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The Poverty Games

Hindustan Times: Now Jats Threaten Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games starting Oct 3 now faces a new threat: Jats from Haryana. Upset that the Haryana government is not promising them quotas in jobs and educational institutions, a Jat leader Thursday threatened to block Delhi’s borders Oct 3 when the Games begin.  The Jats are seeking

reservation in government jobs and educational institutions and also a status as other backward class (OBC).

“So far we have not got any satisfactory reply from the Haryana government. We have decided to intensify our peaceful campaign. We will seal Delhi’s borders Oct 3,” Yash Pal Malik, president of the All India Jat Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti, said here.

Malik said they can also march towards Delhi.

On Sep 13 and 14, Hisar district in Haryana saw widespread violence by Jats over the same demand.

“We will not allow any commodity of daily use to reach Delhi. Only then the central government will start paying heed to our demands. From today, we have started ‘guerilla action’ under which we will suddenly stop any train and block any road without prior intimation,” stated Malik.

He added: “On Sep 27, when the Queen’s Baton Relay enters Haryana, we will show black flags. But we will make sure that nobody indulges in any violence.”

Original article:

Dalits’ fund diverted for Commonwealth Games

From the Hindustan Times

The Delhi government has diverted million rupees meant for dalit welfare to fund preparations for the October Commonwealth Games, allege voluntary organizations.

Officials of Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) and National Campaign on Dalit and Human Rights (NCDHR) said the government diverted some 7,440 million rupees from the Special Component Plan (Scheduled Caste Sub Plan) to meet CWG-related expenses.

The allegation is based on the data provided by the Delhi government’s department for the welfare of SC/ST/OBC/Minorities in response to an Right to Information application, the Hindustan Times reported.

In the reply, details of the expenditure from the fund have been provided from the year 2006 to 2010 in a tabulated form.

“The diversion of funds is illegal. In the Planning Commission’s master guideline for the special component plan, the funds are non divertible and non lapsable,” said Miloon Kothari, executive director, HLRN.

Admitting that the government spent millions of rupees meant for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to fund preparations for the October Commonwealth Games, Delhi government officials said there was “nothing wrong in it”.

They said members of the reserved categories will eventually utilize the upcoming infrastructure projects and would benefit from them.

Commonwealth Games Fail

Taken from:
Allegations of high level corruption and rumours of even darker things suggest there may be more at stake here than embarrassment. And pretending these problems don’t exist will only make them worse!

Mani Shankar Aiyar stirred up the pot last week when he told reporters, “Personally, I will be unhappy if the Commonwealth Games are successful.”   Suresh Kalmadi, the head of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee promptly labeled Aiyar “anti-national.”

Lost in the smoke of the Aiyar-Kalmadi tamasha was Aiyar’s central point: the Games were a mistake from the start, and it might take an obvious failure–one that could not be glossed over or denied– to prevent us from having to undergo a repeat of this fiasco in years to come.  Kalmadi has made no secret of his desire to see India get the Olympics some day, but he seemed to understand that this would be a bad week to highlight that ambition; instead, he responded to Aiyar’s attack by attempting to change the subject.

Usually, people use labels like “anit-national” in order to discredit and dehumanize their opponents. Labels like this are also commonly used to distract people from real and pressing problems on the ground; that’s why, during times of rapid change or uncertainty, ultra-nationalist and communal forces often do their worst work.

If one has been following Kalmadi over the past few months, as I have, one might assume he was just trying to divert attention from some of the many silly pronouncements he’s regularly taken to making.  Like how the Games village is “going to be the best in the world,” in spite of the fact that it is so far behind that the government has had to displace 3,000 Delhi University students in order to accommodate athletes and officials who would not otherwise have housing during the Games…  or how just a few months back he was still promising “The Games won’t cost the country a penny.”

