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Enabling Social Justice at the Doorstep through District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), East

“We, women not only need dry ration, milk and grocery during this difficult time, we also need peace of mind and harmony at home and in our basti. With lines of men queuing up from 4 am in the morning, drunken brawls and abuses waking us early in the morning, we decided it was high time that we took matters in our hands and thus our struggle to stop the sale of liquor began…” says Kamlesh.

When the Delhi government declared lockdown and police barricades were installed all around Okhla, the only source of home brewed liquor was the corner house in Mazdoor Kalyan Camp. The police had sealed all the lanes and entry points across most bastis leaving a lane or two allow residents access to the main Okhla Road.

However, since March 22, we observed that the number of people standing at the entrance of the lane leading to Mazdoor Kalyan Camp to purchase liquor was increasing every day. Since all liquor shops in the adjoining areas were closed, men from all the neighbouring bastis flocked to our camp to purchase home brewed liquor, blocking the entrance and making it impossible for women and men to move around freely.

We, members of the Community Management Committee, made several attempts to reason with the two liquor shop vendors to persuade them to stop the sale. Our pleas fell on deaf ears. We were told, “Do as you wish. I know many influential people in this area. I supply them with freshly brewed liquor and as long as I have their support no one can stop me from doing as I please.”

We tried many other techniques. We drove the men away, abused and argued with them, and even threatened to call the police but nothing seemed to work in our favour and the business continued to flourish.

This became almost a daily affair and we often returned home feeling angry, helpless and defeated.

On the morning of April 21, Kamal, Vidya’s son told us that there was a scuffle at the end of the lane between two men over one bottle of liquor. The fight had turned ugly and a crowd had gathered around; some men and women from our camp were trying to stop the fight. Vidya and Kamal also intervened but the men would not stop.

We were scared and alarmed so we made a call on 181 Women in Distress helpline expecting the PCR van to come and set matters right. However, there was no response for over forty-five minutes. Meanwhile, we made several calls to police helpline 100 and in a few minutes Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer and Head Constable Ashvani Mongra came to the camp. Hearing the police siren, the crowd dispersed and the men fled. The police officials asked us to make a written complaint and helped us detail out the concerns. They also assured us of their full support and promised to come the following morning. A patrolling vehicle was also stationed on the main road to keep a 24×7 hour vigil.

The next morning Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer and Head Constable Ashvani Mongra reached the camp with their teams early in the morning. Assisted by CMC members they searched the house and collected all evidence. They however could not nab the two men as someone had leaked the information and they had escaped. Both police officials went door to door and spoke to the residents. They recorded testimonies, made notes, and collected signatures the next day orders for sealing the house were received and since that day sale of liquor has stopped.

“While we women from the CMC made our own efforts, we would like to place on record and acknowledge the support and trust which the two police officials Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer and Head Constable Ashvani Mongra, placed in us. They not only believed us but also helped us complete the documentation formalities and also assured all residents that in case of any problems they were just a call away. They are regularly visiting the camp and even assisting us in distribution of dry food kits, added Mukesh.

“You are working with us as part of our team, so it our duty to offer you all our help. It is because of the good work that the CMC members are doing that the image of police is gradually improving. You have helped bridge the gap between the community and us and we thank you for making this happen”— Mukhtar Ahmad, Beat Officer.

“We are working round the clock but police cannot reach everywhere. We need your support to act as our eyes and ears in the community. We are also gratified that you are updating us on a regular basis, informing us about areas where we can work with you such as distributing ration kits“— Head Constable Ashvani Mongra.

As narrated by Vidya, Kamlesh, Rajkumari, Pista, Jyoti, Sunita and Mukesh

The Milk Story-Delhi

In partnership with Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), CFAR is facilitating children in the age group 0-6 years to get half litre toned milk every alternate day.

When CFAR began relief operations in the most vulnerable settlements of Delhi immediately after the lockdown, we started getting requests for milk and biscuits for children in the age group 0-6 years. With parents having lost their livelihood due to the pandemic were left with little cash in hand. This was impacting the purchasing power of households directly, forcing them to compromise on items such as milk and biscuits. As one mother, Jyoti told us: “My husband is a daily wage worker and I do domestic work. We have both lost our jobs and have limited cash to take care our daily needs. The government and other relief agencies are providing dry ration kits but no milk powder or any other nutritional supplement for our children. We, therefore, have to feed our children with rice and dal water.”

Given the urgency, CFAR appealed to the Advisory Task Force of the Delhi government for providing some measure of support to families with children in the age group 0-6 years.

