Banjara Basti is a small little slum housing about 400 families along the drain that flows along the railway tracks next to Tikiapara station in Howrah, West Bengal. Since our team works among these people too I get to go through some of the places on this route. Yesterday, 18 Feb, I told Ruby and Meena, two social mobilisers to take me into the slum to speak to the men and women there. The houses were practically floating on the filthy water that was flowing out of the drain and each house was raised about 2 to 3 feet above the ground to let the filth flow below them. I wouldn't call this "disaster preparedness" in any way, because they were living on hazards, with no means and way. There were scores of children. About a 100 of them below 5 years. I found none of them wearing any footwear to protect them from the germs. I even found children dropping and picking up things from the two feet wide small narrow raised "road" (probably the raised portion of the tubed drain) with bare hands. Women and children were sitting on filth with no care. I got to speak to children, older ladies and a few young and old men. There was a old man who was sitting and spitting all along. His teeth were sparkling red...green....blue...black, due to many years of chewing tobacco and betel leaves. Hygiene, Water and Sanitation are never heard off in these families. I saw some young girls and boys going to school. That was the only comforting point of life.
Just a stone throw away I saw the Big Bazaar on the Belilious Road, big and mighty, with large space to park tens of cars, and for the affluent to walk, shop, eat and make merry, oblivious to the other world that exists in filth, discomfort and with no means to live on. Who is clean? And who is not?