Category Archive : ACORN India

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

National Geographic features ACORN International

The Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire” put India’s largest slum, Dharavi, on the map. Much more than a slum, this mini-city bustles with industry, culture and dreams. See the day-to-day activities and hear real-life accounts from its inhabitants, who have goals and aspirations — people who are struggling to survive in a community that defies expectation.

D-Sector.org: 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  |  gaurav@d-sector.org

Guarav Sharma is a reporter with d-sector.org.

Letter from Wade Rathke, Chief Organizer

This is a short request for you to do something simple that makes a difference: sign a petition!

We are asking you to stand with our members in Delhi who are being  hammered by the preparations for the Commonwealth Games which will be held in India for the first time this October. We are asking you to join us in opposition to the Indian Government’s displacement of thousands of slum dwellers in East Delhi and their attacks on the livelihoods of tens of thousands of informal workers from rag pickers  to bicycle rickshaw pullers all in the name of burnishing the image of Delhi as a world class city and attempting to sweep the poor off the streets and byways to make them invisible to athletes and guests at the Games.


We are asking representatives of the Commonwealth Games Federation to assure that we receive justice as well as the sponsoring committee from various countries sending teams to compete from area that were formerly part of the British Empire. We are sending these petitions to anyone who will listen, including the Queen, in a plea for justice before tens of thousands lose homes and jobs because of the Games.

 

Join us by signing the petition at www.commonwealthgamescampaign.org

ACORN Hawkers Union stages protest

Members of the ACORN Hawkers Union along with many other unions organized a sit in demonstration on 21st June 2010 in Delhi in support of the Commonwealth Games Campaign and against displacement & harassment that have been occuring across Delhi as officials prepare for the games.

The protest was led by the Delhi unit of the National Hawkers Federation.

Labour Endorsements

The 60,000+ member British Columbia Government Employees Union (BCGEU) in Canada, became the first major labor organization to pass a resolution of support for workers and slum dwellers in East Delhi receiving justice and protection from loss of housing and livelihood from the upcoming Commonwealth Games.  They were followed only days later by the Prince George District Labour Council (British Columbia, Canada).

This is an important victory and important early step in moving the campaign forward.

We hope to announce more endorsers soon.

Reserve fund being used for CWG?

The cost of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) will be borne by the poor and the socially underprivileged of the city, it seems.

According to a report released by the NGO, Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) on Thursday, Rs 265 crore from the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (Special Component Plan) for Delhi has been diverted to the CWG fund in the year 2009-10.
 
“If one looks at the diversion of funds since 2008 the amount is much more, in the range of Rs 550 crore,” said Miloon Kothari, coordinator, HLRN.

The report demanded an independent enquiry into the transfer of funds.


The Delhi Finance Minster, AK Walia, refused to say anything on the issue. “I cannot say anything regarding this at the moment. I will have to check the records before responding,” he said.

The report, called Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?, also condemned the Games for being anti-poor .

“The money that is being used to beautify the city should have been used to provide housing for the poor,” said Kothari.

The report also gives the example of governments of New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago, which did not support the CWG bid of their sports authorities as the Games would prove too costly.

“The benefit of the games will go only to corporates, especially the real estste conglomerates. The poor people will not get anything,” said Dunu Roy, director, Hazards Centre.

India’s bid document for the CWG estimated the cost of hosting the games at Rs 1,899 crore but official estimates have put the cost at Rs 10,000 crore, the report states.

“The streetscaping project in Lodhi Roadcost Rs 18.55 crore, twice the amount had bid for the entire beautification plan. Why?” said Shalini Mishra, co-writer of the report.

The report was released by Justice AP Shah, retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court. He condemned the government for ignoring the poor of the city.

Times of India: Games Leave No Room in DU Hostel

Neha Pushkarna | TNN

New Delhi: Hostellers in Delhi University colleges on north campus will be making a big sacrifice for the Commonwealth Games. For almost three months, they will attend classes as day scholars in the next session. They don’t have a choice. Six colleges have asked students to vacate the hostels by the end of this month so that renovation can take place to make these buildings fit for players to stay during the Games.

The only consolation for the ousted students is that on returning to their rooms in the second half of October, they will find the accommodation far more comfortable than at present.



