In India’s richest city, a village poorer than sub-Saharan Africa | india | Hindustan Times
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In India’s richest city, a village poorer than sub-Saharan Africa

india Updated: Oct 29, 2008 23:24 IST
Zia Haq

It is an hour’s drive from the heart of India’s government, and it is represented in Parliament by the son of Delhi’s Chief Minister.

Yet, there is no electricity. No toilets. No piped water. No schools. Welcome to Badarpur Khaadar, a Muslim-majority village of 1,120 whose inhabitants lack a list of amenities that many sub-Saharan villages have, a village so steeped in chronic poverty that a global report referred to it a case study of modern India’s extremes.

“Despite India’s poverty indicator doing well, here is a village that looks unlikely to meet even a single millennium goal,” Salil Shetty, director of the United Nations’ Development Goals had said while launching the World Chronic Poverty Report 2008 in UK last week.

India’s capital tops an Ernst and Young list of 48 Indian cities as the best place to live in this country, but Badarpur Khaadar —on whose horizon you can see cranes tower above high rises—is worse off than even sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s most backward regions.

A muddy embankment that doubles up as the village’s main road also forms the Delhi-UP border where the village has sat for 300 years. With no power, Badarpur Khaadar plunges into blackness at night. Water comes only through three of the 11 hand pumps installed by the civic authorities a decade ago. Residents relieve themselves in open fields.

The nearest primary school is 7 km away in Sabhapur and the closest high school is in Sonia Vihar, about 13 km away, say villagers. Some would swim across the Yamuna to go to school to Burari, but that stopped after two kids drowned, says villager Zameel Ahmed.

Most villagers here are sand-miners: they dig sand from a slushy Yamuna bed for bigger construction contractors.

The story no one knows
According to the Delhi Economic Survey, the city-state’s per capita health expenditure is the highest in the country (Rs 617; India’s average is Rs 189) and at Rs 66,728 per year, the per capita income is India’s highest. Delhi has about two hospital beds per thousand people as against WHO’s benchmark of five, the survey states. Badarpur Khaadar does not have a basic health clinic.

Most labourers earn between 50 and 80 a day whenever contractors employ them, according unofficial estimates. At times, they earn nothing for months, especially during monsoons when sand-mining is impossible.

“I don’t think we are supposed to carry out work in the area,” MP Sandeep Dikshit said, pointing to the area’s disputed jurisdiction.

The village pradhan (headman) Raisuddin has a novel way of introducing his village. He has put up a wide cloth banner that tells the village’s story of chronic want: “Dilli Ka Ek Gaon Badarpur Khaadar (The Story of a Village in Delhi)”.

“Somehow, it’s out of every social safety net,” said Ashok Bharti of the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations.

Bharti’s organisation, which works with the UN’s MGD office, had highlighted the plight of the village at the international forum.

Area legislator Zile Singh Chauhan blames the poverty on a turf battle between two states: “We tried to provide electricity to this village. But we have faced constant hurdles from UP, which disputes the border. We wanted to shift the villagers but they refused.”

The failing health of the village’s gaunt children is not surprising: No child here is immunised.