Hamari Basti is a community platform for exchanging local stories of struggle, innovation and sustainable survival in Delhi’s unorganized and informal settlements. We start with neighbourhoods like Trilokpuri (east Delhi) and Jamia Nagar (southeast Delhi), which are densely populated localities in the outskirts of Delhi that are flooded with migrants from nearby and faraway regions. While there are many reasons for people specifically migrating into these regions, many of them are Muslim as they either don’t find homes for rent or purchase in more mainstream localities, or simply feel safer here in the growing communal atmosphere of India. The localities however have limited space and are now bursting due to overpopulation. There is no restriction on construction, and hardly any planning or civic sense among the residents due to a relative lack of education. The government authorities too have neglected the area on infrastructure due to various reasons.
The migration, however, continues to swell the population, not only putting more pressure on the resources, but also creating socially harmful elements that make the locality extremely chaotic and unhealthy to live in. A dominant Islamic identity and prolific religious practice creates the overall picture of a so-called Muslim ghetto. Religious preachers and local politicians mobilize the community on its religious identity, and never introduce any idea of social change or reform. The nearby university, rather than playing any role of social uplifment, only helps in further deterioration. Thus, the locality today is civic nightmare to live in.
The residents have hardly any hope or expectation from the govt. authorities or religious/political leaders to do anything constructive or initiate any new ideas that could transform the place. But, can some progressive individuals take initiatives to bring some fresh ideas here? For example, can the youth be motivated or mobilized towards (a) creating awareness about their rights and obligations as citizens of Delhi and India, (b) developing work skills and finding employment opportunities in the area, (c) creating community spaces where people could meet, share their problems and find some respite, etc.
Some of us (residents) would like to start an initiative or experiment where some of the above ideas could be tested. We wish to begin by meeting regularly (weekly or fortnightly) in groups that are not very big, and comprise of professionals in various fields (law, social work, media, health, education etc.) to see what small steps can be taken to address some of the local issues. We invite you to be a part of this initiative and tell us how you would like to participate.