Before that, however, nearly 2,000 affected students will be forced to look for lodgings elsewhere when the new session begins in July. ‘‘We have been asked to vacate the rooms by the last week of May. So I will be looking for lodgings in either Vijay Nagar or Hudson Lane. With so many others also hunting for accommodation, finding a place is going to be tough,’’ said Siddhartha Jain, a second-year student of BCom (honours) in Shri Ram College of Commerce. The college has asked hostellers to vacate rooms within three days of their last exam.

This is the first time the government is providing any grant for renovation of hostels. Obviously, colleges found the offer hard to resist. All colleges on the campus, which are going to be venues for rugby tournaments, have got grants from the government through UGC ranging between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 1 crore for upgrading the hostels. This is over and above the funds released for furnishing.

STUDENTS SUFFERING

SRCC, Hindu, Ramjas, KMC have ordered students out of hostels till the Games end

Hans Raj and Daulat Ram are still trying to find a way out

At St Stephen’s and Miranda House, however, students may stay put There are a total of around 1700 seats in college hostels at North Campus But the number of students in the hostel exceed the number of seats since many rooms had to be shared after OBC quota was implemented RENOVATION AHEAD OF CWG Colleges promise swankier hostels

New Delhi: Several Delhi university colleges have asked their students to vacate hostels as they plan to renovate them in time for the Commonwealth Games.

Nishant Pandey, a firstyear BA student in Hindu College, said students had been asked to return only after October 20. ‘‘We have started booking rooms since rents are expected to shoot up in view of the increased demand in the next session,’’ he said.

Chandrachur Singh, warden, Hindu College Hostel, said colleges couldn’t afford to miss this opportunity. ‘‘It’s a painful decision for us. But the maintenance of hostels was also long due. We have managed the hostels only with the fees charged from the students which is just about adequate to meet the electricity and water bills.’’

‘‘A lot of work needs to be done and it may easily take three months,” Singh said.

The colleges will be mostly working on

the flooring, providing new beds and upgrading bathrooms to international standards. SRCC principal P C Jain called it a blessing in disguise. ‘‘I agree students may have problems staying elsewhere from July to October but they will return to swanky accommodation,’’ he said, adding that the college has got Rs 40 lakh and more funds were on the way.

Tanvir Aeijaz, warden at Ramjas College, suggested students could stay with local guardians. ‘‘The new session will begin only in the last week of July. They will have to manage only through August and September since they may have vacations in October again,’’ he

said.

Every year, students have to re-apply for a room in the hostel which is based on merit. Aeijaz said Ramjas may allot rooms at the time of admission this year but the students will be accommodated only after the players have gone. On the other hand, Hans Raj College may only give hostel rooms to seniors and not the new students. ‘‘We still have to decide. It is likely that we may not allot rooms to the first year students and accommodate around 80-90 senior students alone,’’ said principal V K Kawatra.

Residential students at Miranda House and St Stephen’s will, however, stay put. ‘‘We are not renovating the six residential blocks as we do not have a bursar who is the financial officer. We will give our hostels to players in the same condition as they are now,” said St Stephen’s principal Valson Thampu. Miranda House principal Pratibha Jolly said the students will return to the hostel in July even as renovation work continues.

Dharavi: Rags to relief

By Preeti Pooja

The snapshots of filth and fantasy in the biggest slum of Asia – Dharavi is by now a much romanticized subject on celluloid to capture the wide canvas of a shantytown and the struggle, hope and hopelessness of its over one million residents.

Dharavi is home to vital unorganized industry workers, mostly children, who sift and collect 8.5 metric tons of filth, garbage, plastic, metal and scrap everyday.

Most of these rag pickers, come as migrants from every part of India. They often live in conditions worse than that in refugee camps. Many are malnourished. They are constantly exposed to hazardous toxins and diseases.

Their subhuman living conditions provides little access to basic education, sanitation, water, electricity and healthcare. Dharavi has severe problems with public health, due to inadequate toilet facilities, compounded by the infamous Mumbai flooding during the monsoons.

This is also a place where Mumbai’s underbelly of drug peddlers thrives. Low house rents and access to livelihood like rag picking has attracted minorities and the poorest of poor from different states to Dharavi. The economy here is based on recycling besides some pottery, textile factories and leather units. Dharavi is home to more than 15,000 single room factories.

 

But Dharavi is not just a haunt of film and documentary makers on a bounty hunt of poverty and filth as creative ingredients. Some NGOs have chosen to work here to better the living conditions of many of its uncared for residents.

