Yamuna Bazaar, bound by the arterial and overhead roads that traverse to and from the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT, Kashmere Gate), the Ring road and the Grand Post Office, is a hamlet of dense single and double storied dwellings tucked inside the thriving and bustling metropolis.
A walk through the lanes of Yamuna Bazaar brings us to Samarth – The Professionals’ homeless shelter. A modest portion of one floor, with two dormitories and a back office, this is the only available shelter for the homeless in this area. When asked about the very low occupancy immediately observed here, Nitin Baliyan, a Community Mobilizer for the organization says, “This is the case in summer, with a maximum footfall of about 10 people daily. There is much higher occupancy in winter.”
(All pictures by Rituparna Banerjee)
A significant proportion of the homeless in this two square mile area are chronic drug users, who number close to two thousand. A walk into the open parks abutting the main roads, guided by volunteers from Samarth, reveals a grim reality. Vials of familiar anti-allergic medication, syringes and needles that lie littered about in the dirt; huddles of small groups of men, women and children with their backs to you; their decaying bodies and reddened eyes, are a clear giveaway. If you are an undiscerning visitor, you will come across scores of people sitting and lying around in the community parks alongside these major roads.
“I have been using drugs since I was 12, its been over 14 years now. My wife left me, but I can live without her; I can’t live without my drugs”, says an addict, Siddharth, with undisguised candour. When asked how he can afford it, he narrates with interest how begging and picking pockets are popular sources of income. Sidharth is just one example who came to Delhi with his parents as a barely teenaged youth from Bihar, and is now prey to the deadly addiction of chemicals.
Ashok Kumar, Project head of Samarth, says that each packet of crack costs about Rs 50-60, and it keeps an addict high for about two hours. He stated tht hey take at least two to three doses a day. On Tuesdays, the addicts gather in front of the nearby Hanuman Mandir, collecting their drug money by begging or picking pockets, he added.
Deputy Director General of Narcotics Control Bureau, B.B Mishra confirmed that drugs like Amphetamines, Cocaine, Heroin and Ketamine are abused by the addicts. Along with these pharmaceuticals are also abused by these addicts. The pharmaceuticals generally abused are Codeine based cough syrups and sedatives such as lorazepam, temazepam, spasmo-proxyvon etc.
In the National Capital Region, NGOs like Samarth, Sharan, continued…