Delhi, they say it’s a city of dreams. Is it?
I arrived in Delhi 11 years back for my higher studies and stayed on. The city has given me everything, from an education to opportunity – it has all been a smooth sail. A landscape of dreams indeed, on its way to being a world class city ahead of commonwealth games.
The government raised over (Indian) Rs.52 billion for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, as well as providing land for stadiums and other constructions, Rs.105.71 billion for the first phase of the Delhi Metro, and over Rs.10 billion for the high-capacity bus corridor.
Delhi is iconic of a shining India and a thriving middle class with its shopping arcades, malls and glitzy cars doing the rounds. Add to the list the rich and mighty, the movers and shakers. Can it get fancier than this?
Now contrast this with almost 20 per cent of Delhi’s population living in slums – the second highest slum population in India. The living conditions are worse than we can imagine, without basic health and hygiene facilities. Sewage flows freely on the streets outside Sanjay colony, one of several colonies in north-west Delhi situated at the edge of a large dumping ground for much of the city’s garbage.
Clean drinking water is a very precious commodity. A lack of space forces even a family of five or more to live in one room and cook outside in the open air. It is this paradox of existence that confounds me .
The national capital ‘boasts’ a doubling of infant mortality in the last three years. It’s a shocking revelation that scratches the city’s shining image.
Many people don’t have access to even basic health facilities, and those that are available are located some distance away and expensive. In effect, an estimated 83 per cent of urban poor mothers give birth in their homes without skilled attendants. Women and children stand to suffer the most.
The Indian government blames it on a teeming migrant population that’s infesting the cities.
Why do they come to the cities in the first place?
They too, like many of us, come in search of their dreams of a better future. Agriculture is no longer a viable livelihood option for many. They often end up in the city working as daily wage labour or picking up some odd jobs to eke out a living. In this race of inequality, a poor man’s dream obviously comes crashing down.
Where does this reality fit into my life?
I felt connected to the children whose smiling faces greeted us when we entered the narrow alleyways of the colony. I came back with a greater sense of responsibility and resolve to do the best I can to make a difference.
Looking at the urgent needs of the community, Save the Children India is providing comprehensive medical care through a mobile health clinic catering especially to the needs of women and children living in the slums of north-west Delhi.
We have taken the first step. Much more needs to be done. Together we can make a difference.