Bharti Devi is a 62-year-old woman who resides in the crowded slum Mayapuri. This slum exists right beside the railway lines in West Delhi. Bharti and her family have been living beside the railway tracks for more than 30 years. Originally hailing from the neighbour state Uttar Pradesh, she was only 15-year-old when she was married off to her husband.
In the late 1980s, Bharti and her husband migrated to Delhi and set up a shanty in Mayapuri slum to live in. Bharti’s husband and many other slum dwellers took up jobs in Asia’s largest automobile scrap market, located in Mayapuri. Soon, he became a blacksmith and earned Rs.5000 (65.46 USD or 53 £) a month. Meanwhile, Motherhood kept Bharti occupied as she soon gave birth to 2 children, a girl, and a boy.
The income sourced from her husband’s job was not enough for the growing family. This made day to day survival difficult. ‘’We had to make do with one meal a day. My children were always hungry, I was filled with guilt and remorse each time they asked me for more food,’’ says Bharti with teary eyes.
Bharti believed in education and enrolled her children in the government school nearby. However, her children were influenced by their peers in the slum, soon they lost interest and dropped out of school. During this time, Bharti met with a terrible accident while crossing the road. She recovered in time, but her legs became weak and it was difficult for her to walk around. She was unable to do the household chores and help her family.
Her eldest daughter Sunita stepped in and took charge of the household. From a young age of 10, Sunita learned to cook and clean and help her family. To make matters worse, Bharti’s husband passed away in early 2019 leaving the family alone to fend for. Her youngest son was unmotivated and unwilling to take up a job for the family.
At such difficult crossroads in their lives, the women of the house got together and decided that Sunita would have to work. Soon, Sunita got a job at a cloth factory nearby. With her income, the family was able to feed themselves. When the pandemic hit India in late February, Bharti along with many Indians believed that it would not affect their lives. To their dismay, a lockdown was imposed officially in India on March 23rd to stop the spread of Covid-19 across India. It grieved Bharti and her family, to know that Sunita’s source of income was gone. They were agitated and depressed, how long would their ration last?
Meanwhile, Asha had sourced an emergency Covid-19 response plan to assist slum dwellers. The Asha field team along with Asha Corona Warriors went around Mayapuri slum reaching out to the most helpless and poorest to help. They met Bharti and heard her touching story. Asha provided Bharti with financial aid with this money she was able to buy some groceries for her family.
‘’I was hopeless and lost. I thought this was the end for us, we would die of hunger. I am highly thankful to Asha and Asha team for helping me and my family at such a critical time.’’ says Bharti. Asha is currently working in the slums within reasonable limits providing financial aid, groceries, medicines, etc along with spreading awareness about COVID-19 to all slum dwellers.
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