As soon as I heard the news, I rushed to Karail. The bulldozers had already done their damage. Residents told me a child had been killed, so I rushed to the house where the family lived. The father, I learned, is a fruit vendor. Their neighbours told me he and his wife had already left for their home village to bury the child’s body there. Residents reported four more children missing; none have yet been found.
A lot of people thought their homes wouldn’t be affected, so they went to work as usual. They came back and found everything destroyed. Understandably distraught, half of them stayed to try to protect what was left and the other half went out on the streets to hold a silent protest. The local media barely covered the whole incident, except to say that the protesters were blocking traffic and keeping students from going to take their exams
, scheduled that day. Well, what they didn’t say was that there were lots of students living in Karail, too, and that they had bigger problems – they no longer had a roof over their head.
“It’s inhuman to simply cast people out with no plans to help relocate them”
Some of the evicted people were able to relocate in other parts of the slum with relatives whose homes weren’t destroyed, but for the most part they’re now living out on the street. Because of the rains, many people are getting sick. For the past five days, volunteers have been feeding thousands every day. Several organisations are also handing out tents and offering free legal representation. But we all have limited means; this can’t last forever. And when we stop helping them out, these people are going to go out into the city and beg, steal, do whatever they have to in order to survive.
Sure, people complain that there are criminal activities, such as drug-dealing going on in the slums. This is true, as it is in any poor community. And mafias collect the rents paid by the slum dwellers. But slum dwellers also keep the city running – they are taxi drivers, cleaners, security guards, street vendors. The government doesn’t seem to understand that these people have jobs and can’t just all go back to the villages they once came from – we need this people. It’s inhuman to simply cast them out with no plans to help relocate them. This will just create more crime.