In keeping with this, DPCPR began a campaign partnering with CSOs to provide half litre milk every alternate day for children across Delhi settlements. The money for the milk was raised by partners with support of DCPCR.

CFAR supported DCPCR by enlisting children, identifying vendors, facilitating meetings between DCPCR Rapid Action team and point persons (who introduced the families) and ensuring distribution of packets to enlisted HHs.

On April 19, 2020, as many as 231 children were given milk packets. These were from six settlements- JJ Camp Anand Vihar, Khichdipur, Mazdoor Kalyan Camp I, B 45 Sanjay Camp, Gautampuri, and Indra Kalyan Vihar.

The distribution was facilitated by Community Management Committee (CMC) members, many of whom are ASHA, ICDS workers, SHG members and Swachha Grahi working in partnership with the Delhi government for over two years, with CFAR.

In JJ Camp Anand Vihar, Heera and Surekha reached out to 22 children. Heera, is a Swachhagrahi, ASHA worker and a PLV under DLSA, East.

Heera told us, “I have no children of my own, but all these are my children and I am happy that the government is thinking of our children”. Surekha, also an ASHA worker added: ”This is double benefit for me, I can help households with children and also give information on handwashing and social distancing as part of my work.”

In Khichdipur, Priya and Madhu, both members of CMC and SHG delivered milk packets to 27 families. Priya said: “I felt very happy and relieved. Children need nutrition and to keep them healthy milk is necessary.” Madhu, also said: “The lockdown has affected households where income is low and children are the most affected as families have to curtail expenditure and milk is one of the first items they have stopped buying.”

Priyanka, who is a member of the adolescent forum and SHG in Indra Kalyan Vihar wants to make her settlement an ideal one and started training women in making handicrafts and selling them. “This is a welcome initiative; Parents feel helpless as they do not have money as all work has stopped. Getting some relief for the children is welcome.”

Munni, CMC member, added: “Children need nutrition to remain healthy. Parents blessed us and thanked us for helping them. I feel grateful for this opportunity to help 12 households in my basti”.

In B-45 Sanjay Camp, Anita and Pushpa had a big responsibility of reaching 80 households. Anita is a Swachhagrahi and a Master trainer. She told us: “In this time of crisis, all of us have to help each other. My children are grown up and I am happy to work with mothers to run errands and deliver milk at home.” Pushpa, CMC member is an Anganwadi helper. She said: “This campaign must be taken to all settlements and across the city. Even after the lockdown this initiative should be made a part of the Anganwadi services so that children in the age group 0-6 years can get adequate nutrition”.

Members from the Baba Sahib Sakhi Sanitary Napkin unit in Mazdoor Kalyan Camp, have now opened the door of their unit for relief. Vidhya, Swachhagrahi, SHG and unit member, said: “Our unit is not functioning so we are supporting CFAR in distributing dry rations. Today, we distributed milk and everyone around told us it was a good effort.”

Jyoti, also a member of the CMC and the unit added, “One good deed begets another, we went door to door giving milk, immediately after we received a call from another NGO asking for packets of sanitary napkins to distribute in other slums. We have been rewarded.”

Last but not the least, three Mahila Panchayat Group members Sarita, Jyoti, Shabnur, linked 63 children to the milk campaign in Gautampuri. Sarita, is an active legal help desk member who said: “A few days back I was taking cases to Mahila Panchayat office, now I taking milk. It is all the same-helping those in need.” Shabnur said: “I was very surprised when I received a call from Vartika that we can supply milk to HHs in Gautampuri. I thought someone was joking with me but when all three of us received the packets we were eager to help,” Jyoti, shared similar sentiments: “Elders in the family blessed us. A mother blessed my children. It is an opportunity to serve my own community and in this time we all have to work together.”

Ms Ranjana Prasad, Member, DCPCR has offered to support CFAR in raising funds for providing milk to children across settlements.
In her message to CFAR, in response the first day delivery and photographs she shared: “Amazing…Its a moment for me…”

To take this campaign to other settlements, we are enlisting, many more children from most hidden and excluded population including children affected by HIV.

Who is Making the Difference?

Shri Pawan Kumar, Secretary, DLSA East

Over the past six months, we have closely interacted with Shri Pawan Kuman, Secretary DLSA, East. Mr Kumar is a Metropolitan Magistrate cum Civil Judge with a career spanning over ten years. He has presided over several landmark Civil and Criminal cases and has been designated as DLSA Secretary, East district since 2017.

Mr Kumar has shown his exemplary pro-people leadership in more than one ways.

