The city of Delhi is among the world’s top ten most populous urban areas and it keeps growing. Part of this growth comes from rural-to-urban migration. Mostly male migrant workers from rural areas flock into New Delhi in search for a job and better revenues for their families.
The mostly young men face huge challenges in new Delhi having only restricted access to basic needs such as identity documentation, housing, social and financial services. Some also face harassment and political exclusion, depending on their social background and place of origin. Being a vulnerable group inside New Delhi, they end up working in low-value and tough manual labor, risk of exploitation is high.
Life as a shadow of the city
Often you see these workers sleeping on the lawn of a roundabout or on the dusty borders of a inner-city highway. At best they earn 350 rupees (7-8 dollars) a day. However, payment might be delayed or cancelled for no reason. If the workers get their salary they risk paying enormous rates to send it back home. Even a meal for themselves becomes a problem. The 30 rupees you pay for a vegetarian street meal is 10% of their revenue.
New Delhi’s civil-society organizations are aware of these challenges and try to fill the gaps in welfare services and labor rights.
Volunteers step in
Last Saturday a friend took us to a welfare project run by 300 Sikh families from New Delhi. They provide migrant workers with one warm meal a day worth 30 rupees, thus feeding 3000 migrant workers a day. Every morning – 7 days a week – 365 days a year – 300o meals are served.
The Sikh families have done that for years and it is all voluntary work. Before going to their normal jobs, they come in shifts to two big New Delhi crossings – one in the centre and one on the outskirts of New Delhi – and help as cook, as driver, as server, as doctor, as distributor, as manager.
First aid on the pavement
If the workers get injured doing their often risky jobs, they have no chance of getting medical treatment. Without cash at hand, no doctor will treat them in a hospital. So voluntary flying doctors help the injured on the street, disinfect and bandage the wounded workers. Often they end up with large wounds on their feet and hands – having no shoes or protection gloves when working on construction sites. The flying doctors treat about 150 people a day. An ambulance is kept ready at the two crossings to take serious cases straight to a hospital and support them to get medical treatment there.
Often in India you can see the problems right at your face; very rarely the people who try to help are talked about. These Sikh families are providing for the needy workers as an act for the sake of humanity and according to their believes. Charity starts at your home – they say …