As it turns out, Kalmadi was almost certainly (and rather desperately) trying to distract us from two much bigger stories.  First, preparations for the Games are much further behind schedule than we’ve been led to believe. Second, it appears that corruption–not the monsoon rains—is largely responsible for the sorry state of affairs we all find ourselves in.

CWG Fail?
A recent cover story in India Today suggests that in spite of all the brave talk we are hearing from officials, failure of the Games in obvious and embarrassing variety is indeed an option: major sports venues are incomplete, and some of the venues that have been completed are falling apart before they have even been used. Housing and food arrangements for delegates and athletes are still up in the air.  As disturbing as they are, plans to banish 75,000 beggars from Delhi’s streets are totally compatible with the ideology behind the drive to make Delhi a “World Class City.”  But evicting thousands of students in order to find housing for athletes?  That smells of desperation. We probably have no idea how bad things really are, because Chief Minister Dikshit recently ordered her ministers to keep their mouths shut as they go on inspections of Games facilities.  But it seems obvious that the overall situation is very bad indeed.

Of course if you think about it, this should come as no surprise.  Delhi is one big construction zone, and most of what we are seeing on major roads and markets is a far cry from “finishing work.” Connaught Place is still a mess. Officials conceded on Friday that much important work there, including the subways, will not be finished in time for the Games.  Crossing the outer circle will apparently continue to be a real adventure for months to come.

The failure at CP is particularly worrisome, because we can only assume that if the city cannot finish renovating this flagship market in time for the Games, it will fail elsewhere as well. My advice: officials should invest in rolls of bright blue plastic tarp right now; if all else fails, they can use that to cover last minute leaks in markets and Games facilities.

Now that failure seems a real possibility, much of middle and upper class Delhi seems almost titillated by the story. You hear this all over: “Oh, dear, how embarrassing it will be…nothing ever gets done right around here…such a mess…”
Corruption, Damn Corruption, and Commonwealth Games Contracts!
The problem, unfortunately, is that there is something much more serious going on than embarrassing incompetence—it’s called corruption—and it’s not just embarrassing, it’s criminal, it’s unsafe, and it strikes at the heart of this country’s democratic institutions.

In different ways, I’ve long argued that the Games are flawed because they have provided an excuse to divert money from things that all people need– like housing and clean  water—to unsustainable things that benefit only a few, like infrastructure for cars and airplanes.
Metaphorically, rhetorically and even morally speaking, one might call this theft.  But in reality, it’s not illegal, and it’s not even always been ill-intentioned—a lot of good people thought the Games were a good idea.
Rampant corruption, on the other hand, is a completely different matter.
It is becoming increasingly clear that these are the most expensive Commonwealth Games in
history not because we are building the highest quality stadiums.  And of course we can’t say the Games have cost so much because of the lavish accommodations or wages given to the workers labouring day and night on Games-related projects.

In fact, the government has known for a long time that its contractors have been violating wage, safety and labour standards, and what has it done?  Children of Games workers, when they haven’t been working, have been denied their rights as well–you don’t need a hyper link for this if you live in Delhi, it’s out in the open.  But here’s one anyway.  With all that money, why couldn’t the Government insist that contractors put up some mobile creche facilities for these kids?

It wasn’t just a reckless driver who was responsible for the death of a fourteen year old and three of his co-workers last week; it was also the contractors who hired him to work illegally in unsafe conditions– and the government which failed to seriously enforce their own labour standards.  And these workers are not alone; so far, dozens have died in Games-related projects. Violating labour laws is a way for contractors save money; it is a kind of corruption, a kind of theft.  And far too often, it has deadly consequences, which makes it a kind of homicide, if you think about it.