Setting up First Legal Help Desk in East district in collaboration with CBO for free legal aid services:
In February 2020, DLSA East inaugurated a legal help desk in Kalyanpuri Block 18 managed by the Satark Yuva Sangathan (SYS), a community-based organization. The help desk focused on involving men and boys in fostering a more caring environment for women, elderly, and children. In his inaugural address Mr Pawan Kumar stated, “DLSA takes legal services to every citizen and facilitates for every household free and timely legal help. The motto with which DLSA works is “justice for all” and “justice at your doorstep”. It is with this objective that the legal help desk will work in Kalyanpuri to enable the community to seek information, redress and support in a convenient and simple manner and bring peace, harmony and equality at home.”

As the lockdown in Delhi was declared, Mr Pawan Kumar extended his support to partner with CFAR to reach the vulnerable poor communities in JJ clusters for an integrated COVID 19 response. To begin with, he designated nine paralegal volunteers to work on a daily basis with CFAR. The PLVs were tasked to support the most vulnerable and marginalised groups of unorganised workers, street vendors, sex workers, destitute and alms collectors in getting access to cooked food twice a day through the community kitchens set up by the Delhi government. The PLVs were also involved in the distribution of dry food, hygiene kits, filling e-coupons, registering unorganised construction (ironsmiths engaged in layering iron mesh during construction) workers for access to Labour Card and renewal of registration . He said: “There is so much more we all need to do as a part of the COVID 19 response. This is just a small beginning. Organisations like DLSA do not know how to reach the people directly. We, therefore, work with NGOs and CBOs and help them in enabling the poor to access their rights and entitlements. This time we would like to help unorganised migrant workers engaged in construction work to secure the benefit of financial assistance of Rs 5000 declared by the Delhi government.”

Besides rendering legal support in his official capacity as a Judge and Secretary DLSA , Shri Pawan Kumar also leaves no stone unturned to help the most affected and at risk populations in case of any emergency. A recent incident proves this.

On April 27, CFAR approached him for support in getting an eleven year old child suffering from secondary tuberculosis infection admitted to the nearest hospital in response to an SOS message we received from the child mother. The affected family was running from pillar to post trying to get their critically ill child who was having breathing difficulty a hospital bed but most hospitals did not admit them as the ICU facility was not available.

Our team member Shashi, who is also a PLV with DLSA approached the Secretary and requested him to intervene. Shri Pawan Kumar immediately spoke to the CMO at Chacha Nehru Hospital, opposite Karkardooma Courts to ensure that the child is admitted and given emergency treatment and medication. He directed his office to make all arrangements for registration at the hospital while the child was taken to the hospital. Having done this he directed SHO, Kalyanpuri to draw up a list of essential food items which the family needed and facilitated doorstep delivery.

He has shared his number with the family and requested Shashi to keep him informed. He has also directed his office to keep in touch with the doctors and monitor the progress on the case.

We called to thank him for support he provided to CFAR and he responded as follows: ”This is a time when all of us have to stretch ourselves and help those in need. If I am able to bring some respite to a struggling family and save their child then I will not miss the opportunity. I have done this as my contribution to the commendable work CFAR is doing to help the poor.”

Who has made a difference?
Community Management Commitee and Youth

Heera, Community Management Committee, Swachha Grahi, Asha worker, Paralegal Volunteer and SHG member
36 years, Anand Vihar Jhuggi.

“I find serving my community gratifying. This is my extended family. We share happiness and sorrows together. I have no children of my own so helping other with small children makes me happy and content and that is why I am supporting the relief work,” says Heera Community Management Committee member.

Heera (36) wears many hats. She is also a Swachha Grahi and ASHA worker in addition to paralegal volunteer and self-help group member.
She has been associated with CFAR for over two years now. “It has been an enriching experience for me to work in the community. As an ASHA Sahyogini, we were providing information related to health and personal hygiene. When I became a member of the Community Management Committee of CFAR we began to understand the link between poor sanitation and weak health and immunity.’’

“Then I registered myself as a paralegal volunteer and received training on legal rights of women, and girls. This helped me realise the importance of knowing your own rights. There were many things even I did not know,’’ Heera says.

Then, the COVID 19 infection began and poor vulnerable families with no regular income and daily jobs approached her for support in terms of food. With the help of other members of the Community Management Committee, Heera began to make lists of those who needed grocery and food grains. “We worked closely with other members in the community and delivered food kits to the most vulnerable with elderly, PwD, young children and ill family members.’’

