Migrants live on Aadhaar hope

Hindu refugees from Pakistan feel Aadhaar card would help them set up business, educate their kids and ease hostility

NEW DELHI In a settlement of 30 rickety huts near Majnu ka Tilla in north Delhi, Hindu refugees from Pakistan are waiting for a change. And that change is possible when they receive the Aadhaar cards promised by the Modi government.

Among these 400 refugees is Ran Singh, who hopes that once the Aadhaar cards are issued to them, the displaced families can apply for jobs and have access to education and other facilities like any other Indian citizen. “My 14-year-old son works as a helper. He earns about Rs 100 every day. I don’t have money to fund his education or help him set up a small business,” Singh said.

Life was “dreadful” in Pakistan, he recalled, where they faced discrimination. So, they left everything behind “in search of safety and dignity” in India. However, after the family reached Delhi in 2011, life hasn’t been the paradise they had hoped for. Without a work permit, bank account or ration card, Singh and his family — like the other migrants — have been roughing it out in Delhi.

None of them has any stable income. Many eke out a living by selling vegetables and other goods. However, they alleged that the local administration has been hostile. “The pushcarts we take out to sell vegetables are often confiscated,” said migrant Dayal Das, adding, “The police and the Delhi municipal corporation officials say we do not have the permit to carry out any trade.”

Mahadev Advani, an elderly migrant from Pakistan, rued, “Wherever we go to look for a job or seek admission in schools for our kids, they ask for documents which we don’t have. So, we have to rely on odd jobs. Our children don’t get educated. There seems to be no hope.”

Unemployment has naturally taken a toll on their living conditions. They live in bamboo huts that can barely protect them from the elements. They don’t have access to clean water, except for a water tank built by the civic body. But, with the Centre announcing that Hindu migrants would be issued Aadhaar cards, PAN cards, ration cards and other documents, the residents of this refugee settlement feel there is hope still.

“At least, the government is thinking about us now. I hope that once we get the documents, our problems would gradually ease out,” said Sona Das, who had migrated from Pakistan in 2013, adding, “Our lives would be saved if we are allowed to work here, our children get access to education and the local authorities stop being hostile.”

Others believe they could make good use of land along the Yamuna. “We are farmers and know how to make the best use of fertile land. We left it all in Pakistan. But, this is our home now and we would turn this land into gold. Just give us that chance,” asserted Dayal. Youngsters are enthused as well. Teenager Bharat Kumar declared, “I want to join the army and serve India. This land is my land and I will do everything to defend it. All I need is a chance to educate myself.”