A sub-report of Census 2011 says Delhiites are marching ahead in terms of rising standards of living.
Shastri Nagar, North Delhi - in a dilapidated living sack, a mother was barely surviving with three daughters staring at days of prolonged hunger and slow march to the ultimate surrender to the fate.
Their misery was noticed but nothing moved for the deaf and dumb gigantic administrative machinery of the Delhi government. It is the same Delhi government that bambooed the slum clusters and lower-middle class areas of India’s Capital city to keep them away from the eyes of foreign visitors during the Commonwealth Games 2010.
Shortcut to Delhi’s own Jumeirah – that looks a near impossible possibility even in the distant future – isn’t it?
What is the difference then - be it Delhi or Odisha’s Kalahandi or the suicidal beds of Vidarbha - in turning a blind eye to the chronic hunger due to poverty. The ruling class – most of them are same under the skin.
Sometimes, lame ducks see the best way to look clean on the slate is not to write anything on it – isn’t it? Ironically, lame ducks call the shots in some of the most repugnant humanitarian crisis places.
So a North Korea continues with labour camps for political prisoners for over decades killing millions though they remain non-existent to the outside world. (I strongly recommend ‘Escape From Camp 14’ by Blaine Harden, one-sit read, making you revisit the horrors that you felt while reading Holocaust literature like ‘The Diary of A Young Girl’ or ‘If This Is A Man’.)
Suicide deaths due to poverty or hunger deaths – aren’t they outright murders? This is happening in world’s largest democracy – claiming tens of thousands of victims, year after year. But most of the ruling class will prefer to sing the India Shining story as if these murders by the system never happened.
Political visionaries here try to follow the same model as the first exercise to keep their slates clean - ignore the hunger problem. If it persists resulting in hunger deaths or suicides, call them natural or some disease driven deaths.
Only if it becomes calamitous in proportions, followed by largely sensational and some sincere reporting, that, the hunger problem in an area is accepted as something chronic.
So while it is highlighted with much ado that 91 per cent of Delhi people own mobile phones, 88 per cent a TV set, 29 per cent a computer and now 89.9 per cent households have LPG-CNG connections, one needs to do some tough number crunching to find out that the estimated slum population of Delhi risen to 3.16 million in 2011 (almost 20 per cent of the population) from 2.3 million in 2001 (almost 40 per cent increase). Now that is one sucking face of the growth story of the Capital City of India.
And the condition of this family tells us about validity of this biting truth.
Hunger problem subjects are from the lower layers of the society, always shadowed by the oblique aperture of the overlooking ruling class. For such subjects, the first line of relief mostly comes from the fellow human beings. And it, too, is not available in places like Kalahandi, Beed or Vidarbha region where every other person is grounded by the burden of how to feed his family the next day.
Luckily, this family of four in the Delhi could get good Samaritans who came forward.
Anurakti is a group of FICCI employees. It works independently and has nothing to do with the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of FICCI. Michelle Kumar, a FICCI employee and Anurakti member had told me about this family and their willingness to help it out.
They have plans to arrange a job for the mother and putting the daughters with some NGO like ‘Prayas’ to help them train vocationally and continue with studies.
Initially, the family has been provided with food ration of three months to regain their physiological well being. They were so malnourished that nothing could be done unless they were rehabilitated physiologically.
I am planning to meet the family in the coming week. The last discussion that I had with Michelle about it was some two months ago, so its time to get going and undertake the next step.
Being human is just being the follower of the conscience and it is always a personal call. The groups of human beings organized under the name Anurakti or some other are doing what we all need to do – extending the support in whatever capacity we are to make some lives better.
It’s never about being larger than life. It’s always about contributing to the cause bringing that genuine smile back to a distressed life.