Of course, there are other kinds of corruption at work, as well.  Most importantly, there are the “irregularities” or “overpricing” in the contracts that have been awarded that we’ve all been hearing about.  The more you read about this interrelated set of scandals, the more you realize it is probably much bigger than any of us can imagine, and it really amounts to massive theft—if things turn out to be as bad as they currently appear to be, people should go to jail for this for many years.  NDTV took an in-depth look at one very small part of this problem and what they found some mind-boggling: many medical products have been bought by the government for many times their actual price. IBN reports that in addition to over charging, contractors have regularly saved money by cutting corners on construction materials–which, in addition to being dishonest, is unsafe.
Every day, there is a new revelation; it increasingly appears that the people awarding contracts did everything they could to rig the system so as to limit the number of companies qualified to bid—as a result, we’ve ended up with low quality work done at criminally high prices.  A lot of money is being made by a very few companies—and presumably by some of the people who have helped to “facilitate” this process.
Of course this could just be disorganized, random greed.  But rumours are beginning to circulate that there are darker games afoot, that you just have to follow the money trail to see that vast amounts of wealth are being concentrated in very few, very ambitious hands.  Some say new political dynasties are being built through this unsavory process and ask if it is possible for rulers who rise out of corruption to be anything but corrupt.
I don’t know about that—though it doesn’t seem hard to believe.  What I do know is that putting on a happy face and pretending there are no problems is the last thing we need to be doing.
Yes, corruption is embarrassing. But it’s not nearly as embarrassing—or poisonous—as letting corruption go unchecked. The press, along with honest officials and all people who care about democracy and justice need to make sure this is not swept under the rug.  This may be painful, but if we learn from our mistakes and move forward in an honest and fair way, we will have nothing at all to be ashamed of. The only shame here is in letting the bad guys profit from this mess!

There’s a lot to be done, even for those of us who aren’t reporters, officials or lawyers.  Why not write a letter to the editor of your newspaper or local government official; let them feel the heat. If you are a student, why not work to fight the evictions at Delhi University?  :

Also, go check out out ACORN International’s Commonwealth Games Campaign.  I’ve heard good things about this campaign.  This site tells you how to sign a petition and get involved.

To read more about the CWG, go see our special page, here.

Child Labor: See What OC is Doing: A Shame for Delhi Government

Thousands of crore may have been spent on setting up venues and the village for Commonwealth Games, but the men who actually lay the brick do not even get enough wages to afford one square meal for the family every day. A study by Child Relief and You (CRY) at the Siri Fort construction site has revealed 84% laborers are paid much less than the stipulated minimum wage of Rs 203 per day for unskilled workers.

According to CRY’s survey conducted over a period of two months at other sites like Dhyan Chand National Stadium, R K Khanna Stadium, Talkatora Stadium, JLN Stadium and Lodhi Road, children of theseconstruction workers have to live in inhuman conditions. They go without quality food, safe drinking water, healthcare and formal schooling, the report says.

‘‘We interviewed many construction workers at the Siri Fort construction site and found a majority of them were paid only about 60% of the stipulated amount, which is anyway too less. As a result, these workers can’t even provide adequate food to their children,’’ said Yogita Verma, director, CRY.

As per the findings, while unskilled workers were being paid Rs 85 to Rs 100 per day, skilled workers earned around Rs 120 every day. A 25-year-old worker at the Games Village site told CRY that a large chunk of his wages was taken away by the contractor.

‘‘Our entire family is cramped into a plastic tent. Whenever media persons come, the site supervisor bluffs them by saying that workers receive Rs 200 and masons get Rs 500. We only get a part of it, the rest goes to the contractor,’’ he claimed.

Verma said, ‘‘We are trying to build such a fantastic image of our country but the children of these workers do not even go to school. They just loiter around all day as these sites do not even have any facility for a crèche.’’ The report also refers to a PIL filed in the Delhi high court according to which nearly 4.15 lakh daily-wage workers were working on six venue clusters and five standalone venues for the Games in the city. CRY found children of many such workers had to drop out of school when the family migrated to the city from their place of residence.

Original article:


Vodafone’s E-Rickshaws

Delhi today launched battery- operated rickshaws, sponsored by telecom major Vodafone Essar as part its eco-friendly initiative, ahead of the commonwealth games.

Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit flagged off the eco friendly vehicle, E-rick, each costing about Rs 1.5 lakh.

In the first phase, the company will sponsor 25 vehicles on five routes, including Chandni Chowk, Saket, IIT-SDA market area, GK-II and Delhi University-North Campus, Vodafone told reporters here.

E-rick is powered by batteries, aims to ensure reduction in carbon footprint with zero emission. This technology will reduce the dependence on conventional fuel, the company said.

“This initiative is a step forward in promoting green transportation for a cleaner and greener environment in the capital,” Vodafone Essar-Delhi, CEO Sanjay Warke said.

Times of India: Games Leave No Room in DU Hostel

NEW DELHI: A late-night spin by three youths ended in disaster as the driver lost control of the car and ran over four labourers on the Safdarjung airport flyover in south Delhi on Monday. The victims were working overnight on Commonwealth Games projects on the flyover which is partially blocked to traffic. Among those killed was a boy around 14 years old.

Shahid Khan, a 24-year-old medical student in Ukraine, was at the wheel when the accident occurred. Khan, who arrived in Delhi on vacation only recently, fled the spot, leaving his cousins behind. Besides the four workers killed, eight others, including a woman, were injured.

While Shahid is still absconding, 22-year-old Alam and his brother were let off after questioning. “We have enough leads and hope to nab him in the next couple of hours,” said an officer.

Lodhi Road police have registered a case of death due to rash and negligent driving.

Playing games with the poor

Delhi’s makeover for the Commonwealth Games 2010 has brought unending suffering and misery for thousands of poor living in the city as hundreds of slums accommodating them are being demolished for the city beautification drive.

Polio-affected Zaheer with his displaced family (photo: Gaurav)

Come October 3, Delhi will be all decked up to exhibit its splendid and metamorphosed image for thousands of international tourists, who will throng grand stadiums across the city to watch their respective countries’ sportspersons participate in the Commonwealth Games 2010.

However, the cheer and excitement in the run-up to the Games is accompanied by the painful cries that were drowned by the roar of bulldozers. Behind the frothy façade, lies an unpleasant story of forceful eviction, demolition, homelessness and helplessness.

With its ambitious plan of taking Delhi’s infrastructure to an international stature, the government is trampling upon the poor’s rights in the name of beautifying the city. This mega sporting event has robbed millions of poor of their shelters who are bearing the brunt of beautification drive for the 12-day extravaganza. By the end of the Games, as Delhi’s Chief Minister herself as accepted, three million people will not have roof over their heads.

The demolition drive has been on for quite some time. January 9, 2009, was a doomsday for 605 inhabitants of Prabhu Market slum cluster in Sewa Nagar in South Delhi. Their houses were reduced to rubble in front of their eyes. All the houses were flattened by MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) bulldozers to pave way for the construction of a huge parking lot for the opening and closing ceremony of the Games.

With its ambitious plan of taking Delhi’s infrastructure to an international stature, the government is trampling upon the rights of poor in the name of beautifying the city.

57-year-old Shanti Devi, is one of the hundreds to have suffered for the ‘world-class’ event whose Jhuggi was demolished. With no other place to take shelter, her ailing husband couldn’t survive Delhi’s chilling weather and died in January 2009, leaving her with nothing but piles of broken bricks.

“An officer would lose patience if he doesn’t find his chair in the office at the right place. Imagine our plight; we have no roof over our heads for the past one-and-a-half years. We have lost everything and now have nothing except memories of our home,” says Sunil, another slum resident.

The people of this slum cluster were residing there for the past 40 years. All of them claim to have ration cards or voter ID cards. Either of the two documents makes them eligible for relocation if evicted from their land. The residents have been running from pillar to post for their right but their struggle remains futile.

One of the evicted families near Barapullah in Jangpura (photo: Gaurav)

On January 12, 2009, in response to a writ petition filed by these slum dwellers, the Delhi High Court had ordered MCD to relocate them as soon as possible. Ironically, not a single displaced person has been re-accommodated till date. This amounts to contempt of court but the government is unperturbed.

