New Delhi, June 21 – In a settlement of 30 rickety huts near Majnu ka Tilla in north Delhi, Hindu refugees from Pakistan are waiting for a change. And that change is possible when they receive the Aadhaar cards as has been promised by the Narendra Modi government.
Ran Singh is one among these 400 refugees and has been hoping that once the Aadhaar cards are issued to them, the displaced families can apply for jobs and have access to education and other facilities like any other Indian citizen.
“My 14-year-old son works as a helper. He earns about Rs 100 every day. I don’t have money to fund his education or help him in setting up a small business,” Singh told.
He says life was “dreadful” in Pakistan where they faced discrimination. So they left everything behind to migrate to India “in search of safety and dignity”. However, after the family reached Delhi in 2011, life hasn’t been easy as they had imagined. It’s “not a paradise” they had hoped for.
Without the work permit, bank account and ration card, Ran and his family — like other migrants from Pakistan — have been leading a tough life in Delhi.
None of these migrants has any stable income. Many among them eke out a living by selling vegetables and other goods. However, they alleged that the local administration has been hostile. “The pushcarts we take out to sell vegetables are often confiscated,” said Dayal Das, a migrant. “The police and the MCD officials say that we do not have the permit to carry out any trade,” he added.
Mahadev Advani, an elderly migrant from Pakistan, shared a similar experience.
“Wherever we go to look for a job or to seek admission in schools for our children, they ask for documents which we don’t have. So we have to rely on odd jobs. Our children don’t get educated. There seems to be no hope for us and our children,” Advani said.
Unemployment has had its effect on other aspects too. The living condition of these hapless migrants is pathetic. They live in huts made of bamboo that are not good enough to protect them from the elements of nature. They don’t have access to clean water, except a water tank built by the civic body.
But with the Modi government announcing that the Hindu migrants would be issued Aadhaar card, PAN card, ration card and other documents, the residents of this refugee settlement are hopeful.
“At least the government is now thinking about us. I hope that once we get the documents, our problems would be gradually solved,” said Sona Das who had migrated from Pakistan in 2013.
“Our lives would be saved if we are allowed to work here, our children have access to education and the local authorities stop being hostile,” Sona added.
Similar confidence is echoed by other migrants who also believe that their plight may come to an end if they are allotted some land along the Yamuna river.
“We are farmers and we know how to make the best use of fertile land. We left it all inPakistan. But this is our home now and we would turn this land into gold. Just give us that chance,” asserted Dayal.
It is this hope for a chance that has enthused the youngsters as well. Like Bharat Kumar, a teenager, who wants to join the Indian Army.
“I want to join the Army and serve India. This land is my land and I will do everything to defend it,” he said. “All I need is a chance to educate myself.”
So despite harsh realities hurting them now, the migrants are waiting for that opportunity to contribute to a growth story. Aadhaar card would be the beginning.
By Anand Singh
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)