Indira Camp in Dilshad Garden’s Jhilmil Industrial Area in Delhi, where Shahid Hasan lived with his wife Hasina and their children, lay in the way of a planned Metro line. So four years ago the family was relocated to a 12.5x10ft plot of land on the Savda Ghevra resettlement colony in the rural north-western fringes of the city.
Initially Hasan, who goes by the name “Masterji” and is a tailor by profession, found the situation impossible. “It was like wilderness when I first came here,” he says. “There was no drinking water. I put a boundary wall around my plot and immediately went back to Dilshad Garden.” He had to pay rent to live there. He returned after six months and built his one-room house.
At home: Hasan with Fatima (foreground) and his other chilldren. Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Home to some 8,000 families, Savda Ghevra covers a large tract of land that is surrounded by agricultural fields on all sides, and consists mainly of small one- and two-storeyed dwellings made of exposed bricks. There are also large community bathrooms at different points, three government school buildings and two Mother Dairy milk booths.
Today Hasan lives and works in Savda Ghevra. He stopped commuting for work two years ago when the local population became large enough to support his tailoring work. In part, this has been made possible by the support he and his family have received from CURE, a Delhi-based NGO that works to provide livelihoods to the underprivileged. CURE has been active in Savda Ghevra since 2006.
Two years ago, it helped organize some women into a group christened Navkiran Aajivika Mahila Udyog Samuh. Among them was Hasina, who also knew how to sew and stitch. The Navkiran group, with the aid of CURE field workers, approached shops in the markets of nearby Nangloi for orders of shopping bags. Their first order was for 1,000 bags from the Mota Bhai clothing store, recalls Hasina. Since then the orders for bags, mostly from sweet and confectionery shops, have seen a steady rise; so has the number of women associated with Navkiran—it stands at 30 now.
Hasan also works with Navkiran, helping them cut and stitch the fabric for shopping bags. While both husband and wife are happy with the help they have received from CURE, they say life was better in Dilshad Garden. Hasan says he used to earn Rs 300-400 daily there, but now manages about Rs 200. With seven children, it is still a fight to make ends meet.
Which is where another of CURE’s initiatives has come as a blessing—it arranged for a doctor to come to Savda Ghevra over four months and train women and girls as hospital attendants. Among the 22 trainees in the first batch was Hasan’s eldest daughter, Fatima, who has studied till class X.
Sixteen-year-old Fatima enumerates some of the things she has learnt—basic hygiene and cleanliness, how to read a patient’s vital signs and how to administer drips and injections. She is now working as a trainee at Vimal Hospital in Nangloi and says she feels a sense of pride as she walks through the neighbourhood in her uniform of white salwar and kurta to catch the bus to the hospital. After her training, she is assured of a job with the hospital. Fatima already has another candidate in mind for the next batch of trainees—her younger sister Reshma.
For Hasan and Hasina, income is still a worry—orders for shopping bags are not steady and often dry up. Now is a good time though, with enough orders ahead of Diwali which includes orders for 10,000 bags for the gift hampers CURE will sell at Diwali fairs in Delhi. But they are reconciled to life here—the big plus is metred 24-hour supply of electricity and, of course, legal ownership of their plot of land. Thanks in part to initiatives by CURE, they are looking ahead, one day at a time.