Acorn Foundation (India) is one of them. The Acorn Foundation (India), which is affiliated to ACORN International, is supporting, Dharavi Project India. They are working to improve the lives of the rag picker community in Mumbai besides Delhi and Bangalore. Acorn is also doing extensive study on urban solid waste management in Mumbai and trying to implement actions to alleviate this issue.

Vinod Shetty, an advocate by profession, is actively involved with Acorn Foundation (India). Mr. Shetty narrates some of the heart-rending realities of life in Dharavi.

“Any big city survives on the services of rickshaw pullers, sweepers and rag pickers. It’s them who are at the bottom of the pyramid and ensure that the city keeps running. The society must acknowledge to the services of these people who live without any social security,” says Mr. Shetty.

Acorn firmly believes that this community of unorganized labourers is an invaluable human resource to the city.

“Mumbai would have been reduced to a dumping yard creating havoc with serious sanitary issues had there been no rag pickers who recover, recycle and ensure reuse of the waste,” he says.

ACORN, under the Dharavi Project, tries to organize this vulnerable section and train them in scientific methods of waste handling, segregation and recycling.

Currently there are 35 members of Dharavi Project working at different levels of recycling. Some of the initiatives taken by Acorn Foundation (India) are like providing informal schooling to the children. ACORN organizes health clinics, cultural programmes and workshops where the beneficiaries learn music, photography and arts.

Celebrity shows and concerts like BOxette are also a part of the initiative to bring a crumb of entertainment to the disadvantaged community. In a recent eco fair organized in the Maharashtra Nature Park, presence of celebrities like Katrina Kaif, Shankar Mahadevan and Suneeta Rao spiced up the event.

One of the most exciting programmes of the Acorn Foundation is in association with Mumbai’s popular nightspot Blue Frog. Musicians and celebrity rock bands conduct workshops for these children.

Recently the international BeatBox group, the Boxettes, (beatboxing is vocal percussion) held workshops for the children while the Sout Dandy Squad (Tamilian rappers) performed with several international artistes too.

“The purpose behind these events is clearly to showcase local artistes and give the youth of Dharavi a chance to witness international artistes up close which they never dreamt of. They bring cheer among these children, though short lived. The musical celebration is often themed with graffiti art and sculpture,” says Mr. Shetty.

Acorn has provided the members of the Dharavi Project with identity cards and recognition. They have formed their own committee to conduct waste awareness programmes.

“One programme is exclusive for children who are taught about waste management in primary schools.  Under this programme students are given lessons on how to reduce and manage waste at home,” he says.

Besides entertainment, Acorn also organized multimedia campaigns on Water Day, highlighting issues of water conservation, water filtration and use of renewable energy sources.

Acorn Foundation (India) entrusts the faith within these rag pickers to make them feel a part of the society and live the life of a respectable citizen.

For details visit Acorn Foundation’s (India) Website: www.dharaviproject.org

 

Visit from the US Ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer

The US Ambassador to India, Timothy J. Roemer, and his wife Sally, visited our ACORN India ‘Dharavi Project’ on May 11, 2010. The US consul general in Mumbai, Paul Flomsbee, who has previously visited the project, was also present. Roemer was interested in seeing how the Dharavi rag-picker community contributes to the ecological well-being of the city, and how the Dharavi Project enhances their livelihood.

Roemer was given an overview of the Dharavi Project’s mission and activities, and then provided a tour of the non-profit’s newly-commissioned office and waste segregation center, a paper recycling facility, and the massive waste collection area nearby. During the visit, Roemer personally interacted with rag-picker members and recyclers, as seen in the first picture below, and even played a quick round of cricket with rag-pickers kids while balancing on one of the massive pipelines leading out of the city. Two members of the rag-picker community, Rafique and Lakshmi, shown in the third picture below, described their work to Roemer. Finally, Roemer tried his hand at one of the paper recycling machines.

Roemer learned about how the Dharavi Project program in Mumbai organizes 400 or so rag-picker members, gives them identification, and runs relevant waste management and cultural programs with 30+ schools, artists and even some corporates. The Dharavi Project also works closely with the American School of Bombay on a ‘waste matters’ campaign that helps the school kids manage their waste and donate a portion of it to the rag-pickers. Roemer expressed his support for a similar program with the new US consulate facility in Bandra Kulra Complex.

 



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