A year ago, when a major fire had gutted 250 jhuggis in Mongolpuri in Outer Delhi, the residents had to spend sleepless nights for the first few days. They had refused to go the nearby park, where the government had made temporary arrangements for them.
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A year later, people in Rithala, who lost their homes and belongings in a fire on Sunday night, slept in peace in more than 40 tents on Monday midnight. They got “good food” throughout the day, enough blankets to beat the cold and hoped for more from the government.
“I hope we get these services for a few more days as I have a small child with me,” said Purkaan Sheikh, a scrap dealer who had settled in Rithala two years ago. Last night, he slept at the same place where his jhuggi once was.
In fact, in the entire area, everyone slept at the same place where their jhuggi stood. On Tuesday, beating the foul smell from the burnt scrap and occasionally coughing, he recounted the terror when he first realised that there was a fire.
“The fire spread so fast that we did not get any time. I carried my child on my back and jumped the wall to enter the school to save our lives. My scrap worth Rs 15,000 turned into ash,” added Sheikh.
A few tents away, Muhammad Sheikh, a barber, said he has lost all his ID proofs in the recent fire. “I also lost Rs 2,000, which I wanted to send home.” However, he believes he will be able to overcome the tragedy.
Sub-Divisional Magistrate Rohini Tapan Jha said that they had initially arranged big tents in a different area, but nobody was keen to go. “They wanted to sleep where they lived so we decided to erect tents there. Else, they would have had to sleep under the open sky,” he said, adding that they had, on Tuesday, erected about 90 more tents to accommodate more people.
Apart from the tents, the government has also opened new bank accounts for about 240 people. Jha added, “We recorded the Aadhaar details of the people based on their thumb impression and opened their bank accounts. On Wednesday, we will deposit their cheques into their banks and then we will bring a mobile ATM in the area so that they are able to get some cash.”