A motley group of people stands in front of a one-storey house in Jaipur’s Gandhi Nagar, looking at heaps of household items and scattered furniture strewn in front of the locked entrance.
An elderly couple with moist eyes have been staying for the last one week in a pavement, meters away from the place that they called home for the last 13 years. Officials vacated the house on February 11 and since then, Shammirani Bhargav (65) and her husband Narayan Das Bhargav (68) have been staying in the footpath.
“I was a government schoolteacher from 1974 till 2004 when I couldn’t work after being diagnosed with heart ailment. In 2004, I applied for voluntary retirement but didn’t receive any response from the education department,” said Shammirani.
She said she had not got any communication even in 2013, when she was supposed to retire. “Till date, I haven’t received any documents which have details about my service and retirement, nor my pension or gratuity though I was a government schoolteacher for over 30 years.”
The childless couple, who don’t have a home of their own, were staying in the government quarters in Gandhi Nagar since 2004. Electricity supply to the quarters was stopped in January first week.
“We continued to live in the house without electricity but on February 11, officials from the general administration department (GAD) came and drove us off, throwing our furniture and belongings on the road. We don’t know what to do as this is the only place we called home,” said Narayan Das.
Both suffer from ailments but have no choice but to spend their days sitting on a rickety bed over the pavement. On Friday night, they could not sleep as they tried to persuade an alcoholic to vacate a cot on which he had decided to sleep.
“We have no source of income and other place to say. Either the government let us live in the house or give my pension and gratuity. We would have no choice but to commit suicide if we have to live more days on the pavement,” said Shammirani.
The couple has found support from people. “I was passing through this area a few days back when I saw the elderly couple living on the road. From that day, I haven’t gone to my home in Dadi ka Phatak and have been staying here with them, trying to help in matters of daily need,” said Rajesh Sharma.
After the news of the couple was shared on social media, GAD officials came to the spot and sent the furniture and other belongings to an old-age home.
“The officials roughed up both of us as they forcibly made us vacate the pavement. My wife fell down…We were taken to the old-age home in Transport Nagar. We didn’t want to stay there and thus were brought back to the Gandhi Nagar police station,” said Narayan Das.
When HT contacted Indra Singh Rao, GAD joint secretary, he said, “I don’t have time,” before disconnecting the phone.
The Congress demanded that the couple be rehabilitated immediately. “I have written to the district collector asking for immediate relocation of the couple to a good home. Both of them need emotional help and they are also suffering from ailments. This issue needs to be looked at from a humane perspective,” said Archana Sharma, state Congress vice president.