To avoid possibilities of collective protests, demolitions were carried out in parts and without warnings. “The authorities did not serve any prior notice to us. They came with police force and demolished our houses within minutes,” says Dinesh Kumar.

He alleged that just two days after the demolition, the Election Commission wrote off their names from its records to prevent claims for resettlement.

“We have lost all hope, as no one listens to us. We approached a lawyer to file a case in the court but he demanded a fee of Rs 50,000. Left with no choice, we somehow managed to collect this huge amount and paid to him, but till date nothing has come out of the case,” rues Shri Ram who is a street vendor in the Prabhu Market.

Blinded by the beautification drive, the insensitive government did not even spare the localities earlier planned for the physically challenged.

With their settlement demolished, these physically challenged people
live on the pavements (photo: Gaurav)

On January 10, 2009, giant bulldozers wrought havoc in Viklang Basti (Colony for the handicapped) by rendering 50 physically-challenged people homeless. The high magnitude of injustice meted out to them comes to the fore when one gets to know the reason for their eviction: To cover a drain behind the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

With a fate worse than death, these poor handicapped people are now living near the Hazrat Nizamuddin flyover. What adds injury to their insult is the regular bashing by the Delhi Police for being found residing near the flyover.

“Why are they after us? What have we done to them? We are not against Games but to welcome the Videshi (foreigners), why are they troubling the Swadeshi (nationals)?” Mohammad Alam bombards this reporter with questions.

“In winters we shivered, in summers we burn under the sun. Now, during the rainy season we are not allowed to stay under the flyover. Where do we go? I can’t look after my 4-year-old boy, as I can hardly walk. My wife cannot find work because people now confuse us for illegal settlers without residence,” says polio-affected Zaheer, who inconsolably weeps for his fate.

The living conditions at Bawana site are even worse than those in slums of Delhi. Many residents are yet to get their allotted land which was due to be handed over within three months of their arrival here. They live in makeshift houses with no water supply, no electricity and poor sanitation.

In that very fateful month (January 2009), 140 jhuggis were reduced to dust in Bengali camp behind Thyagraj Stadium. At a short distance from this camp, was the Gadia Lohar Basti (small colony established 40 years ago to settle nomadic tribe of blacksmiths) which housed about 20 families. These poor families of blacksmiths were also not spared from the axe of demolition during the ongoing beautification drive.

They now live in plastic sheet-covered houses, in what can be termed as harmful and, of course, inhuman conditions.

Though the government may be basking in the glory of enforcing the Right to Education Act, this Right seems to be a distant dream for the children of the displaced families. They are denied admission in the government schools as their resident proofs are no longer valid after the evictions.

“This is an elitist development paradigm where you can’t provide space to the poor. The elite want the poor to be moved out of Delhi yet want all the essential services provided by them,” says Dr. Gilbert Sebastian, a researcher at Indian Social Institute, who is working for the displaced families from Saibaba Camp in Lodhi Colony.

Life is miserable for these women after demolition of their homes

Intoxicated with the beautification drive, the Delhi government set an example of utter disregard for the dignity and rights of the poor in December 2009 – hundreds of homeless people were left shivering under the sky in chilling winters when their makeshift night shelters were demolished as part of beautification of Delhi for the Commonwealth Games.

The worst part of this demolition drive is that despite being entitled for resettlement, most of the displaced people have been left stranded by the indifferent Delhi government which has turned a blind eye to the basic rights of the evicted.

The Delhi government has prepared a list of 44 slum clusters which would be demolished and relocated prior to the Games. The residents would be relocated under the Rajiv Ratan Awas Yojna at the resettlement sites like Bawana, Holambi Kalan, and Sawda Ghevra among others.

“Though many have been rendered homeless, we are implementing measures to relocate as many as possible. We are looking into the matter,” an official of MCD’s Slum and JJ Cluster Department, who is not authorised to talk to media, told d-sector.

