Tuesday, July 21

In the city lies a bamboo forest...

... and behind it are the slums.

Well that seems to be the policy of the Delhi government to hide away the underbelly of the city. Just plant some trees and make all the "poor people" disappear. I hope the bamboos grow tall enough. Riding on the Metro one can see a fair distance.

As with the 1982 Asian Games, many groups have also been relocated to create new infrastructure. Often these groups move to the fringes of the city to settle again. Year later those fringes will come under a NEW MASTER PLAN and they will be forced to move again.

Every big event in the city ends up becoming an excuse to waste money to beautify it. This means that only rich and middle class life should be seen. Driving along the roads you should only see malls and apartments, bungalows etc.

Many centuries ago the Empress of Russia wanted to visit Crimea. Her minister Grigory Potemkin knew that most villages were in a bad shape. Catherine would be horrified with them and heads would roll. He ordered the construction of fake settlements along the river she would travel. As the royal ships floated down, one could see happy villagers enjoying their rural life.

Why not make plastic and woodcut outs of the ideal city images and plant them along the roads leading to the stadiums. These images would have new houses, clean roads and blue skies. Driving past at sixty kilometres an hour no one would notice. In fact we could also leave them in place after the games are over.

Instead of such schemes as planting bamboo (which is not even common in this area) what about building affordable housing for these people? Is that not a better option in the long run?

Last year I had a chance to film such a project in Kolkata. The city administration had finalized a plan to clean the canals and open sewers. However families that were living in slums near them were reluctant to leave. Most of the women worked as house helps in the neigbourhood and did not want to be shifted far away.

What was decided that they would be shifted into low cost apartment blocks a hundred metres away. These houses had bathrooms and a working sewage disposal system - something they never had in their makeshift homes. The houses are owned by the women and they are paying lower interests on the loans provided by the government. Since these are apartment blocks, overall the area occupied by the families has come down.

If this can happen in a city like Kolkata where there is a space crunch, why not Delhi?

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