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Home India For Dwellers of Bhoomiheen Camp, New Home Opens Doors to Dreams, Dignity

For Dwellers of Bhoomiheen Camp, New Home Opens Doors to Dreams, Dignity

Ram Avtar has been living in the filthy by-lanes of Bhumiheen Camp in Delhi’s Kalkaji for almost 45 years. His son and daughter were born in this camp. Avtar, a labourer, always dreamt of giving them a respectable life but with his limited means, he knew it was an impossible feat.

However, on Wednesday, Avtar’s years-long dream was fulfilled when Prime Minister Narendra Modi handed him keys to his flat during a ceremony where letters for newly constructed houses for Bhoomiheen Camp dwellers were given to around 500 applicants.

Both father and son cannot thank the Modi government enough. “Jhuggi se kothi mein pahuch jayenge, yahi itna bada badlav hai (We will move from a shanty to a flat, this in itself is a huge change),” says Avtar’s son Babloo when asked about how the flat would transform his life.

The narrow lanes with overflowing filth and open sewage give a sneak peep into a room which is a kitchen-cum-bedroom-cum-dining room for Avtar’s family. His son says the family can now lead a peaceful life without drunkards abusing people, a common sight in the shanty.

Labourer Ram Avtar and his son Babloo say they cannot thank the Modi government enough for the ‘bada badlav’ (big change) in their lives. (News18)

“I met PM Modi for the first time. He asked me about my name, village and for how many years I have been living in Delhi. I told him I am from Gonda district and have been living here for the past 40 years. He asked me whether I have seen the flat and if I like it. I responded in the affirmative. My relatives called me to say I am very lucky that I got a chance to meet him.”

On Kalkaji’s main road, just across the DDA flats, live Asha and Karuna whose joy of receiving a new home is palpable.

“We can paint the flat, decorate it on Diwali and invite people over. At first, I could not see my name in the draw but when I saw it, I started crying,” says Karuna. Asked how happy they are, Asha jumped into the conversation: “Aapki party banti hain.”

Asha and her daughter Karuna say since PM Modi has done so much for them, they must fulfill their duty towards him (in elections). (News18)
Asha and her daughter Karuna say since PM Modi has “done so much” for them, they must fulfill their “duty towards him” (in elections). (News18)

Karuna is getting married soon and she has told her would-be husband that he will live with them in the flat which is in her name as she saved every penny to deposit the amount of Rs 1.5 lakh. The women said when PM Modi did so much for them, they must fulfill their “duty towards him” (in elections).

Hearing her neighbours talk excitedly about the prospects of living in a society like ‘rich people’, Savitri Devi came out of her one-room house.

“We are very happy. We too have got the letter (for the flat). There will be a huge difference in the lives of our children. We never thought of having a flat in a society. We knew that we would get space somewhere but not like this,” she says.

“I work in flats. My employer teased me that now we will be equal to them. We never had money and could not even dream of this,” adds Savitri.

Asked about her family and if all of them would be able to adjust in two rooms, she says: “There are six people in my family. We will adjust. If you think the government will give residence looking at the strength of the family, you can keep sitting in dirty surroundings.”

Another beneficiary of the ‘Jahan Jhuggi Wahin Makaan’ scheme is Pappi Sardar, an e-rickshaw driver. ‘Badi baat ho gayi hai (It’s a big deal),” says Sardar with a big smile on his face.

“The children were growing up in a ‘jhuggi-wala mahaul’ but with the new flat, there will be better opportunities. Earlier, we did not invite relatives over as there was no space. Now, we can at least adjust to a respectable place,” says Sardar, echoing the sentiment across the camp.

As people gathered to share their excitement, vegetable vendor Ravi Kumar — who has to wait for a few more days to get the letter from DDA — came running. “Bahut badhiya raha. Modi ne mast ghar de diya. Mast rahenge. Zindagi yahan reh liye, suit nahi ki (It was the best thing that happened to us. PM has given us a great house),” says Kumar.

Meanwhile, showing his allotment letter from his room’s door is Bengal’s Sunil Pike. Pike came to Delhi in the 80s and settled down in the capital. Ask him what the new flat means and he says: “There are educated people living in this colony but they do not get jobs as their addresses are jhuggis. Ab jaayenge hum society mein, wahan hamein kitna bada samman milega (Now that we go to a society, we will be respected). My children are very happy.”

Bengal’s Sunil Pike, who came to Delhi in the 80s, says the new home will ensure respect and a better life for their children. (News18)
Bengal’s Sunil Pike, who came to Delhi in the 80s, says the new home will ensure respect and a better life for their children. (News18)

Naseeba Bibi, one of the 500 people who attended Wednesday’s event in Vigyan Bhawan, agrees with her neighbours. “It will be ‘saaf suthra’ (clean) and equipped with every amenity. BJP to acche kaam kar rahi hai (BJP is doing good work),” adds Naseeba.

Another occupant says: “We have paid Rs 15,000 for registration and Rs 1.32 lakh for the final amount. People are trying to arrange funds.” Sources said the government is also trying to ensure the dwellers get loans from government banks as private banks are a bit reluctant to extend help.

Political implications

While the plan for the flats was in the works for long, the delivery has created a positive atmosphere for the saffron party ahead of municipal elections, which are likely to be announced on Friday by the Election Commission.

Bechan Ram, who lives in Navjeevan camp, says they too are hopeful of getting flats. “Once they (residents of Bhoomiheen camp) shift from here, our flats will be built. There is hope,” said Ram.

Ramesh Bidhuri, BJP MP from South Delhi, believes that good governance goes a long way with people. “Earlier, when we used to visit these jhuggis, people who were not in our support would go inside. This time when we went to put our flag and gave them our pamphlet, they were receptive. The change is visible.”

The DDA has undertaken three projects at Kalkaji Extension, Jailorwala Bagh and Kathputli Colony. Under the Kalkaji Extension Project, in-situ Slum Rehabilitation of three slum clusters namely Bhoomiheen Camp, Navjeevan camp and Jawahar camp located at Kalkaji are being taken up in a phased manner. Phase I of the project is complete and 3,024 flats are ready to move in. These flats have been constructed at a cost of about Rs 345 crore and are equipped with all civic amenities, including finishing with vitrified floor tiles, ceramic tiles, and Udaipur green marble counter in kitchens among others.

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