Home News In Delhi’s slums, life depends on water pipes and prayers

In Delhi’s slums, life depends on water pipes and prayers


Before the water tanker rolled into one of New Delhi’s largest slums, Arvind Kumar was pacing between the gate of a government school and a tea stall a few hundred yards from his home, where he lives with nine family members.

“The water is coming,” Mr. Kumar called out to a waiting woman at the edge of the slum. Their neighborhood, a small part of the slum, usually receives a water tanker every 15 days, but has been without water for several days. Heatwave As the city dried up, the tanker trucks were running out of gas faster and faster. Now, with the last of their stored fuel gone, the two neighbors decided to make sure the trucks could get to their destinations.

The woman climbed aboard the 5,000-gallon tanker and led the driver down a narrow road, past homes stacked with thousands of tanks, many chained together, to a rocky plateau.

“Sometimes, you need to kidnap the driver,” Mr. Kumar, the salesman, said with a laugh, “or you’ll see your children die of thirst in this heat.”

Temperatures in parts of northern India have been hovering above 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 degrees Celsius, over the past few days. 60 peopleThese include some who are currently working or participating in National electionsTwo doctors who were due to present the results on Tuesday have died, according to news outlets.

In Delhi, the streets are like an oven. Work and mobility have dwindled. Parks usually packed with joggers are deserted. Outside Humayun’s Tomb gardens, lemonade vendors complained of a drop in business.

“I drink more water myself than I sell,” said Sham Yadav, a vendor.

Due to the scorching heat, about 25 million people in the Delhi National Capital Region are experiencing a shortage of piped or trucked water.

Every summer, Delhi’s groundwater levels drop due to heavy demand. But this year’s crisis has also exposed the growing dysfunction of India’s national governance, where states are often caught up in political battles with each other or with the central government. The Delhi regional government has appealed to India’s Supreme Court to force a neighboring state to release excess water that another state provided to Delhi.

The crisis has affected nearly everyone, regardless of their status, as officials have been forced to ration water throughout the capital. But the challenge has been particularly acute for the poor.

There is no running water in Kusumpur Pahari, the slum where Kumar lives. The government defines the slum as an illegal settlement for migrant workers, even though people have lived there for three generations. The narrow streets and shantytowns are bordered by gleaming shopping malls on one side and upscale residential areas on the other.

More than 50,000 people live in the city. Many of them are cleaners for nearby embassies, drivers for diplomats, and maids for the rich. Their lives are filled with the sound of water tanker horns.

Slum dwellers struggle throughout the day to collect water in buckets for drinking, washing clothes and bathing.

“This summer is worse,” said Monika Singh, 23, a political science graduate from Kusumpur Pahari who said she might “die here.”

Throughout her life, before she had breakfast, before she got ready for class, before she chose what to wear, she had worried about how and where to store water. “Slowly, as the population grew, the battle for water became more intense,” she said. “This year, really, real bad.”

For decades, people in Kusumpur Pahari and other slums have been fighting over water dumped from tankers. This summer was no exception. video Footage of slum residents near the U.S. Embassy chasing, jumping on and blocking a water tanker was widely circulated on Indian social media.

“If you don’t listen to them, they might kill you for water,” said Surinder Singh, the water tanker driver whom Kumar and his neighbours waited for at Kusumpur Pahari on weekends.

When another truck arrived, ready to deliver water (twice a day) to a part of the slum, the men and women gathered around and forced the driver to stop.

“If you come any closer, I will cut your throats,” a broad-shouldered woman named Neetu shouted at three women who tried to grab the water pipe from her.

“Give it to me first,” Geeta, a housewife, shouted, pushing Neetu to the ground.

“You have adults in your house, and my two children haven’t had a bath in days,” said another woman, Sarita, as she snatched the hose from Geeta.

“If you don’t give it to me,” she continued, “I’ll drop this bucket on your head, and then you won’t be able to fill your bucket.”

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