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Delhi Games’ Homeless Legacy (Page 3 of 4)

Most of the street vendors and day labourers who have been part of the construction work have been encouraged to leave the city if they don’t have any proof of identity, meaning the roadside eateries that act as the main source of food for the poor, migrant workers and students have been shut.

Karim Ansari, a migrant worker living in Pandav Nagar, is packing his belongings up to head for Samashtipur in Bihar.‘Suddenly I feel like a foreigner in this country—like I don’t have any rights to live and stay wherever I want,’ he says.

The English language daily Hindustan Times in a recent article titled ‘Labourers deported for Games clean-up’ said that ‘the police are forcing daily-wagers and migrant labourers to leave Delhi in a drive to apparently clean the city for Commonwealth Games.’

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But it’s not just the immediate threat of demolition that’s of concern to activists—future displacement could take on an environmental dimension as well.

The Games Village has been constructed on the floodplains of the river Yamuna, a decision that some scientists warn could have devastating consequences. One scientist with the Meteorological Department of India in Delhi, who asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘The construction of this Games Village on the river bank right opposite the Akshardham Temple increases the probability of floods in Delhi because it has reduced the floodplain area’ that effectively controls the flooding.

All of this construction has come at enormous financial cost, too.The original estimate for hosting the event was $2.5 billion, a price tag that has since more than doubled according to an estimate by the Business Standard. This makes the 2010 Commonwealth Games the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever, costing far more than the previous games in Melbourne in 2006, which came in at about US$1.1 billion.

The enormous price tag has raised some eyebrows, including those of former Sports Minister and leader of the ruling Congress party Mani Shankar Aiyar. ‘Even if only 10 percent of the total expenses were spent on providing better facilities and training for our children, no one could stop us from becoming a sports power like China,’ he says, adding that he would be ‘unhappy’ if the Games was a success.

‘For all our great pretensions, can a country where 28.3 percent of the people still live below the poverty line really afford this kind of expenditure on a sporting event of this kind? Where the amount being spent is…four times the amount being spent annually on the entire National Rural Health Mission?’ ask Boria Mazumdar and Nalin Mehta in the just-published book Sellotape Legacy: Delhi and Commonwealth Games.Wouldn’t we have been better off putting these vast resources where they were really needed?’

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