will it; won’t it


The will it; won’t it game that has now been played for years at end came to a final closure for the Lohar camp next to the Kalkaji bus depot. Yesterday the small basti of thirty odd tenements was finally raised to the ground to make way for the much awaited metro.

This basti has been in existence for over thirty years and has withstood many a demolition drive, as each time a few hard earned rupees bought the inabitants the right to rebuild their ramshackle homes. Whereas other slums managed to once again get a one year reprieve from demolition as a pre-election sop, this basti did not as the metro is part of the 2010 target when our capital city needs to shine for the much heralded sports fiesta.

What was destroyed yesterday was not just thirty rickety structures but the hopes and dreams of over 200 souls. This basti has tiny babies, school going children, men and women who earn their living within the area and old people who wait for another morrow. Like all nomadic tribes they too were promised permanent homes after India acceded to Independence and they gave up their roaming lives in the hope of seeing that pledge fulfilled. These 1000 odd families have been residents of Delhi for more than 50 years and though millions who came after them are today settled, they still live on the edges of roads and amidst the fumes of the growing vehicle population.

Thanks to greedy and wily politicians they have got ration cards and voter’s identity cards and their illegal structures even had a postal address making them true citizens of the capital. But yesterday their tiny vote bank was outweighed by larger interests and they were left to fend for themselves in a city that had suddenly become hostile.

They will survive I know it, as nomadic tribes have a spirit of their own but this little unit will now be probably be scattered across town and we will lose the lovely children who we taught for over 7 years now. And learn they did as tow of our most committed teachers – sanjay and Vicky – are from this very basti! Wonder whether they will still be able to come to pwhy.

The destruction of the Lohar basti of Kalkaji brings forth once again the burning issue of habitat for the poor. There is seems to be no real policy in this matter and ad hocism reigns. One has seen the multitude of recent scams where land for slum dwellers has been hijacked with impunity by mafia type operations. Slums that have been in existence for decades due to corrupt minions now face the danger of being demolished but there seems to be no alternative offered. Just short reprieves doled out to meet political agendas.

One wonders how it will it all end.

All one can say today is that we will miss our Lohar friends.