This resettlement site in Bawana is worse than the Delhi slums

When this reporter visited Bawana JJ Colony, one of the resettlement sites, the claims made by government for relocation policy were nowhere near realisation. Many residents feel they have been taken for a ride in the name of relocation and the so-called resettlement sites expose the callous attitude of the government.

The living conditions at Bawana are even worse than those in the slums of Delhi. Many residents are yet to get their allotted land, which was due to be handed over within three months of their arrival here. They live in makeshift houses with no water supply, no electricity and poor sanitation. Locals say more than 100 people have died due to abysmal living conditions.

“I came here (Bawana) with hopes of leading a new life, but I have not been given an inch of land which they had promised me,” rues a 52-year-old widow Chuniya Devi whose house was demolished in Sawan Park of Ashok Vihar.

Located on the outskirt of Northwest Delhi, Bawana has proved to be a bane for these displaced people. With local industries requiring semi-skilled labour, the resettled people are out of work. Their population includes vendors, cobblers, rickshaw pullers and daily wage labourers.

“First, they destroyed our houses, then they dumped us in a deserted place which is 50 km away from Delhi. Commuting to and fro Delhi costs Rs 40, and my per-day earning was mere Rs 125. I had to quit my work,” says Intejar who was a rickshaw puller in Delhi.

Children of displaced families in Bawana lack access to schools

Apart from the loss of livelihoods in Bawana, education of children is also a major problem. Most of the children are denied admission in the school as their parent have not been allotted plot by the government. Without the residents’ proofs, these children cannot get admission.

“It is not only Bawana, but every resettlement colony of Delhi has dismal living conditions for these displaced families. The Commonwealth Games is just an alibi to get rid of slums which are an eyesore for the ruling establishment,” says Brahma Pandey, one of the members of a leading NGO Hazard Centre.

Though the city may have donned a stunning international look, it can not keep up the pretence that everything is hunk-dory. The middle class of India may find pride in hosting the Commonwealth Games, but for the thousands of poor of Delhi the sporting extravaganza has brought unending suffering and misery. The Games will soon begin and get over but the pain and anguish of these wretched souls will remain with them for years. But the innocent little children or the helpless physically challenged, despite being evicted from their shelters, must learn to hide their tears so as not to spoil the moment of ‘national glory’.


Gaurav Sharma  |

Rs 744cr dalit fund diverted for Games

The state government has over the past five years been systematically diverting funds meant for the development of Scheduled Caste communities to projects related to the Commonwealth Games, a reply to an RTI query has revealed. Since 2006, Rs 744 crore has been used up from the Scheduled Caste sub plan fund for Games-related projects of various departments.

Releasing the findings on Thursday, an NGO Housing and Land Rights Network called for an inquiry by a parliamentary sub-committee into the diversion of the funds which it said violated all norms of governance.

The RTI query was addressed to the city’s department of social welfare the agency in charge of SC/ST/OBC/minorities which furnished the details. HRLN and the National Dalit Campaign for Human Rights said the funds were used for projects of MCD, NDMC, DJB and departments of urban development and sports and youth, among others.

The RTI reply said that in 2006-07, Rs 1.97 crore was diverted from the special component fund and spent on Commonwealth Games-related projects. In 2007-08, Rs 15.58 crore was used from the fund. The amount rose to Rs 214.73 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 288.44 crore in 2009-10. In 2010-11 so far the amount diverted for CWG projects is Rs 233.64 crore.

In another RTI application filed by HRLN with the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games on the Agra trip being organized for the 8,000-odd athletes and delegates, the OC said the cost of the trip would be Rs 1.71 crore.

HRLN said the diversion of money violated norms governing special component plan funds. The norms, put in place by the Planing Commission and the National Development Council, clearly state that the fund is meant for micro development works for the Scheduled Caste communities. Government of India rules have repeatedly emphasized that the funds allocated under the SCP have to be disbursed exclusively for the benefit of those belonging to the SC communities, HRLN activists said. Delhi has a Dalit population estimated at 2.34 million.

