'Driving out the poor should not be permitted.'
The scandalous delay in the preparations in Delhi for the Commonwealth Games to be held in October received much attention last year. It also resulted in an unsavoury controversy involving verbal exchanges between the games federation and Indian authorities. There were assurances that all infrastructure would be in place and the facilities would be completed well in time. Many arrangements which needed to be made months in advance are yet to be made and there are serious doubts about the completion of work. Deadlines have repeatedly been extended including those for the construction of the main stadium and the swimming venue. The government has released additional funds to expedite the work but there are still genuine fears about timely completion and quality of work.
There is another disgraceful aspect which has hardly received attention. The Delhi high court has, on investigation ordered on the basis of a public interest litigation, found that 43 labourers have till now lost their lives on work sites. The court found that the working conditions are abysmal. No list of the workers is maintained, there are no wage slips, minimum wages are not paid and accidents are not reported. The sites are unsafe and unhygienic. No one is held accountable for the violations of the law and denial of basic human rights. The authorities are in a hurry. They have given complete freedom to the contractors to do whatever they want in order to complete the work. These illegalities and inhumanities should not be allowed. If the authorities are unwilling to take action, the court should ensure that the culprits are punished. How can we be proud of the Games when the poor are so exploited and when there is so much blood and tears under the stadia?
Some parts of Delhi are being cleared of the poor so that the visitors will be taken in by the cleanliness, the riches and the glitter of India’s capital. Slums and poor quarters are considered to be eyesores that create a bad impression and so should be out of sight. This idea also is inhuman and should not be allowed to pass. It is shameful and criminal to drive away the poor for the sake of false pride. Ultimately it won’t deceive anybody and will only expose us.