The Fear of Poverty

Nidhi Batra

Our upbringing has always been focused towards attainting ‘security’. Study, earn money and ‘be secure’. Most of us do manage to reach this is idea of security. But imagine living in a constant sense of fear, expectation and the unknown. Imagine living according to the whims of others. Imagine living in the hands of poverty!

Poverty is this phenomenon of ‘unknown’. You never know what you would be hit with the next moment! Recently team from PRIA went to Bandhu basti in B6 Vasant Kunj to undertake a slum mapping exercise. Before we began our work, we all were chatting and discussing the ‘fire’ that struck another nearby basti just few days ago. One of the social worker who had been actively working in the slum that caught fire was informing us about all the rehabilitation work that is going on. Interestingly he mentioned that the first to reach the slum after the accident (or maybe incident) was the Lieutenant Governor himself. This gave a lot of hope to the community and there has been a positive movement towards rehabilitation – clothes, foods, material for construction are being sent to this basti. Some ‘compensation’ by the government shall also be given.

Then the very next day one read of the possible ‘Land Mafia’ that might have resulted in this incident. A planned move by the local goons who grab vacant land in Vasant Kunj and give it on rent to the migrants to build their shanties. Now that the rebuilding exercise is on, they are back again charging ‘new rent’. For sure this is no ‘new episode’ for the slum dwellers. At some point or the other they know that they will be evicted. Either by the goons or by the government. In Bandhu basti where we were working a lady told us that the entire basti had filled forms for Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY) last year and submitted Rs 100 each to the government. However there hasn’t even been a preliminary survey in this basti. According to her, RAY is just for the TVs! Nothing on ground ever happens!

What is the difference between Bandhu Basti and the slum that was burnt in Vasant Kunj? None really! In one the government has failed them and in the other the private has extorted them. Poor forever remain trapped!

But then George Bernard Shaw taught us:

You are going to let the fear of poverty govern your life and your reward will be that you will eat, but you will not live.

Are the poor in your city really living?!

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