New Delhi: Maya, a 32-year-old mentally challenged woman, cannot comprehend the complexities of life but she is deeply disturbed by the fact that she no longer has over head the roof she shared with a hundred others.
“Our home is gone,” she muttered repeatedly gazing vacantly at the ground where until Monday stood the bamboo-tarpaulin-plastic structure that sheltered senior citizens, homeless children, HIV+ people, victims of rape, and destitute women for the past five years.
The ashram, on an acre of land in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj, was run by some Good Samaritans who got together under NGO The Earth Saviour’s Foundation to uphold their right to live.
The sanctuary ceased to exist on Monday, and those to whom it provided succour have been cast onto the roadside. “We had taken the land on lease for a period of five years. The lease expired yesterday (Monday) and we had to come here in the morning. We have no other option but to stay by the roadside,” Ravi Kalra, founder-president of the NGO, told a news agency on Tuesday.
Kalra said the leased plot of land belonged to a private person, and without any alternate site in sight the ashram had to move to the wide median on the Nelson Mandela Road opposite Ambience Mall in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj. That’s where around 100 old and infirm, mentally and physically disabled residents of the ashram and 40 staffers have taken refuge.
Kalra said that when the lease was coming to an end, he had presented his case to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, then Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna and even Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
“They all acknowledged my good work and appreciated me. I was promised an acre of land by Sheila Dikshit as well as the governor many months ago, but nothing happened and we are here,” he said.
Kalra said that his organisation was not asking for any charity from the government and was ready to pay rent for any piece of land that it could offer to provide shelter to “these people”.
“I am worried for these people, it’s not safe to stay here in the open in the middle of the road,” he said.
“Delhi is under the grip of dengue and if anything happens to these people, who will be responsible?” said a furious Sultan Singh, a volunteer working with the NGO for the past couple of years.
Educating the underprivileged, providing shelter to the abandoned or campaigning against noise pollution, Kalra and his NGO have been working towards solving the city’s problems by engaging concerned citizens since the organisation was formed in 2008. Meanwhile, help in the form of food, drinks, clothes etc is pouring in from all over.
“I used to teach the children back in the ashram and when I got to hear this news in the morning I was shocked. So, I rushed here and also brought with me some food,” said Taruna Saha, a retired librarian from IIT-Delhi, who is associated with The Earth Saviour’s Foundation for about four years.
“I will spread the word about this and do whatever I can to help… I would be visiting the children every day,” she added. For any help or donations, contact Ravi Kalra on 9818171695, 9871675485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.