Shehenaj Iqubal Chaudhari, 14, had to take a year’s break from school last year. “My hut was destroyed and we had no home. I was frightened to go to school as the teacher scolded me for being absent,” said Shehenaj.
Shehenaj and her two sisters, who stay in Vijaynagar slum in Antop Hill, have become homeless four times in the last two years. Three months ago, their hut in Vijaynagar came under a bulldozer in a slum demolition drive. “I was bitten by a rat when they destroyed our hut, but couldn’t even get treatment for it because my mother had no money. I also missed two exams. I don’t know whether I will pass this year,” she said.
Shehenaj and her sisters were among the 42 children who gathered at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh on Friday to talk about the effect of displacement on their health, education and well-being. The children were brought there by NGOs, such as Parivarthan Shikshan Sanstha, Saathi, Balprafullta and Yuva.
The children had come from various city slums such as New Babrekar Nagar and Ambujawadi in Malad, Pipeline and Gribnagar in Bandra and Lallubhai, Sathenagar and Mandala in Mankhurd.
Shubham Ghadigawkar, 13, said he finds it difficult to attend school in Parel from his new home in Mankhurd. Shubham and his family were rehabilitated to Lallubhai compound in Mankhurd when their hut in Parel village in Sewri got demolished on May 31. “I want to study and become a social worker, but I take more than an hour to reach my school. We don’t even get water to drink in the new basti,” said Shubham.
The children also spoke about feeling neglected. “These children feel that the society doesn’t want to accept them, and they are treated badly by their teachers, police and political leaders,” said Shakil Ahmed, trustee, Parivarthan Sikshan Sanstha.
Yasmin Shaikh, 16, from pipeline slums in Bandra relocated to Garibnagar in the same area in April, said: “We don’t get water to drink. The drainage water comes to our house. We often fall sick because we drink contaminated water.”
“Security, shelter and love are the basic psychological requirements of small children. When these children are forced to re-organise and relocate themselves, they may face intense uncertainty which can lead to behavioural problems and insecurity,” said Dr Shubhangi Parkar, head of psychiatry at KEM Hospital. “These children need good psychological and social support.”