Saturday, April 13, 2024

“Lost all hope of ever living in clean habitat,” say residents of Delhi’s Rangpuri Pahari

Shanti Devi, 70, sitting outside her house, continues to grapple with the daily struggle for water. Photo: Anushka Kogta

Batto sits on her haunches, overlooking the flooded home made out of old worn-out bricks. The 72-year-old, who goes by her first name, laments the plight her family has to endure in her village, Southwest Delhi’s Rangpuri Pahari.

Hamare ghar mai paani bhara hua hai. Hamare bache paani mai rehte hai (Our house is flooded with water. Our children are residing in submerged houses),” Batto laments.

Located close to Vasant Kunj, the area faces a multitude of issues. During the 2019 elections, the residents including Batto, who has been a resident for over 30 years, of Rangpuri Pahari were assured access to clean drinking water, well-built roads, sanitation facilities, and a consistent electricity supply. 

But, as the general election is around the corner again, the people here find themselves grappling with the familiar disappointment of unfulfilled promise. “I have lost all hope of ever living in a clean environment,” the 72-year-old told Maktoob. 

Residents of Pahari grapple to access even the most basic facilities. The women must travel at least 2 km daily to fetch water from the nearby well. 

Shanti Devi, a 70-year-old resident of Rangpuri Pahari, has been fetching water for her family since she was a teenager.

“I am growing old and don’t have the energy to continue fetching water. My children do it for me now. We have no other option,” said Shanti. Several residents mentioned that the municipal water tanker makes rounds only once a week.

“Previously, the tanker used to come every third day. Now it comes on every 10th day. It’s a major problem for us,” explained Aasma, a 40-year-old Bulandshahr resident who has lived here since her marriage.

Fetching water from the well and crossing the road sometimes has led to accidents. Veena Devi, a 39-year-old housewife, shared her concern, stating that her young son was injured once while crossing the road.

“It’s unsafe for anyone to do this daily.'”

For teenage girls, fetching water from the well takes a toll on their daily studies. Ananya, a 13-year-old girl said, “We have to travel long distances to fetch watch. Since my grandmother cannot carry heavy loads, we have to do it for her. This at times, affects my studies.” 

“Even when the tanker arrives, the task of filling our buckets is not easy,” Ananya said while narrating the scenes of pushing and shoving with women that scare her at times. 

“Priority is given to those who request the tanker first, along with their families and neighbours,” Ananya, a class 7th student at Bloom Public School, added. 

Among the dearth of issues faced by the residents, another one is their inadequate access to sanitation facilities. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made several assurances during the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) election in 2022, including pledges to beautify and clean Delhi, as well as to repair the city’s deteriorating roads. 

Ashok Kumar, 46, a native of Uttar Pradesh’s Etah Mainpuri, highlighted the significant problem of cleanliness in the area. “Drains are often clogged, and the streets remain unmaintained,” said Kumar. 

He alleged that the contenders for the election only showed up for votes and post-election neglected the area. “The government promises to provide various facilities, but where do all those promises vanish when delivering the services?” stated Kumar. 

The villagers expect the government to provide them with basic facilities.

The situation worsens when this clogged water gives rise to a range of diseases- tuberculosis, dengue, malaria, and chikungunya among others. Recalling a past flood-like scenario, Shanti expressed that so much water had filled up that our household belongings washed away. The wardrobe and bed were submerged, and all our clothes were ruined.  

“There are a lot of mosquitoes. There is filth all around. The water is so contaminated that its odour becomes unbearable for us,” added Shanti.

Along with the challenges of water scarcity and sanitation, the inconsistent electricity supply has emerged as a major source of distress for the residents. 

Sita Devi, 60, was soaking up sunlight outside a neighbour’s house due to the absence of light at her residence. “We sit here in the sun because there’s nowhere to go in the cold. We face irregular power cuts and mostly get it for 3-4 hours in a day, and sometimes not even these couple of hours,” Sita said.

According to the residents the government has not fulfilled any of its promises, except for false assurances. 

Inderjeet Sehrawat, the recently elected ward councillor of the MCD, refuted the allegations made by the residents. “A sanitation worker is permanently assigned there. We ensure regular cleanliness of the roads and prevent drain blockages. This is not a practice limited to election times; it’s done consistently,” stated Sehrawat, elected from the Mahipalpur ward.

Efforts to contact B.S. Joon, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) representing Bijwasan, for comment have failed despite repeated attempts.

Anushka Kogta is a freelance journalist and a master’s student pursuing convergent journalism at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, with a keen interest in photography and video production.

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