Delhi Games’ Homeless Legacy (Page 2 of 4)

According to the government’s Modified Relocation Policy, which came into effect in May this year following an outcry from non-government organizations over the way the poor were being treated, around 7,900 flats are being created in Bawana on the western outskirts of the nation’s capital. However, those who have been displaced are reportedly reluctant to settle down there as there’s no direct bus or metro service from the new settlement to the main city, meaning some would be forced to travel about four hours a day to get to work.

According to Amjad Hassan of the Delhi Unorganized Construction Workers Union, an NGO that specializes in the rights of day labourers and the displaced, around 40 localities have been demolished in the run up to the games. Hassan says that about three-quarters of those who have lost their homes in the demolition drive since 2006 haven’t been given anywhere to live. ‘And those who have, have been pushed far from the city, depriving them of a regular source of income,’ Hassan adds.

A recent report by the Housing and Land Rights Network, a global think tank with offices in Delhi, entitled ‘The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?’ is scathing over the way the Games have been organized.

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The whole process related to the Games ‘has been essentially underscored by secrecy, unavailability of information, lack of government accountability and unconstitutional activities, with evidence of long-term economic, social and environmental costs for the nation, and specifically for the city of Delhi,’ it says.

‘Workers in unorganized sectors contribute a lot to the development of Delhi,’ says Thaneswar Dayal Adigaur, a local activist working for the rights of those employed in the sector. ‘They have a substantial stake in Delhi’s economy and they have the right to live and sustain themselves in the capital. How can you throw them out like that?’

Concerns have also been raised over the conditions experienced by those who have managed to find construction jobs. It’s been reported that labourers haven’t been receiving the correct wages and that many have been forced to work in unsafe and unhygienic conditions.

Savita, who has been employed to clean up around the Games village, says she is usually paid Rs 100 ($2.2) instead of the promised Rs 150 ($ 3.2) for the 10 to 12 hours work she does each day. Her male counterparts, she said, are paid twice that, although all have to live in tents with no sanitation and no childcare arrangements.

‘Construction companies and other agencies bring labourers from poor states like Bihar Uttar Pradesh promising high wages but they never fulfill their promises,’ Hassan says. ‘Unfortunately, government agencies and officials who are supposed to ensure workers’ rights also cheat them by taking commission from the construction agents.’

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