For victims of the Delhi riots in Feb, lockdown is a double whammy

Poornima Joshi Jaffrabad/Shiv Vihar (North East Delhi) | Updated on May 08, 2020 Published on May 08, 2020

In localities such as Mustafabad and Karawal Nagar, people gather on the roads to secure provisions   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Arvind Kejriwal is perceived to have betrayed them in North East Delhi where communal violence and Covid-19 has pushed residents into poverty and hunger

The trauma of rioting and violence that took 53 lives and destroyed homes in slums and rehabilitation colonies in North East Delhi between February 23-26 is only surpassed by the stark administrative and political apathy during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only has the two-tier government system in the Capital city failed even in the basic provision of rations and food supplies to these areas, people are simultaneously threatened by random and arbitrary arrests and detentions of their loved ones allegedly in connection with the riots.

Small relief

The only relief is in terms of daily rations and provisions being provided by community groups set up by local businessmen, traders and small scale manufacturers. Delhi government’s relief operations have not reached these people who voted for AAP in huge numbers and now feel betrayed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. North East Delhi is the most populated district in India and a majority of its 22.42 lakh residents were engaged in small unorganised units making readymade garments in localities like Seelampur, Jaffrabad and bakery items in parts like Shiv Vihar before the riots. Delhi government’s Business Register for 2015 reveals that of the total 30,521 traced and working enterprises in North East Delhi, more than half, about 17,594, were shops and establishments employing an average of 3.5 persons. The district housed 218 factories and the average number of employees was 9.5. But the businesses have collapsed now.

Jaffrabad is a centre for readymade jackets. In April, businessmen such as Babboo Mallik would travel to China and buy fabric in bulk which they would then distribute to small manufacturing units for stitching. The readymade jackets would then be sold to retailers across north India. They have not recovered money for orders already supplied and do not know how to plan for the next one year. “We estimate orders for the next year in April and start manufacturing for the winter. This was also the period for payments to arrive.

No income

This year, our money is stuck in the market and the businesses have been shut since February when the violence broke out. But we’re still better off than the skilled workers and craftsmen in the manufacturing units who have slipped into poverty and reduced to begging for daily rations,” Babboo Mallik told BusinessLine.

A group of about 20 businessmen and traders have pooled in their resources to distribute free rations to over 1,000 people every day. A ration kit comprises five kg atta, three kg of rice, two kg dal, oil, spices, potatoes and onions. These supplies are preferable to the bad quality cooked food that is being provided by the Delhi government in local schools. The numbers are rising with each passing day and people who have lost livelihood during the lockdown walk 20-30 kms in the day to collect provisions.

In localities such as Mustafabad and Karawal Nagar, hordes of people, children collect on the road to try and secure cash or daily provisions. At Ali Builder Lane in Mustafabad, the site of rioting in February, there are few takers for the gruel that is being distributed by the Delhi government. “I used to work as a welder. There has been no work. My home was gutted during the rioting in Shiv Vihar. I shifted here and took a house on rent. There is no milk for my children and I have no work. This is a terrible time,” said Salman Ansari.

Published on May 08, 2020

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