On Yamuna’s dirty banks, brotherhood of the dispossessed gathers in the only place they know as home
On a scorching summer afternoon in Delhi, amid the second extension of the nationwide lockdown to prevent Covid-19 spread, I met a group of around 15 men living in a depression on the banks of river Yamuna. The spot was strategically chosen, as it was hidden from view from the main road. The Hume pipes in which the men were living contained their only belongings – a pair of new clothes, a gamcha, a bucket, and some vessels to cook and eat in.
Finding food is a challenge every day: they have no savings and employment is out of question. But even amidst these hardships, the Hume pipes have become a haven as the police cannot spot them there. They know, from years of experience, that being invisible to the state is their best bet for survival.
Over many decades, a population of 4,000 to 6,000 – some of the poorest in the capital – have settled on the western embankment of the river, Yamuna Pushta. In my work with homeless people over two decades, I have learnt that a majority of the men at Pushta have broken bonds with their families. For some, it was the shame of being unable to provide for...
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