In 2003, slum dwellers from 8 locations in India's Capital, Delhi, were evicted from their homes and resettled on the North-West outskirts of the state, in a place called Bawana. Miles away from their regular sources of livelihood, the average income per person quickly dipped to a measly $0.13, or eight Indian Rupees, a sum that does not even add up to a loaf of bread. For relief, residents of Bawana turned in large numbers to usurious money lenders, borrowing as much as double their monthly income just to be able to afford one square meal.
What is happening in Bawana is a microcosm of the situation for 400 million Indians and their children who live on less than $1.25 per day. While adults deal with poverty, children deal with a loss of their childhoods. For children from these families, India remains one of the planet’s most challenging areas to grow up in. Extreme poverty pushes children out of schools and into child labour. Bereft of options, parents prefer marrying off their daughters as child brides. Unhealthy habits built during the growing years translate into high morbidity rates as adults.
The population is around 40,000 of which 70% are Muslim. There are about 25,000 children in the area. Most of the men from this community work as labourers in nearby industries and women work as domestic help, as tailors in silayi centres or daily-wage labourers.
The daily living conditions are testament to such grim projections. Homes don’t have running drinking water or toilets. A Sulabh Shauchalaya (a paid public toilet) serves the needs of 1,000 households. For drinking water, the community relies on a single water tank that gets refilled up to three times a day. Residents have to contend with an acute shortage of water during the summer months, when temperatures typically hover around 40 degrees Celsius. The drainage system is poor, sewer lines get choked and municipality sweepers do not work regularly.
The Magic Bus programme was started here in January 2013. The programme covers 200 children of which 120 are girls. A football tournament was organised in February 2014, in which 150 children participated.
A few of the areas of behaviour change addressed by Magic Bus volunteers and mentors include:
• Importance of personal and environmental hygiene
• Equal treatment of boys and girls
• Importance of education
• Respect for elders
Sessions are held on Mondays and Thursdays from 5 pm to 7 pm and on Sunday from 9 am to 11 am. Sessions are divided into 3 parts:
• Warm up: The development goal is introduced using interactive activities
• Main activity: The development goal is reinforced using sports and activities
• Review: A discussion is facilitated to draw parallels to real-life situations and sum up the learning objectives
Photographs from Magic Bus areas of operation are used for representation only.