Housing: Necessity or Luxury?
As I write this only my comfortable chair, while wrapt in my feather-soft blanket, the gap that exists between me and a majority of my country has never been more vivid. People like us, rarely grasp how far-reaching their privilege is. We do not realize how the things we consider necessities are luxuries for those with fewer means.
I was working on-field in the Bengali Basti slum-settlement of Delhi’s Vasant Kunj when this became painfully obvious to me. The basti’s weak walls and tin sheds made its case pretty well without any words. I was to help in recording the heights and weights of the children along with their addresses of ‘Jhugi Numbers’.
It was here that I was introduced to Mehmood — at first glance, he didn’t seem any different than the rest of the children but there was something about his smile that seemed like it didn’t belong to this place. Almost in a mechanical fashion, I asked for his Jhuggi Number and what he said froze me for a few seconds. He said, “meri toh jhuggi hi nahi hai sir.”
Why did I pause? Was Mehmood’s story any different from over 17.5 Lakh people without homes in India? No.
Mahmood’s story was different perhaps because his home was razed to the ground by the owner of the slum land. The word being of some big factory being opened at its place.
Mehmood and his family found a place to stay in the nearby jhuggis which hadn’t been razed yet, but more than 17 lakh people sleep without a roof over their heads.
By depriving children of roofs over their heads do we snatch their right to education? How can we sleep in our air-conditioned comfortable beds, while Mehmood sleeps without a roof over his head? As citizens of a modern nation, I urge you all to ask these questions to yourselves, and your elected officials.