Not much to celebrate for residents of shelter homes, red zonesUpdated: May 24, 2020 23:27 IST
For stranded migrant workers and people living in containment zones, Eid preparations have been limited to making do with essentials as the lockdown to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has dampened the fervour of the festival.
Some migrants are dependent on government and NGOs for food to observe the festive traditions, while others have borrowed money from friends and relatives to buy sweetmeats.
Mohammad Yusuf, 32, resident of a shelter home in central Delhi, who could not register for a Shramik Special train, said that this would be the first time that he is not celebrating Eid at home. “Every year, I would get my children new clothes and gifts for the festival. They have been waiting for me to reach home, but my registration has still not been done. What does the festival mean without family and friends? Here, we get some food to live by. I have run out of money to get them anything at all when I do go back,” said Yusuf, who used to work at a toy-making unit in Sadar Bazar.
He had left his rented room to head back to his village in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur and when he could not get on a bus, was brought to the shelter by civil defence volunteers.
According to the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) officials, the number of migrants at the shelters has reduced to just about 10-15% since the Shramik Special trains started on May 1. “The NGOs roped in to run the shelters have been providing a basket of fruit and cold drinks for ‘iftar’, for those fasting during Ramzan. They will also be distributing sweets and dry snacks on Eid, on Monday,” said a senior DUSIB official, on the condition of anonymity.
The official said that the DUSIB runs 223 permanent shelters for the homeless, while the Delhi government had converted 256 school buildings to house migrants.
Among those stranded, at south Delhi’s Shahpur Jat, is a group of around 1,000 hand embroidery from West Bengal. “Earlier, we were waiting for our turn for train registration and now, the trains have been cancelled because of the cyclone. There is no money to even buy fruits or milk for children. Every year, we would buy new clothes, but this is the first time that there is no such thing for Eid. We make do with rice and lentils every day,” said Mafizul Mallick, of the group.
Abdul Salaam, the president, Centre for Holistic Development, an NGO working for the homeless, said, “People have been out of work and have run out of savings. They had hoped to return home, but have been stuck. We will be distributing ‘sevaiyan’ (a vermicelli-based dessert) and food for the workers here so that they at least have something to celebrate.”
In Delhi’s 87containment zones, especially in central, east, northeast and south-east districts that house a sizeable Muslim population, the festivities will be limited to the households.
Prominent markets at Sadar Bazar, Nabi Karim, Chandni Mahal and Bara Hindu Rao, which are generally abuzz with activity during Ramzan, have been deserted this year.
Anwar Ullah, general secretary Chandni Mahal residents’ welfare association, said, “The lanes are empty, there is no sound. It doesn’t feel like its Eid tomorrow. The sweets shops have not been opened. We have got ‘sevaiyan’ to cook but don’t know if other snacks will be available tomorrow. It has been really tough on the children.”
Nizamuddin Basti, located just behind the Hazrat Nizamuddin dargah, which used to be a hub of activity during the festival has been locked down for almost two months, after the Tablighi Jamaat-related cases emerged.
Abdur Rahman, general secretary of the Basti’s RWA, said, “There are not even enough lights put up for decorations in a place that dazzled not just during Eid, but throughout the year. The lanes used to be full of people shopping and gathering to exchange greetings in the days leading to the festival. The lockdown has been the longest for us. Even though there has been no new positive case, the area has not been opened. We have procured food and other decorative material for houses from Bhogal. That is all we can do now.”
Ali Rehman, 32, who owns a garments store in Vivek Vihar, which is part of a containment zone, said there is little to celebrate due to the losses suffered during the lockdown. “For small-scale businessmen, there has been no reprieve. Many people have lost their jobs. I have never seen such calm around the festival. Since we cannot go even to the masjids, which have been closed, or to relatives’ houses, we will just cook and pray at home,” he said.
In southeast Delhi’s Zakir Nagar, home to a large number of Muslims, Irshad Alam, who owns a footwear store, said that the usual fervour is missing due to safety concerns on people’s minds. “Even if one wishes to, there is so much apprehension that one wouldn’t go out to meet their relatives. Being in a confined area, that is not even a prospect. It’s like celebrating Eid inside a prison-like complex,” said Alam.
In nearby containment zones of Shaheen Bagh and Okhla too, people said safety is first and that they can celebrate Eid next year once the country emerges from the shadow of this pandemic.