NEW DELHI: The pandemic-induced lockdown last year has left the historically nomadic Gadia Lohar community struggling to make ends meet in the national capital, showed a rapid assessment survey by advocacy group Housing and Land Rights Network.
The survey was conducted across 40 such settlements. The community traditionally depends on the manufacture and sale of iron tools and utensils.
During the extended lockdown, there were very few customers for their wares, the study pointed out. “This resulted in considerable income loss and impacted their ability to purchase adequate food,” the assessment said. With over 45 per cent of the residents of Gadia Lohar settlements in Delhi not having ration cards, they faced challenges during the lockdown in accessing food distributed by the government through the public distribution system and were largely left out of the schemes.
Access to healthcare facilities also suffered a setback, the report said. While mobile health vans visited the settlements once a week under normal circumstances, this came to a halt during the pandemic. With the closure of schools and shift to online classes, the education of children been severely affected. Over 40 per cent of people surveyed said they did not have smartphones through which their children can access online education.
Even those who had access to smartphones said they did not have enough money to recharge phones or to pay for data/internet access. Children heavily relied on homework given by their schools for learning, it added. All survey respondents said they lived in constant fear of eviction and imminent threat of demolition of their homes. The HLRN recommended the need for the government to ensure the community’s equal access to state entitlements and welfare schemes, including PDS through ration cards and pension schemes. There is also an immediate need to ensure access to essential services across all Gadia Lohar settlements.