Bawana Fire – A month later | ActionAid India
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Bawana Fire – A month later

Author: Abhilash Babu
Posted on: Friday, 24th May 2013

Part 3. The real champions of Bawana

They are a handful of young volunteers – boys and girls – who have come forward to help all these families reclaim their lost identities and through this the compensation. The oldest in this group of volunteers is 21 year old Ansar.

Ansar and his friends were once part of the Savera Youth Voulnteer network that ActionAid had supported till 2012 in Bawana. All of them are residents of the area and they have set up three temporary child care centres in G-Block, as part of their emergency services. Given the scale of the tragedy, ActionAid has extended its support in running these temporary centres. 

Most of the people here are daily labourers. When the parents go to work children are alone at home. With these three centres, atleast they can ensure that these young ones are safe and secure.

The three child care centres take care of 120 children as of today. Each centre has two volunteers (a girl and a boy), who offer their time to these kids. These volunteers are young students who are doing correspondence courses with various universities in Delhi.  They find time among all this to also help the community members in times of distress. 

One of them, Vinni, tells me.

“We meet the SDM*, SHO** and the police officials almost every other day. The women and young girls were finding it too threatening to sleep in the open at night. We pointed this to the SHO and the cops and they do regular patrolling these days”.

This team also provides text books to students from Class 9 to Class 12.

“The school has agreed to provide text books for the younger lot, but not for the ones from 9-12. So we bought it with the support of ActionAid India.” Ronak, another young volunteer tells me.

However, for Ansar and his team, things are not as easy as it seems. There are hindrances all around – whether it is in getting the right documents or in correcting the initial FIR.

What’s even worse is that these people were living in makeshift shelters allotted for a Public School. The fire occurred here. Are they illegal occupants, I ask? Ansar replies with a firm no. They are people who have ‘demand letters’ for plots, which have been ear-marked to them. But the legal transfer of those plots has not happened as yet. Hence they have been living in this open area meant for a school, waiting for the administration to hand them possession of the plots that was rightfully theirs.

What now?, I ask again, in growing desperation that I feel for this group of people.

“The fire took away everything, even the ‘demand letters’. It is growing into a much bigger issue than we can all fathom”.

Ansar tells me with a tormented look. He is just 21 years old. 

The work that this team is doing as emergency work in G-Block is just one part of their daily rigour.  This part of Bawana has Blocks from A to L. This group works in blocks A to G. They sit with community members, organise Sunday meetings and ensure that they spread enough awareness around community entitlements and keep a check on the administration.

Last year, after putting continued pressure on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), they reclaimed a land that was meant for school.

These blocks shelter approximately 150,000 people according to Anshad. They only have 1 police booth and 1 Public Medical centre for this area. There are private doctors who have opened small clinics and charge anywhere between Rs.30 – Rs. 40 per consultation. There are only 5 primary schools that run on shifts to accommodate the huge number of children. The two masjids (pic below) in the block were built by the community themselves.

Read Part 1. When the levee breaks

Read Part 2. That joke called compensation