Slum Report — Park Circus
BY AIHIK SUR
Just adjacent to the Park Circus railway station and by the tracks lays a column of shanties which stretch north for a mile. Parvez Ali, an inhabitant of one of these plastic covered, bamboo structured 6x6 cubicles, said, “I don’t get to eat anything the entire day. I have to rely on the mercy of my neighbours to get a meal during the day”.
Parvez Ali is one of the hundred who resides in these shanties in the huge Park Circus slum. They previously used to stay about two hundred feet from the current location, from where they were evicted by the government in 2012 for the construction of a foot-over bridge. “The government gave us a week’s notice, but evicted us within three days”, said Parvez. “We were given a paltry sum of Rs. 10000 as compensation”, added he.
Parvez, unlike others, is a paraplegic. “I haven’t been out of this house in 14 years”, said Parvez, sitting on his rickety bed littered with old essentials like a dirty water bottle, blankets, glasses, and plastics. His overgrown hair fell on his face without any care. Parvez wore a red and blue windcheater, over which he had a brown shawl wrapped and he wore a blue lungi in the bottom.
“While on a vacation I tried jumping from a wall and fell, breaking my leg. Since the injury, paralysis slowly set in rendering me today immobile”, said Parvez. “Earlier I used to earn 200–300 Rs a day pulling rickshaws, now I can’t contribute to my family’s earnings” added he.
“My 17-year-old son, works at the nearby leather hand-glove factory. He brings dinner for me from a nearby restaurant while returning. That is the only fixed meal I have in a day”, said Parvez. “My eldest son has run off to Chennai, works there but doesn’t send any money for his father and my daughter studies in a boarding school in Howrah, and comes to visit me once a month”, added he.
Hemley Gonzalez, the founder of a local NGO, which has been working with the families of these slums since 2008 said, “These shanties are overlooked by the government and again can be evicted anytime in the future. They use the public toilets in the station but they don’t have any fixed source of water or sanitation.”
For Parvez who hasn’t gone out of his house in 14 years, he has to defecate in his own bed, on a plastic, which a neighbour later disposes.
Just opposite the railway station, through the numerous lanes and bylanes of Park Circus is another slum where things look better.
The houses here are pucca and each of them has power in them. “The government hasn’t helped one bit in constructing these houses. The houseowners built them with their own money and then sublet them to us for residing”, said Wasim, a 16 year old teenager.
The way to Wasim’s house’s entrance has drinking water buckets on one side. The rooms are below the ground level slightly, and you have to climb down a stair to get in. The house has two rooms, one behind the other.
“There is one bathroom for one angana. Each angana has 20–21 families. So it gets very chaotic during the mornings”, said Wasim. “Same for water. There is one handpump per angana”, added he.
Wasim’s elder brother works in the nearby leather handglove factory. And despite being wishful towards getting further education, he can’t because, during his childhood he was hit on the ear which led to it being ruptured. Unlike his elder brother, Wasim wants to study further and heralds Hemley and his NGO for guiding him towards a better life.