Living in the Un-magical Maya Bazaar

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Mayabazzar slum in Bangalore.

“During the time of Indriaamma, way back in 1960s, the army were about to bulldoze us at a labour settlement in Shantinagar ward. We ran overnight for our lives and built houses in a place nearby. In just one day, we made magic. This is why our slums are called Maya Bazaar.”, says Maryamma, the woman who was seen every phases of the slum from past fifty years.

Maya Bazaar! The Palace of Magic, is unfortunately a place for nobody. Maya Bazaar is pulled apart by the military authorities on one side and civil bodies on the other. It has sunken in the deepest miseries of life, and yet has stood against all odds surviving from past 60 years.

The blurring line between military-civil conflicts is fundamentally an issue of policy making. The politics involved is not truly in the combat between these two decision making bodies, but in the ignorant and corrupt civil authorities who continue to rob the amenities off the people to enrich themselves.

“There are just four toilets for four thousand people. Where do we go for water?” weeps Rebecca Selvaraj sitting in front of rust covered dry bore well pipe. Over the years, there is unstated status quo between the two bodies regarding claim over the land. But, what bothers the people of Maya Bazaar is that they are deprived of three major amenities- healthcare, nutrition and education.

The rivers of stench and sewage flow in all strength during the monsoons. In winter it settles as huge stagnant pools of black water, attracting all kinds of water borne diseases. This year’s Christmas Eve was an uneventful day for widowed Daisyamma’s family. For over a month, on the advice by the doctors of Vannarpet Ward Govt Hospital, she admitted her youngest son Wilson to Bowring Hospital.

The young boy had repeatedly complained of severe stomach pain, nausea and dizziness. However, the government hospital termed it as food poisoning and pinned him to simple glucose tubes with some antibiotic. “They injected him with some medicine and took five hundred rupees from us each time we went. At the Bowring hospital the doctor put him under a scanner and gave us the reports. They did nothing beyond that,” says Daisyamma. The sombre note stuck them while rest of the world was celebrating Christmas that their son passed away due to tape worm infection. The tragic life of Daisy is just one such story. Maya Bazaar is prone to all kinds of fevers and common illnesses and this posits to be of graver situation than other congenital and highlighted life threatening diseases.

The ignorance of healthcare issues just doesn’t stop here. It cuts through deep involving even children and pregnant women. The Dietary Guidelines for Indians- A Manual, is document provided by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad funded by Indian Council for Medical Research. The document of 2011 says that the diet of the pregnant woman should entail 350 additional calories to the existing 1400 calories with 0.5 grams of protein during first trimester and 6.9 g during second trimester and 22.7 g during third trimester of pregnancy. Other micro nutrients like Folic acid, Vitamin A, B12, C and E should be necessary even after birth to improve lactation.

The Angwadi at Mayabaazar is responsible to supply multi grain nutritional mix to pregnant women. Each packet weighs 2 kg and constitutes 350 calories. Priyamani, a 3 month pregnant mother often faces trouble in receiving her share. This happens to two stages. The nutrient packets just consist of 350 calories worth ragi floor. But, the National Nutrition Institute suggests that pregnant women should have fat oils, sugar, pulses, assorted vegetables, fruits, cereals and millets in their diet along with other grains. This criterion doesn’t get completed, as the Department of Women and Children Development of Karnataka doesn’t ensure the dietary needs which includes vegetables, fruits, vitamins and other millets apart from ragi and wheat.

The second stage of the problem comes not with policy and implementation but with law and order. The blonde rat tailed styled boys smoking ITC tobacco and reeking of Old Tavern whiskey, grew up and studied in the same Anganwadi. The very Anganwadi from which they rob away half of the nutrition boxes to sell at high prices in the slums. They consider themselves to be the next political heirs of their slum dwellings.

M.S. Gowramma, the principal of the school and Anganwadi at Mayabazzar laments how the school, which actually was a British legacy, is now in ruins. “All the political leaders from this constituency have studied here in this school. Now nobody wants to take care of it.” The councillor of Maya Bazaar is Bhavya N. She was contesting on behalf of her brother as BBMP had introduced women quota in the local body elections. The congress dominated Maya bazaar has now given chance to BJP leader Shiva Kumar and Bhavya and are happy about it. However, the education of children in the slum is not given any importance.

The ceiling of the Anganwadi School at the Maya Bazaar slum was collapsing. Instead of repairing it, the school has announced holiday for safety purposes from past three months. The school in charge Safura Razak explains how it’s not actually the army that is stopping them from reconstruction, but the civil bodies that not interested in investing their time and energy to refurnish the school.

“The old existing British structure is also now in ruins as the high quality teak pillars and iron used to build the school have been stolen and sold at high prices as antiques. The same boys who studied in this school have made the auditorium their gambling dens and evening bars,” says M.S. Gowramma, the school principal.

Since the toilets have no water or sanitation facilities, the open backyard has now turned into human waste pile. Not just students, even the outsiders enter our premises and use the playground as their open bathroom.

There has been certain initiative by some local NGOs to start a football club to improve health awareness and improve sports among the children in Maya Bazaar. “I have represented the school and then continued to play for Bangalore South. I never got to play after that. I really wish this initiative works out,” says Jeevan Kumar a resident of Maya Bazaar.

The NGO intends to take this initiative in coordination with the school, as it wants to use the playground premises. But, the initiative is still a utopia like every other option that gets suggested at Maya Bazaar. The civic authorities refused to accept this plan in guise of army related issues.

The once enthusiastically filled people, who created Maya Bazzar- the palace of Magic, are now left with no hopes at all. While political corruption, false promises and crime triumphs the homes at Maya Bazaar are filled with void in continued absence of basic facilities like education, nutrition and health.

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