We met Harbai in the middle of South East Delhi. Harbai lives in a trash bag-made tent with three of her children and husband. She and a few others were allowed by their employer to set up their housing nearby the sewage pipes they work at. Unfortunately, due to a technical problems, this week Harbai and other workers haven’t been able to work and since they are paid by worked day, they haven’t received their salary for three days now. Harbai also expressed concern for not being able to send her kids to school since she didn’t have money to pay the basic fee.
While talking to Harbai, we were quickly surrounded by ten adults and a handful of children. Our translator, Jayalakshmi, quickly shifted her focus and started talking to one of the men. He, a driver, wanted to be part of the conversation. We asked him if he felt safe at night in the camp. He said yes, but Harbai quickly jumped in and said she didn’t. She mentioned that children are being kidnapped and she doesn’t feel safe at night.
Observing the surroundings of the camp built in the middle of a road adjacent to a highly trafficked highway, I realised that there are no sanitary facilities. One of the residents said they could take baths in the housing project nearby where residents have access to public showers and toilets. Children, were barefeet running around in the middle of traffic. A thirteen year-old girl was washing dishes in a small tub with brown water. She doesn’t go to school and takes care of her siblings.
The communities who have access to government housing and public toilets have resources that these more vulnerable individuals don’t.
Is there a way to create a network between individuals living in tents and those living in the adjacent government housing so that the tent residents could eventually live in the government housing?
How might communities living in non-permanent housing have access to information about their rights and be empowered to get proper pay by their employer?
How might these communities have access to permanent housing?