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Delhi’s Lal Bagh Slum: Overlooked by Politicians, Plagued by Poverty

Amidst Broken Promises and Jurisdictional Confusion, Lal Bagh's Inhabitants Confront a Harsh Reality of Poverty, Sanitation Crisis and Government Apathy.

By Srishti Mukherjee
New Update

In the bustling metropolis of Delhi, the Lal Bagh slum stands in stark contrast to its urban surroundings. A walk through this area reveals a challenging reality that has been neglected for years: open drains, waterlogged streets teeming with mosquitoes, and garbage dumps. This part of the city, overshadowed by persistent neglect, paints a vivid picture of the sanitation crisis affecting its residents.

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The Struggle for Basic Sanitation

Kukuva Devi, a resident of the slum, shares her distress, "From this poor sanitation only, our children fall sick. Worms and large mosquitoes breed in these places. There is no water in the cooler, and no place to bathe, so we bathe inside our shanties with a small amount of water. There are many mosquitoes inside too." 

Another resident, Chaiya Devi, echoes these concerns, emphasising the impact on the community's most vulnerable members. "It's because of these unsanitary conditions that our senior citizens and children are falling sick, due to the garbage dumps. Roads are also not being constructed. The authorities keep making assurances, but when it rains, our children get injured and break their hands and legs."

Health Crisis Among Children

The poverty gripping Lal Bagh has a profound impact on the health and wellbeing of its youngest residents. Malnourished children are a common sight. Parents, constrained by severe financial hardship, struggle to provide essential medical care when illness strikes.

Kukuva Devi shares a heart-wrenching story about her grandchild's battle with cancer. "We were at AIIMS, but they did not admit my child. I was told my child has cancer, and there was nothing they could do. We have no contacts here, and I am not educated. For how long do we keep running from pillar to post?"

The Ration Card Crisis: Another Layer of Struggle

Amidst the sanitation woes of the slum, another critical issue emerges, compounding the struggles of its long-term residents. Many of these inhabitants, despite living in abject poverty, are deprived of essential ration cards.

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Pinky, a resident of the slum for the past 15 years, shares her ordeal, "I have applied for the Ration Card many times, but some people have got it and some have not. We've tried every possible way, but it's still pending. During the lockdown, too, the same problem persisted and we suffered more."

Chaiya Devi, expresses her frustration, "They haven’t made our Ration cards. The rice and flour are very expensive. We have our Aadhar Card and identification card, but they are not issuing Ration Cards to us."

A Sense of Abandonment and Neglect

The residents of Lal Bagh feel a deep sense of abandonment, not just by the system, but also by the media and political entities. Pinky voices this sentiment, highlighting the lack of attention from both sectors. "I called the media myself to see the situation here, but nobody paid attention. Politicians visit only during election campaigns with promises, but after the votes are cast, they vanish."

The political neglect is a major issue for the residents. "Whoever wins here, be it male, female, or a leader, nobody helps us," says Pinky. "Shivani Panchal, who won from here, came seeking votes with folded hands. But after her victory, she says this area doesn’t come under her."

Political Deflection: A Maze of Jurisdictional Confusion

The plight of the Lal Bagh slum residents takes a further twist as local politicians engage in a bewildering game of deflection. Despite the urgent need for action, accountability remains elusive.

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Shivani Panchal, the MCD Councillor for the area, when approached for comments, offered a perplexing response. Initially acknowledging Lal Bagh under her constituency, she then retracted, stating, "Only the front part of Lal Bagh comes under my jurisdiction. The Mansarovar Park part comes under Ram Nagar East ward, not Rohtash Nagar ward."

The Blame Game Continues

Chandra Prakash Sharma, MCD Councillor of Ram Nagar East, mirrored this evasion. Confronted with questions about Lal Bagh, he insisted, "No, Lal Bagh doesn’t come under my jurisdiction. Only a small part with around 20 families falls under my area, the rest is under Rohtash Nagar ward."

The relentless shuffling of responsibility among elected representatives has left the residents of Lal Bagh slum as the true victims. In desperate need of immediate attention, the slum continues to languish in neglect. Although both councillors are responsible for different sections of this area, they seem to find refuge in deflecting blame, especially given the dire state of the slum. If this neglect persists, the inhabitants are bound to encounter huge challenges, now compounded by the harsh Delhi winters.