Today, I spoke to Nancy, a regular student at our Gurgaon project (I have been teaching there for last 3 years), and asked her about preparations for the lockdown. Nancy lives with her family in the slum near Wazirabad, Sector 52A, Gurgaon with her family. Her father works as a gardener and has not been paid his month's salary, forget about any advance. They have supplies that can barely last for a week. After that her family will have no recourse.
After reviewing the situation, we have started a campaign to support the 100 families residing in the slum of Sector 52A, Gurgaon. If you wish to contribute towards that, please go ahead. In our opinion, the need for supplies will arise after 10-14 days.
The people residing in the slums of Wazirabad in Sector 52A of Gurgaon, Haryana are amongst the most impoverished and vulnerable in the country for the following reasons:
- Most of them are daily wagers who work as domestic helpers, rag pickers and garbage collectors. They have very low income and almost no savings to cope with situations like job loss or medical treatment in case of poor health. They live in abject poverty.
- Majority of the children are underweight and malnourished. Several suffer from stunting and have weak immunity system. They do not have access to adequate food, nutrition, clean drinking water, healthcare and sanitation.
- They have limited supplies of rice, essential foods, cooking gas, soaps, sanitizers etc.
- On average there are 5 people per jhuggi. Each jhuggi is about 10 square meters. High density of people per square meter makes it impossible to isolate/quarantine members of a family within their own home in case there is an outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This poses a special danger to high risk groups like the elderly and children.
- There are hundreds of jhuggis cramped right next to one another in a small area. Such overcrowding makes attempts to isolate neighbors and others in close contact of potential patients very difficult in the event of an outbreak.
- Many of them are likely to lose their jobs as Haryana and Delhi NCR enter a lockdown in an attempt to contain the disease and flatten the curve.
- In the event of job loss, they do not have savings or supplies to last them more than a week to 10 days. The economic consequences for these people are likely to be devastating.
The Current Situation:
For now, the situation is under control. All families have supplies for around 10 day. The families surveyed had soaps and they are using it regularly. They have been made aware of the severity of the situation and they are not venturing out.
Most of the dwellers are daily wage earners and the lockdown has translated into loss of jobs for them. These families don’t have much savings and if the situation doesn’t improve, there will be shortage of food and other essential supplies.
Plan of Action:
We are in constant touch with the people there over phone. My friends who have been teaching the students there for over three years reside nearby. According to our estimate, supplies will be needed after 7-10 days because there is no source of income for most of the families and the stored food will run out.
We plan to store some essential items including food material, soaps, gas cylinders etc. These will be used in case of shortage in the slum. We have also apprised the district administration about the situation there and some police personnel have been deputed to oversee the situation. Our apprehension is that there can be delay in supply of goods from the side of administration as they will be overburdened because of the number of slums they’ll have to cater to.