School bags, but no school to go to

Mumbai : Children and adults alike stood with small boards in their hands which mentioned their full names, number of members in their family, the village they came from and their tent number. The queue was for rice, dal, clothes, medical kits, school bags and whatever anyone was ready to give them.

There are over 1200 people living in the Marathwada Dushkalgrashtha Camp which is spread over a small area adjoining a local playground in Barve Nagar area of Ghatkopar.

Over 300 families from drought-affected regions of the state have set up camp here this year. “Usually some 50 families come during summer, but this time due to the drought the numbers are huge,” said Sudhir Rane of the BJP who was distributing these basic necessities to the people on behalf of MP Kirit Somaiya. The MP has been taking care of their food and water needs for a month now, Sudhir says.

A van arrives with bedsheets, soaps, pencils and notebooks and half the people from the long queue run to the van. The van is from an Andheri-based jewellery company which read about the camp in a newspaper. While their benefactors shout that only children should stand in the queue, adults jostle with each other and push children out of the queue.

“These people won’t change, how much ever they get, they want more,” says one of the organisers to his friend.

There are over 150 children in the camp, over 450 women and not a single toilet or bathroom. Many of the families have been residing in the camp since February. They are living among pigs and filth. Pigs can be seen merrily running around and napping alongside their tents.

The BJP is claiming credit for ensuring that these people are not forced to move out of the ‘camp’. “We gave a clean place for them to live, they don’t know how to keep it clean,” said another organiser of the distribution drive.

100 bags collected from college students were also distributed to the children. The irony was that they had neither a school to go nor a proper roof over their head.

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