The team helped Ram, who is physically disabled, get a gas cylinder and dry ration so that he could cook his own food and have two square meals a day. “My colleague Surekha and I are also distributing half-a-litre milk packets and cornflakes every two days to 22 families with infants. I have also counselled many women and mediated fights as the men are at home and are stressed because they do not have jobs.’’
Reena, Community Management Committee, and SHG member, of Janta Jeevan Camp in Okhla, is a confident woman today. She is able to talk to officials without being scared.

“I also constantly remind children, elderly and mothers to wash hands at least six times a day and sip warm water. Prevention is better than cure I tell them and we all have to keep ourselves safe from Coronavirus.”

With the rising COVID 19 infection, people living in slums are more at risk as lanes are narrow and houses next to each other. Social distancing is difficult and sometimes next to impossible. “I have, therefore, made it my mission to ensure that when people move or talk, they wear a mask and maintain at least one hand distance.’’

“Another thing close to my heart is respect for sanitation workers and those who are keeping our basti clean, and taking our waste to minimise the risk of infections. We have to understand that they are also human beings and are risking their health for us.’’

Reena’s husband in a sanitation worker who collects waste from the settlement and surrounding areas. “I help him in this work by persuading families to use dustbins and not pile up waste in lanes and drains. When workers from the South Delhi Municipal Committee come to our basti, we help them in picking up household items so that the area can be swept properly, offering them water to wash their hands and talking to them politely. My husband also helps Community Management Committee members from the neighbouring basti if the waste is not removed.’’

Along with members of the Community Management Committee, she made a list of most poor families who need support in getting dry food from ration shops. For now, that ration given by CFAR will last for one month but she wants to help them to fill e-coupons so that they are not dependent or deprived of their share.

Raj Pradeep (22), Youth Volunteer from Shiv Vihar Phase 7, says he is never worried or disappointed. “There is a silver lining behind every cloud. These trying times and COVUD 19 will also pass sooner than later. What is important is that we do not give up hope, do not feel we are alone and do stop believing in ourselves,”

The CFAR team first met him when he came up to them and offered to help in filling up compensation forms, distributing relief, facilitating filing of FIRs and consoling household who had lost everything during the recent riots. When asked why he wanted to do this work, he said: “This work gives me a sense of fulfilment. I like helping people in need. Over the past few years, I have taken up many big and small jobs in companies like Vodafone, but the satisfaction I receive in supporting the needy was missing.”

Raj lives with his younger siblings and mother. To meet the daily needs of the family, his mother makes soft toys for a factory. His brothers are studying. But the riots changed everything. “Ma and I both lost our jobs. I started doing small home-based work to support the family. Since I had free time, I decided to volunteer for relief support with NGOs who were coming to Shiv Vihar and plunged whole heartedly in supporting relief and rehabilitation processes initiated by CFAR.’’

“Now I realise that this work makes me happy. With the pandemic spreading in the city, many fellow residents lost their livelihood. When CFAR began its relief operations I helped in the distribution of dry grains to the most vulnerable families of Gadaria Lohars, Janta Mazdoor Colony, Seelampur, Shakti Colony and Sunlight Colony. I also supported CFAR in making lists of families with no ration cards so that we could fill E-coupons for them.’’

He has also readied a group of volunteers who are providing care and support to families with elderly parents, young children, and single women. The groups support them by running errands, delivering food kits and other relief materials and helping them fill E-coupons.

Mohammad Kaif, grassroots communicator and Male Forum member from New Sanjay Camp at Okhla and his friends are regularly collecting donations to provide cooked khichdi to destitute and elderly people who are living on the roadside. “Nowadays, there very few people on the road so these poor communities do not get any alms, food or help. We do not want anyone to sleep hungry and this is a small effort from our side to help those who are most needy.”

Kaif (18), also member of the CFAR nukkad natak team since 2016, comes from a very poor family in Lucknow. His seven siblings and parents live in New Sanjay camp as they do not have enough money to buy their own house.

“Working with CFAR has changed my attitude towards life. Earlier, I spent my time sitting idle but once I learnt how to write and perform street plays, there was no looking back. We supported CFAR team in everything they did– from wall paintings on handwashing to sweeping the camp, segregating wet and dry waste and now making lists of very weak families for helping them get rations.’’

“Since, I enjoy communicating with people, I have made videos and WhatsApp messages on prevention of coronavirus infection, proper technique of handwashing, how to make and wear a mask, and need and benefits of social distancing,’’ Kaif says.

When CFAR distributes food grain kits in the camp, Kaif make coupons and distributes them to all those in the list. Keeping in mind the social distancing protocols, Kaif then draws a circle in the open space of the camp and requests people to come and stand inside them when the token number is called out.

“The ration kit is handed out and our team members help them carry it back home. In this manner all distribution happens without any confusion.’’