Bharti Barar is a 20 year old domestic help who has been working since the age of 13 in the apartments of sector 50 Noida. Her family came to Noida when she was about 11 years old from a village near Bhopal to earn a better living and they settled in a slum in Barola , Noida.
She has a family of 5 people which includes her mother, father , an elder brother and a younger sister sharing two small kuccha rooms for which they have to pay Rs 4600 as rent .
As I enter the room I see the plaster on the walls is almost coming off and the window is covered with a small cloth for privacy. Both the rooms are filled with their necessities leaving just enough room for them to sit and sleep.
“My mother who also worked as a domestic help has stopped working due to medical issues and father doesn’t work at all. My brother works as a delivery person for a restaurant. So together we try to earn to send our little sister to school and also pay the rent failing which we get harassed by our landlord and also have to pay a penalty of Rs 400 extra”, says Bharti.
One can’t help but notice a long queue for a bathroom just opposite their rooms. Bharti tells me that there is just one bathroom to use for people living in the nearby 22 rooms. The water comes only twice, once in the morning and once in the evening so we have to go collect and save it if we want to use the bathroom. According to her they are better off than the others nearby as they have 4 walls for a bathroom. The others who pay less rent in the nearby quarters have curtains instead of walls.
The Gujars are a powerful community here who own the land where these kuchha houses are made and they give them out for rent.
“ Earlier we used the tap water for drinking purposes but 2 years ago our landlord installed an RO water system where we get clean drinking water but they charge us Rs 10 per bottle “, says Bharti’s mother Sampath Barar.
The residents of Barola are often plagued by diseases like dengue and more recently chikungunya. Heaps of garbage lies all around the slum, mocking the prime minister’s Swachh Bharat Campaign. Bharti and her neighbors took the initiative to clean their own surroundings as their landlord asked for more money to get it cleaned.
“Government officials come here only during the election time and after that they are nowhere to be seen, while the landlord charges us for anything possible in their reach”, says Sapna , Bharti’s neighbor who hails from Agra and like her works as a domestic help in the nearby apartment.
Barola is filled with small time doctors and their clinics whose medicines don’t work most of the time as the residents say and they have no option but to go there as they can’t afford to pay the big hospitals and good doctors.
“They don’t even check us properly before giving us the medicines. The last time I got a severe reaction from an injection the doctor gave me and my face remained red and swollen for almost a month but what can we do as we are helpless.”
The recent demonetization has also taken a major toll on their daily lives. The local Gujars who own the ration shops have raised the prices of basic commodities. They get salt for Rs 40 per kg and Dal for Rs 120per kg which has now become a luxury. They exchanged the old Rs 500 notes with them and in return would get only RS 100 — Rs 200 in return and the rest was kept by the shopkeeper.
There are two schools near Barola : Ankit Public School and Gopal Saraswati School and both of them are private. While many of the children in Barola have enrolled in these schools including Bharti’s sister there is a common trend of dropping out after 9 th or 10th standard. Otherwise if parents cant afford it then the children spend all their time playing around or whiling away their time.
Bharti’s little sister Jyoti tells me that her teachers do not pay much attention to all the children in the class and apart from school also take extra tuitions for completing the syllabus for which they charge extra money. Jyoti studies in the 5 th standard though ideally she should have been in the 7th standard. If one has a look at her copies you can say that she is taught well at school but when asked to read it Jyoti is not able to pronounce the simplest of words either in Hindi or in English. She can copy the spellings from the textbook but neither can she understand nor can she read most of it.
Out of Bharti’s and her brother’s income RS 380 goes for every month for the Jyoti’s school fees and additional money for uniform and books which comes upto about RS 3000 / year. The school even charges them for giving an exam additionally.
A few months back some local gujars had also started selling liquor in the open and it created a scene every day. When they complained to the landlord, he didn’t do anything. It was only after the police intervened after a long time that the problem was solved.
Akhilesh Yadav’s scheme of distributing free cycles also reached here but with a twist. The Pradhan of the Panchayat charged them RS 2000 for every cycle and the money went in his pocket. While many people including Bharti’s family also opened a bank account when they heard of the prime minister’s Jan Dhan Yojna but most the accounts have closed now as they remained unutilized and they did not have enough money to put in it.
All the tenants who live in Barola have come from different villages and small towns spread across India like Muradabad , Bulandsheher , Hardoi etc in search of better job opportunities and hopes of better standard of living. But here they merely manage to survive as they face exploitation from the powerful class on one hand and recive little or no support by the government on the other hand.