Text and photos by Amar Guriro
KARACHI: As the police and the media started pouring into the temple, a ray of hope beamed in Roopi’s eyes and she warmly greeted Adviser to Chief Minister Sharmila Farooqi in the temple courtyard.
Roopi and several other Waghri women, the residents of the oldest slum settlement of the city, Amar Colony, gathered in the temple to tell their miseries to Sharmila.
The colony is suffering from the absence of basic amenities including potable water, natural gas, electricity, healthcare and education. After discovering their condition, Adviser to CM Sharmila Farooqi invited the media to visit the colony on Saturday.
Sandwiched between more modern and well-equipped residences, the colony, comprising of 240 households, is located in the heart of the city in Chanisar Goth, UC-4 of Jamshed Town, however, it lacks even the basics of amenities.
“A proper sanitation system was discovered in the five thousand year old ruins of Moen-Jo-Daro; it is sad that in today’s modern world, we have no such facility,” said Babu Waghari, the only literate person of the colony. When he was telling the media the sad story of their colony, Roopi came forward.
Looking into her eyes, one can hardly see the decades of pain she has suffered. Heavy silver ornaments in her neck, traditional tattoos on her forehead, attired in a colorful lehanga, elderly Roopi is a symbol of poverty.
She belongs to the Waghari community, a tribe of gypsies that lived in the central Indian state of Maharashtra.
History reveals that the Wagharis were peasants residing on the edge of the Waghari River centuries before they migrated to Sindh after facing a drought and since then they have been living in Karachi.
“My grandmother used to tell me stories about how she and other women used to work as labourers when the angraiz (the British) were constructing a railway track; she told me she worked on the Chanisar Halt railway track and was given a small piece of land to live on. Ever since then, our generations have been residing on that piece of land,” Roopi recalled.
She also heard stories from her grandparents that in the olden days, there was no proper system for potable water in the city and people used to rely on underground water or used to wait for the train to bring sweet water to them.
“In those days the city was nothing but a thick forest; it has developed before our eyes and now we are being forced to wait even for potable water,” she said with grief. Roopi and the other women of the colony told Sharmila that they are in dire need of potable water supply connections, natural gas, cemented pavements, proper sanitation system and on the whole a renovation of the historical colony.
They demanded of Farooqui to vacate the land they use for their religious festivals that has been recently occupied. They informed her that in the colony, there are around 2,000 voters and they all are Jiyalas (hardcore PPP activists). Interestingly, PPP Karachi Division General Secretary Saeed Ghani is living in one street away from the colony.
“We have always supported and voted for PPP but we don’t know if he is living in this area,” said one resident.
Sharmila promised them that she will manage these facilities for them. “It is very shocking to find that the colony, which is in the heart of the city, is deprived of such basic amenities,” Sharmila said, adding that in the first phase she will manage a potable water connection for them.
Sunday, April 19, 2009