Photographer: Pal Pillai
SHWETAANK Mishra and Abhishek Bhardwaj of Alternative Realities, an NGO, organised a street play scripted, directed by a group of homeless people who also acted in it. It was performed near Mahim Reti Bunder on Mahim Beach on Sunday evening to create unity and awareness of rights among the homeless citizens of Mahim beach (amounting to nearly 2,000). The NGO hopes to mobilise them into collectively demanding suitable living conditions from the government.
The play highlighted issues faced by the homeless like discrimination by society, robbery, corruption and sexual assault.
Ironically, these people claim that most of their worries stem from policemen. “Even if one person does something wrong, hundreds are disturbed” complains Saleem Khan, who installs banners for a living and sleeps on the beach. “They charge us under beggary (Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959), but most of those charged aren’t beggars — we work to earn our living.”
Another frustrating experience is visiting government hospitals. “First the compounders say things like ‘why do you people come to Bombay to die?’” elucidates Ajay Mistry, a worker in the catering business, “Then the doctor tells us he can’t help us because we don’t have any other family member to stand by if something happens.”
Mishra is upset that a television news channel suggested in a telecast that these homeless people were responsible for the rubbish lining Mahim beach. “They are so poor and scared of getting robbed, they don’t even bother keeping a ration card with them,” exclaims Mishra. “Where will they find garbage to throw on the beach?”
Alternative Realities is supported by the Mumbai For Change Campaign of Action Aid, an international welfare organisation.
Its three-pronged approach is to create awareness and unity among the homeless, bring their condition to light before the public and approach government authorities such as the Social Welfare secretary for aid.
“The only solution is for the government to build shelters for these people, like the Rahen Baseras in Delhi,” says Bhardwaj.
This article first appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/d3zh