HRLN has also written to the Comptroller and Auditor General seeking an audit into the exact expenditure on the Commonwealth Games to date and the diversion of funds from SC sub plan component Gloomy face of glittering Delhi

Just a stone’s throw away from Shadipur Metro Station in New Delhi is an elongated slum cluster Kathputli Colony. Whiff of fetid air and stench of stale urine assail your senses the moment you enter the locality. Stray pigs, heaps of garbage, clogged drains, dingy lanes and mosquitoes buzzing all around will accompany you, as you move about in the slums.

There are thousands of slum clusters in Delhi where a mammoth population is living a gruelling life with no basic amenities. Kathputli Colony is, one such slum, riddled with acute water shortage, dilapidated mud huts, abysmal health and education services, corrupt Public Distribution System and a myriad of other problems.

While Delhi has come a long way to boast of its ‘world class’ facilities, dismal infrastructure in the slums is a legacy of decades of neglect.

For a population of over 7000 and an area of 5.22 hectares, the slum has only one hand pump which breathed its last two months ago due to excessive handling forcing the inhabitants to quench their thirst from sources outside the colony. Braving the scorching sun and heat waves, women and children fetch containers filled with water all the way from a community tap installed outside the slum.

It is ironic that everyday gallons of water are showered on the lush green field of Delhi’s several Golf Courses used by ultra-rich but these slum-dwellers yearn for even a single drop of water in this hot torrid summer.

The tragedy of these poor is that in every election politicians promise them better life to get their votes. “The politicians come and go but our problems remain the same. Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit does nothing for poor except uttering platitude. Eight years ago she had promised that every house would have regular water tap but till date there is no water supply let alone water taps”, says Sudha who lives in parched Kathputli colony.

It is ironic that everyday gallons of water are showered on the lush green field of Delhi’s several Golf Courses used by ultra-rich but these slum-dwellers yearn for even a single drop of water in this hot torrid summer.

But what affects the slum residents most is pathetic sanitation services. Chocked drains, children defecating in the open, mud paths strewn with faeces and litter all around make one feel sick within few minutes. To make matters worse, there is no public toilet in the slum forcing women to go outside colony to use a public toilet but that too on payment. Many share makeshift bathrooms within the colonies for bathing and washing clothes.

“Kathputli colony is a virtual hell. I wish I had a better place to live in. Dirty drains lie clogged for weeks, as nobody comes to clean them. Litter and Kathputli colony are inseparable,” rues 24-year-old Harsh.

“It is better to languish in a jail than living in this slum. Every day, I have to spend Rs. 7 for bathing and relieving in Sulabh toilets. Had there been community toilets in the colony, I would not have to spend Rs 200 per month out of a meager monthly earning of Rs 1500,” says 37-year-old widow Lajju who has five dependent children.

While Delhi has witnessed huge budget expenditure on improving civic infrastructure and beautification in the last decade, a tiny portion of that spending on providing sanitation facilities in Delhi’s slums could have spared the women embarrassment of defecating and bathing in open.

This is makeshift bathroom for women living in the slum
(photo: Gaurav Sharma)
“It is better to languish in a jail than living in this slum. Every day, I have to spend Rs. 7 for bathing and relieving in Sulabh toilets. Had there been community toilets in the colony, I would not have to spend Rs 200 per month out of a meager monthly earning of Rs 1500.”

Delhi’s comfort obsessed middle class may find it difficult to stomach but a number of these slum dwellers are forced to skip their meals due to soaring food prices and inefficient Public Distribution System (PDS). The gross irregularities and rampant corruption in PDS have taken a massive toll on the well being of these poor people.

Prabhu, one of the Pradhans (Community Heads) of this slum, says that as many as 1,500 inhabitants are without ration cards, making it impossible for them to access PDS outlets for cheaper ration. In 2007, 1550 people had applied for the renewal of ration cards which were due to expire the same year. But only 25-30 people have received their respective ration cards till now, he told d-sector.

