Indira Gandhi Camp, a city slum in South Delhi, is a maze of dingy lanes, drains, garbage heaps and semi- plastered houses. Children bathe in the open. Water is stocked in multi- colored drums kept outside along the boundary of almost every house. In the absence of sanitation facilities, residents go to the nearby railway line to defecate.
It is a typical slum that offers masons, maids, laborers and vegetable vendors to the more up-market colonies in the neighborhood.
Recently, the colony earned a distinction of sorts – it is home to 12 women who are among the initial beneficiaries of the food security scheme launched by the Delhi government on Tuesday.
The scheme offers 5 kg of food grains per family member every month at Rs 1- 3 per kg. It will cover BPL and Antyodaya Anna Yojana ration card holders residing in slums and resettlement colonies. While all of them welcomed the lower prices, some felt the government was motivated more by election considerations than anything else.
Forty-five-year-old Bhawani Devi, one of the beneficiaries in the Camp, said that though she is happy with what the scheme promises, she doubts if she will obtain the entitled amount from the ration shop.
“Irregular supply of ration is a bigger issue that getting ration at subsidised rates. Whether we get wheat or rice and in what quantity is always at the discretion of the ration shopkeeper. The government must curb hoarding of food grain,” she said.
Bhawani and her family of seven live in an eight feet by eight feet room. She said no government scheme would be enough for her family due to its sheer size. However, she wondered why the government never addresses long pending demands of the colony residents and instead keeps coming up with schemes for them.
“These are micro issues and need minute attention. But it looks like the government is interested only in vote bank politics,” she said, pointing to fellow residents headed to the municipality water tanker. The Camp does not have drinking water supply.
Thakko Devi, another beneficiary of the scheme and Bhawani’s neighbour, said that the timing of the launch of the scheme- around three months before assembly polls- made them believe that it is a poll plank. But that should not be a reason to critisise the scheme.
“In case the programme is properly implemented and we actually get what has been promised, it will be good for us. But we will get to know that only in September because that is when we can start using this,” said Thakko Devo, holding the yellow ration card that will enable her to avail the scheme.
The families of Thakko Devi and Bhavani admitted that they are Congress loyalists. The slum was established and named after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “Since then, all our past generations and the current ones, have been voting for the Congress,” said Deshraj, Thakko Devi’s husband.
Younger ones in the colony are open to the idea of giving chance to other political parties. Sandeep Ahirvar, Bhavani Devi’s son, considers the seven-months old Aam Aadmi Party as an option. “These people will never think beyond Congress and BJP, even if these parties worsen our situation,” Sandeep said referring to his parents.
Andrews Ganj jhuggi jhopri slum is thirty minutes drive from the Indira Gandhi Camp. But in terms of layout and lack of hygiene, it appears to be an extension of the Camp. Rekha Marick, who works as a maid in a South Delhi colony, is the only beneficiary of the scheme in her slum. With an alcoholic husband, Marick said she and her elder daughter who works as a helper in a beauty parlour, run the house. She was all praise for the state chief minister for launching the food security scheme.
“We don’t live in bungalows, saab. Each and every rupee counts here. If we are going to get ration for Rs 2 less, it is a big thing for us. We thank Sonia madam for whatever she has done for us.”
But like other beneficiaries, she also believes that such schemes do not solve the problem of poverty. “At times, our electricity bill is Rs 1000 for a month, she said. “If we spend that much for electricity, what is the use of subsidized ration? Whatever we save here, we spend there.”