(NewsClick travelled to a few unauthorised colonies in East Delhi constituency to get a sense of mood of people ahead of elections on May 12. This is part 4 of a series of pre-poll reports.)
“Just because we belong to a rehabilitation colony, do we not deserve basic facilities like water like other citizens of Delhi?” asked Mohammad Shahid, Secretary of the Residents’ Welfare Association of Seemapuri. The rehabilitation colony currently houses over fifty lakh residents, largely migrants who constitute the backbone of Delhi’s economy. Shahid explained, “We are forced to buy expensive containers of water every single day just to meet our everyday needs. We are working class people. The BJP government has failed us in the last five years, not keeping the promises of a vibrant future they had promised us.”
As one travels from the narrow lanes of Seemapuri to the industrial area of Jhilmil, the severity of Delhi’s water crisis becomes stark with children as young as four carrying any container that they can find and travelling several kilometres to Dilshad Garden to fetch water. When asked about how they feel about going to fetch water, the children just said that they just want whatever water they can find.
The issues of East Delhi constituency in the national capital, go beyond the need for clean water. Not just children, women travel across distances to get their monthly ration from centres that have been allocated to them several blocks away. Speaking to NewsClick, Shahid explained, “After the AAP government shifted away from Aadhaar linking, there were a series of administrative failures. The brunt of this is being borne by the women of our area. We have seen a dramatic reduction in the allocation of our rations, and to get even the minimum, the women have to travel to distant centres. Those who can’t afford the rickshaw fares end up carrying the rations on their backs in the scorching heat.”
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Many women on the ground explained that the names of their family members had been taken off the ration lists in an unexplained manner, leaving them with no choice but to make do with whatever ration they could manage to get for their families. The issue of deletion of names is not just limited to the ration cards but has also affected the voters’ list in the area, with many raising suspicions on the manner in which their names had been deleted. Jameela Khatoon told NewsClick, “I have been voting from this constituency for over four decades now. How is it that none of my children, despite being registered voters feature on the list? Is it a deliberate tactic to ensure that a section of the population is being deliberately targeted?”
When asked about who is to blame for the unresolved issues of the area, Mohammad Shahid said, “We have been blatantly ignored, cornered and sidelined by all political parties. Year after year we are used as planks to attract working class votes but our issues of water, cleanliness, food and housing remain unresolved.”
Also Read: Elections 2019: Land Regularisation Remains Key Factor for Residents of Delhi’s Unauthorised Colonies
In 2014, the BJP’s Mahesh Giri had won the parliamentary seat, defeating Aam Aadmi Party candidate Rajmohan Gandhi. Roping in celebrities from across the spectrum, BJP has this time fielded cricketer Gautam Gambhir against AAP’s Atishi. When asked about the campaigns of the candidates in the fray, Mohammad Zahir said, “We want to vote for people who will come to our houses to talk about our issues. Gautam Gambhir may be a cricketer but we have not seen him a single time here, and we are not sure if he understands our issues. There is a strong sense here that the BJP is heavily banking on the mass appeal of the player to attract voters. Only time will tell if the mass appeal and celebrity recognition would work in their favour.”
Delhi will go to polls on May 12 for all its seven seats. As the polling day approaches, momentum is being built on the ground around major campaigns and a fresh slew of promises for the next five years to come.