I thought that nothing could hurt, anger, sadden and enrage me more then the destruction of the homes of my Lohar friends courtesy the Commonwealth Games. But that was not to be. The next morning an article tucked away in the inside page of a leading newspaper bore this headline: Flood victims camping near Village to be moved soon. Needless to say I began to read and saw it referred to the destruction of a slum school on the river bed close to the d***** Games village, something that had been written about even in a leading British daily. To put things in context the flood plain of the Yamuna river, where the Games Village has been constructed in spite of much opposition, is home to many families from time immemorial. Normally when the monsoons come and the plain gets flooded, they move their meagre belongings and camp on the main road waiting for the waters to recede. This year however the rains have been abundant and the place waterlogged and not likely to dry up soon. Some days back the little school that had been set up for the children of these families was raised citing security as the reason for such an aberration. Wonder what threat a handful of slum kids studying in a school could pose? Now it has been decided by the powers that be that these families cannot move back into their homes, even if the water recede as the whole place has been sanitised for the Games. Infuriating enough, isn’t it?
Wait a little, this is still not what made me see red. The article also quotes an official of our city and I will reproduce the quote verbatim: The Yamuna is showing no signs of ebbing and water in the flooded areas will not go down till the river recedes. This timer however we cannot wait for the water to go down so that the residents are able to go back since that will pose a security threat, They also cannot be allowed to remain on the main road since they will spoil the image of the city we are trying to portray.
Enough is enough, at least for me. I wonder though how long will civil society take to finally react and express their outrage. That a school is destroyed presumably because it poses a security threat to a highly protected area is bad enough but that citizens of this city are branded as party poopers is shocking. The people the official mentions with such disdain and contempt probably helped build the games extravaganza or grow the vegetables you and I relish every day. Today they are branded as outcasts and have become non grata like the beggars, the roadside cobblers, the street vendors, the horse cart owners, in a word like all the little people who are the real heart and soul of our city. The official at least had the honesty to spout the truth: they spoil the image of the city that he and his ilk are trying to portray.
Off with their heads or let us brush them under the carpet have been the real motto of these Games. But how can one do away with reality. It is an accepted fact, even by the officials and their ilk, that over 40% of our country is poor. So I ask how much of them can you hide. And if you are so embarrassed by them, then why have you not done anything till now to better their lot starting with providing them let us say better housing, better schools, better health care. Need I remind you that they too are protected by the same Constitution as you, and enjoy the same rights. The school you destroyed had been set up by a farmer couple for the 200 odd kids of the area as the closest state run school was 3 kilometers away! The couple was simply restoring the usurped rights of these children.
They will spoil the image of the city we are trying to portray are words that I cannot swallow. Who is the they! The answer is simple it is over 40 % of our fellow country men. As an activist said in the mentioned article: The urban development model followed in Delhi is all about the entitlements of the rich and not the poor since it is heavily loaded in favour of the propertied and the salaried classes, before sarcastically adding: Those who do not own property have been completely excluded from Delhi’s Master Plan. Let me take the sarcasm further and ask whether we are reay and willing to iron our own clothes, wash our laundry, repair our fuse istead of rushing to call the local electrician and so on, because the they we are treating with such contempt are the very ones who make our lives easier! Where are we going, can anyone tell me?