rs 2,000 crore, it has not been able to pay regular salaries to its sanitation workers and other staff, forcing them to go on repeated strikes.
Rivals blame the BJP of having failed to spend the funds allocated to the corporations under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan .
Leader of EDMC House, Sanjay Jain, said, “If the centre sanctions 80% Swachh Bharat fund, the corporation needs to pay 20%. We cannot afford even that.”
The Economic Survey of Delhi 2016-17 shows that 22% of slums do not have latrine (toilet) facilities and 30% people were using sceptic tank and flush.
In Indira Camp near Mayur Vihar, despite the fact that three public toilets were built in the past five years, a chunk of the population still defecates in open as toilets are dirty and closed after 10pm.
The slum-dwellers in Nand Nagri, another of Northeast Delhi’s slum hubs, say they will not let the politicians take them for granted anymore. “All these years we have been fooled. But now the councillors must deliver if they want us to vote for them,” said Rampal, a slum dweller in Nand Nagri.
Dunu Roy, director, Hazards Centre, said, “The east corporation will always say that they don’t have funds. But one must ask how much money do they need? Does it actually take that much to improve the life of slum dwellers? ”
“The corporation does bare minimum cleaning needed for a human to survive because they fear outbreak of a disease which might spread to the nearby localities where the rich live,” he added.
People living in JJ colonies such as Sanjay Shakha Camp, Shastri Camp and Pandit Bismil Camp, say it is not difficult for them to find a public dispensary. However, what they want is the prevention of dengue and chikungunya.
Sushma Suman, 32, a resident of Khichripur, said, “Last August, there was not a single house here where you couldn’t have found a chikungunya patient.”
Open drains in these colonies act as breeding spots for mosquitoes.
“The drains are cleaned once in two-three weeks. Then too the silt and garbage from the drain is dumped on the road and goes back into the drain,” said Nazma, 55, who lives in Bismil Camp.
Devender Kumar, Mayur Vihar-II councillor, said, “I got roads built in the JJ Colony near Khichripur . Every household there has encroached on the drain which makes it difficult to clean.”
East Corporation schools had a dropout rate of 17.3% in 2015-16, highest among institutions run by three corporations. A majority of the students of these schools come from JJ clusters.
Sajid Khan who lives in Seelampur said, “We do not send our children to schools as the classes are mostly suspended due to unavailability of teachers.”
The corporation said it has invested in improving infrastructure in the schools, but improving the teacher-student ratio remains a challenge. Also, the civic body has not been able to pay salary to 12,467 teachers due to the financial crunch.
Teachers boycotted work over the delay in payments, even moved court.