Home Social Culture Life of a Slum Dweller; Plastic roof to live, but no water to drink

Life of a Slum Dweller; Plastic roof to live, but no water to drink

BY Mirah Zamin

Lucknow: Every morning before going to school Saira Gul and her friends from an unnotified settlement in Vardhan Khand, Phase II, Gomti Nagar Extension walk with 20 Litres of water buckets from a nearby construction site. “My family and other people residing here depend on the mercy of the guard who works at the construction site, we will again be helpless once the on-going project at the site is accomplished”, says Saira Gul while chopping vegetables for Lunch. The cooking takes place in the open outside the Jhuggi on a fire wood stove made out of mud.

Non- availability of water is not the only civic issue being faced by these odd 600 plus people with a basic monthly income of 3 to 4 thousand per household. Ganesh Kumar the contractor who employs half of the population of the settlement says,

“Every household has minimum of six members, and most of them work as rag pickers the household income depends on the material they get- plastic, glass, metal and tin”.

Many dwellers of the area migrated from Assam in the 1980’s and lived in the city’s Balaganj area until 2012 when few families shifted to the settlement beside Amar Shaheed Path looking for work and since then they have sprung from initial 15 families to present 96 families.

“When we started living here, there were no proper roads or street lights. Only 1-2 houses and a half constructed building of City Montessori School (Extension branch) was there” said Hidyatullah a resident of the slum who works as a rag picker.

Earlier we borrowed water from the school but when we grew in number the school denied access to water and made a metal cage around the tap. We then tried contacting Nagar Nigam but nothing happened, last year one lady came from department but nothing further was done added Sajida Bano, Hidyatullah’s wife.


With only 5 kaccha toilets, 20 families are forced to use a common area for nature’s call which gives rise to many diseases. “I avoid using the toilet that are built here and prefer going out in open”, says Ramdulari. When enquired many like Ramdulari preferred open-defecation because of non -accessibility of toilets naming to non-vacancy in most cases and unhealthy sanitation for few inhabitants.

For 10 years old Saif and his cousin Shahab open defecation is the only way out since they are the man of the house and can go out rather than sending their mother or sister out in the open. “Many a times I wait and don’t eat anything so that I go to school and use a pucca toilet”, mentions 14 years old Sabeena.

“Not all of us work as rag pickers and can afford to build a toilet and have our own water supply but for that we need supply connection from Jal Nigam, getting electricity supply doesn’t require paper work but water is difficult”, said another resident.

Every Jhuggi on the encroached land has a television set, refrigerator and few even have washing machine kept in their courtyard with fencing made out of bamboo. The shanty walls of the Jhuggis are made of plastic sheets, cloth material and polythene packets found during picking rag on roads.

The 10, 000 sq ft land which is allotted for community park by the Lucknow Municipal corporation ( LMC) is home to 200 hundred children from age 0- 14 who in the early morning hours work with their parents and then to go school.

“Many of us will stop going to school from next year because no food will be given to us unlike, now when we at least get one healthy meal a day”, says Neha. For these children who live in unhealthy conditions in small houses with eight to nine people, school is an escape route where they enjoy their own time and are also given meal through the mid-day meal scheme.

“I eat meat every day so when on Wednesdays we get egg for lunch in school I give it to Haroon”, said Sultan.

Haroon lives with her widowed mother and both of them jointly make only two thousand a month and with paying 400 rupees for electricity both are left on the charity of others.

“My neighbour has a kitchen garden where she grows her own vegetable (their family have a larger area and they have utilise it well since they have more earning members) so I often pluck vegetables when I have no money to buy vegetables”, added Najma, Haroon’s mother.

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