KATHMANDU, May 10: Her four children run toward the maternity hospital at Thapathali to shelter in front of some shutters as a light drizzle gathers strength minutes after noon on Wednesday.
Subash Paswan gets inside her makeshift home, a three-foot high structure comprising a corrugated metal sheet on one side of a bamboo support and flex hoardings on the other.
The structure hardly shelters the 35-year-old woman as raindrops wet her clothing. Her husband, who like her could not sleep the whole night, was asleep at the only available dry spot that could hardly accommodate their seven-year-old daughter also.
Subash´s eyes appeared red and swollen for lack of sleep for the past two nights. She says the couple spent last night warding off mosquitoes from the stinking Bagmati nearby.
The Paswans had registered with the Department of Urban Development and Building Construction as squatters and are entitled to Rs 15,000 that the government promised for paying rent till it resettles them.
But like almost all the others who registered with the department, they did not go to claim the money.
“Do you really believe anyone will rent us a room after seeing our condition?” she asks, pointing to her filthy clothes.
A few squatters with better-off relatives or those who could afford it have shifted their belongings. But the Paswans have nowhere to go.
A pitch-black cooking pot, a plastic jerrycan, a few plates and a couple of shabby quilts and mattresses are all they have.
Subash says her children´s clothing is wet and they do not have anything to change into. None of them goes to school and they scavenge garbage to earn a few rupees.
Subash had brought a jerrycan of water from a stone spout after waiting hours in a queue. “All tube wells installed in the squatter settlement by NGOs were destroyed by the government´s bulldozers,” she says.
“We ate this morning for the first time after 36 hours. We´re not sure when we will have our next meal,” she adds, pointing toward some soaked firewood.
“Everyone who comes here asks why we haven´t left the place. But where can we go?” she asks, showing the certificate of landlessness provided by Bara District Administration Office.
She says she cannot afford to rent a room with her husband´s meager income as a construction worker. “He is sick most times due to the hard labor and poor-quality food,” she says.
Pushpa Gupta, 25, has a similar tale.
Her 10-year-old daughter Anjali has not gone to school for the past two days. The third-grader understands their situation and has not demanded any food but three-year-old Laxmi wails in hunger.
Pushpa´s husband Deepak paints houses for a living but does not always find work. “I do not work myself as the children are small,” she says.
The Guptas also rejected the government´s offer of Rs 15,000 but they hope it will provide an alternative. “We are living in terror as the police deployed here have told us to leave immediately,” she complains.
Chairman of the Landless Scatters Struggle Committee Padam Devkota said they have talked to Kathmandu Valley Town Development Commissioner Keshav Sthapit but it was futile.
“Children and postnatal women have been hardest hit by the rain. We have shifted them to a party palace that WOREC (Women´s Rehabilitation Center) hired for us,” Devkota said.
Lumanti, an NGO that helps landless squatters, has arranged a mess for them since Wednesday evening.
“We have requested police to let us stay put until we find an alternative. Nepal Red Cross Society has promised health care services from tomorrow,” Devkota disclosed.