Rummaging around his torn and tattered bag, 60-year-old Harsukhiya fishes out a receipt issued by the ration office for his new (ration) card. Recently, he discovered much to his horror, that his application for a new ration card has been cancelled.

What is worth mentioning here that many residents are facing the threat of eviction as a real estate firm Raheja Developers (owner of a prominent English weekly) has been given the contract to develop 2,800 flats for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in Kathputli colony. The catch is that the ration cards of many old residents haven’t been renewed and if they fail to produce it to the concerned authorities they will lose the right to rehabilitation and their entitlement to these flats.

60-year-old Harsukhiya is too old to work. He does not have a ration card either.
(photo: Gaurav Sharma)
“Why do these ladies who come on TV regularly only talk about the rights and plight of tribals of distant regions? Why don’t they take up our cause? They should come and spend a night in Kathputli Colony.”

Their eviction may not spring surprise as in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games (CWG), the Delhi government led by Sheila Dikshit, in its obsession to beautify the city state, has rendered many poor homeless. Independent experts estimate that nearly 3 million people are likely to be rendered homeless in Delhi by the end of CWG.

Like other basic amenities, health services are also in doldrums. No dweller wants to go to government hospitals until there is a serious illness. People say doctors and staff in government hospitals do not treat them properly. They feel it is better to have speedy, though costlier, private treatment than doing several rounds of government hospitals.

Despite such odds, the slum residents dream of a better life for their children but lack of proper education facilities disappoint them. Most children in this locality are victims of shoddy education standards of municipal schools. Either they play truant or stop going to schools. They can easily be sighted playing cards in the open.

“Who doesn’t want to go school? We can only afford government schools where teachers never pay attention to children from slums. I flunked twice in 7th standard and finally quit education. My mother could not afford my useless education,” rues teenager Mukesh, who has now started helping her mother in street-vending.

When d-sector tried to contact Mrs Vidya Devi, Municipal Councillor of the area, she was not available for a comment. Despite several attempts by this reporter to call on her official number mentioned in the MCD’s directory, she could not be reached. Every time, her husband Lala Ram received the phone and offered to answer all queries on behalf of his wife.

“You can ask me whatever questions you have. I am looking after the problems of entire area including Kathputli colony.” Lala Ram told d-sector over phone.

Certainly, empowerment of women through reservation of seats in elected bodies is still a distant dream. If husband of a municipal councillor runs the show in India’s capital, we can well imagine the conditions in far away villages.

“Sheila Dikshit is doing everything to spruce up the city for Commonwealth Games but is least concerned about the plight of poor like us. I was born and brought up in Kathputli colony. I am now father of three children. Nothing has changed from the time since I was born. The government has spent thousands of crores on this city but, this colony has not seen even a single rupee,” laments 30-year-old Lallu.

With the Commonwealth Games around the corner, New Delhi is all decked up to showcase its overhauled infrastructure, the metamorphosis of which cost billions of rupees. While sprawling stadia, serpentine flyovers, manicured gardens, and spacious parking lots have come to symbolise the galloping growth of India, government officials cannot resist the temptation to blow the trumpet of creating a “world class” city.

However, behind this new-found glitter lies a gloom which reveals the dark side of Delhi’s development. The government may have decided to erect bamboo screens to hide the slums in Delhi but the horrendous living conditions in slums cannot be glossed over.

As this reporter was about to leave Kathputli Colony, a shriveled old man asked: “Why do these ladies (social activists) who come on TV regularly only talk about the rights and plight of tribals of distant regions? Why don’t they take up our cause? They should come and spend a night in Kathputli Colony.”

Little did he know that for our celebrity activists living in a slum for a day would be much more difficult than spending a week in a jungle!


Gaurav Sharma  |

Guarav Sharma is a reporter with