At any time of the year, life in the slums is enough to put you off or scare you away. But in monsoons, it reaches its worst.
Open sewers, rickety roofs threatening to fall any time, water collated in garbage heaps spreading stench all around, mosquitoes hovering on collated water, and dwellers forced to stay inside the cramped, poorly ventilated pit shanties is a nightmare that slums face every season, and this year is no different.
With pre-monsoons on, the city witnessed sudden showers in the morning, and this led to the life in the slums go haywire.
A visit to the Jamuna Colony at Pakhowal Road on Thursday laid bare the apathy of the authorities towards the inhuman condition of the 5000-odd dwellers.
“We carry out most chores in the open, including cooking and eating, and have to rush inside with all the paraphernalia,” said Bhoori, a resident of the colony that is home to around 550 shanties. “The tarpaulin sheets we use as roof give up. Water seeps into the shanties and everything from the stove to utensils to clothes is kept on the beds,” added Jamuna Bai, who heads a tribal group living in the sums and has been living here for three decades.
If the incessant rains cause a major mess, it is the heat and humidity in the air later that leaves them much harried in this season. There is no electricity, despite the repeated government claims to provide the slums with basic amenities until rehabilitation in flats is done.
Seeing no option, the dwellers began power thefts to light up and air the shanties until last week when officials from the department came and cut the illegal connections. “What are we supposed to do? The heat is unbearable,” says Rahul, who works as a daily labourer.
There are not enough toilets in the slums. There is not enough water. All the families share a single water tap, with water flowing for around 10 hours a day, but only enough for each to fill a bucket or two. “The only other tap stopped working a couple of days ago. And even the current supply is irregular. We go door-to-door begging for water in the urban residential colonies nearby or use the canal for all purposes.”
Hygiene is terrible. Flies and mosquitoes are all around and settle on garbage heaps and on food. “Diarrhoea, malaria, viral fever, cough and cold have become rampant,” says DK Mishra, who operates a private medicine store in the area.
The situation is no different in city's other slum pockets such as at in Ambedkar Nagar, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Sherpur Chowk and Kitchlu Nagar. Everywhere, the dwellers have been left to fend for themselves in this weather.
Even as plans to shift the dwellers from most slum areas have long been proposed, mayor Harcharan Singh Gohalwaria said on Thursday that the first of the 850-odd slum dwellers listed in the list of beneficiaries under BSUP-JNNURM (Basic Services to the Urban Poor-Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) will be shifted to flats constructed in Giaspura within two months.
“There are 4,832 flats to be made in the district, out of which around 1,600 are in Giaspura. Even we feel ashamed to see the slum dwellers live in inhuman conditions,” he said.