The colony entrance has been blocked with bright strings. (Express photo by Renuka Puri)
The entrance to the alleys inside Bawana's JJ colony are barricaded with blankets and sarees, held together with ropes and bright red strings. While residents hope this will keep coronavirus at bay, they believe hunger is a far bigger crisis. Delhi Police helplines have been buzzing, with a substantial number of ‘hunger calls’ coming from the Bawana colony.
DCP (Licensing) Asif Mohammad Ali said while they were analysing the calls for food, “around 25% of the hunger calls are from Bawana” — making it one of the areas with the maximum calls in Delhi.
Several factory workers, out of jobs since work halted at the Bawana Industrial Area, live at the colony. The main road is filled with sewage dug up from manholes, and a small canal, filled with water that has turned black, passes through the colony.
There is no social distancing here as groups of women wash their clothes at the canal, while men relieve themselves nearby. Children fish for coconuts floating in the water, hoping to sell them at Rs 15 a piece.
One of the residents, Mohammad Iqbal, is among the few keeping the supply lines to Bawana running. He heads to Narela every day to bring back goods. On Monday, he said it took him over two hours to haul his wooden cart filled with potatoes till Bawana. On spotting a police patrol vehicle, Iqbal quickly steered his cart into the colony hoping personnel wouldn't impound it. “Police colony ke bahar jaane nahi deti,” he said.
Nearby, a group of women carrying vegetables and fodder for goats trudge through the lanes. They used to work at the Bawana Industrial Area, earning Rs 6,000 at a fan-making unit. After the lockdown, the owner handed them their previous month’s salary and some ration to tide through the week.
Rani Bai (32) got around Rs 4,500 from her employer. She will finally be able to feed her family of eight, who were dependent on volunteers at a local school to feed them. “Sirf dal-chawal aur khichdi se kaam kaise hoga?” Bai asked.
Another resident, Raj Kumar (25), who used to work at an auto parts manufacturing unit, said he had to dip into his savings for ration to pay his landlord Rs 2,500. “Ek hafte se bhik maang raha hun. Aur nahi mangunga,” he said.
Israti Khatun (35), who has nine family members, borrowed money from her sister. “Log bole muft mein ration milega. Ek chutki bhi nahi mila mujhe,” she said.
Single mothers face an even tougher challenge. Ritu (35) used to earn Rs 6,000 a month at a plastic-making unit. Her husband was electrocuted at their house. She has now been begging her neighbours for ration for the past week. “Log bol rahe hai ki mujhe corona hogaya hai. Nahi milta koi ab mujhse,” she said.
For Raju Devi, a mother of seven, having to wait in line for ration is an exercise fraught with anxiety. “Dar lagta hai line mein khade hone se. Bimaar pad jaungi,” she said.
Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?