People grabbing whatever is left of their meagre possessions, medical equipment inundated and ambulances and stretchers escorting people to dry land, these aren’t images from an evacuation exercise during a massive flood but from a home for the destitute in Rangpuri Pahadi.
A rescue operation launched on Saturday night saw the police, disaster management personnel, the district magistrate, the local MLA and ministers rescuing around 250 destitute, most of them bed-ridden or old, from what many of them are calling certain death.
Heavy Delhi rains over the past three days turned their low-lying tin shelter home run by The Earth Saviours’ Foundation into a pond full of disease. The shelter was in news less than a month ago after 35 residents had lost their life in the crushing summer heat.
The residents of the shelter home mentally unstable children, bed-ridden elders and those with dementia or Alzheimer’s have for now been shifted to two wholly inadequate community centres in and around Vasant Kunj.
The tin shelters in Rangpuri Pahadi had beds for every resident, bedding, clothes, wheelchairs and medical equipment. The community centres have only carpets and five beds, portable toilets and a Delhi Jal Board water tanker.
Most of the residents suffer from incontinence and their diapers have to be changed often, this is a big problem, considering all they have now are bog halls and no privacy.
The residents are, however, grateful for being rescued from the jaws of death.
“Had we stayed there for even an hour more, a large number of the residents would have drowned. The flood water mixed with sewer water and the entire place was stinking with all kinds of garbage. It was horrible!” said a volunteer.
“Last night was hell for us,” repeated an old woman over and over again. She gave a blank look when asked for her name.
The home for destitute has residents from as far off as Bangalore. On Sunday, while at the temporary shelter, Haryana Police personnel brought in a senior citizen for admission.
“In the last eight years, we have been forced to shift our location six times. It is like relocating an entire village. After all, we are 250 of us! This is just fire fighting. We have been trying to build a permanent home in Gurgoan but funds are a big problem,” said Ravi Kalra, founder The Earth Saviours’ Foundation
Bijwasan MLA, Devinder Sehrawat, is now looking at petitioning the government for a permanent solution.
“Agreed this is a private shelter, but responsibility needs to be fixed. For now, I have suggested that the destitute be kept in either these community centres or some place that will not get flooded in the rain. We will also have to look for a permanent solution,” said Sehrawat.
Officials from Delhi government’s social welfare department visited the two community centres to take stock of the situation.