Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beyond the Obvious: Whose Commons? Whose Wealth? Interrogating and Resisting the Evictions in the name of Commonwealth 2010

In the light of the ongoing problems with and the questions about the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it is impossible to side step the pressing concerns facing all of us in the University and the city. Caught in the debris created by corporate greed and national glory, we are suffocated, paying for something which is to the detriment of huge numbers of people. Mega games all over the world have created sad stories of displacement, evictions, resource diversions which reveal a pattern of reckless disregard which raises important questions about such events. 

The History Society of Ramjas College and New Socialist Initiative had organized a discussion on "Beyond the Obvious: Interrogating the Commonwealth Games 2010" on 30th July, 2010, 10:30 am, at the Seminar Room, Ramjas College, with Shalini Mishra (HLRN) and Shabnam (Hazards Center). The discussion was followed by a Protest Meeting to resist evictions in the name of Commonwealth Games organized by University Community for Democracy (of which NSI is a part) held at Arts Faculty, University of Delhi.

Below are the press statements of both the events as well as few images:

On the 30th of July 2010 New Socialist Initiative in collaboration with Ramas College History Society organized a discussion with Shalini Mishra from the Housing Land Rights Network (HLRN) , Shabnam from Hazards Centre and Iderjit from PUDR. It was titled, “ Beyond the obvious: Interrogating the Commonwealth Games 2010. Shalini Mishra talked about a report published by Housing Land Rights Network titled, “ The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?” . Shalini’s presentation demonstrated how the grave problems with CWG begins right from the bidding stage in 2003. The decision itself was shrouded in secrecy and many of the official documents continue to me marked as confidential, placing them outside the purview of public scrutiny. The promises made by India in order to win the bid included a 7.5 million USD package to train the athlete of participant countries – which is unprecedented in the history of the CWG. Following this, the speakers discussed a series of lofty promises made by the government which to date remain unfulfilled . For example the promise of infrastructure, The promise of 2.5 million new jobs ( an RTI reveals that merely 1800 temporary jobs have been created) and the promise of better sporting culture ( stadiums in the university have been barred from student usage for three years). Indrajit from PUDR also talked of the huge human cost of the Games. The fact that many workers have lost their lives at construction sites is damaging enough. Most workers remain unregistered, work overtime and are unpaid for it, and in general paid less than minimal wage. Shabnam discussed the whole process of eviction which dispossesses citizens. She also said that when an official from the Social Welfare department was questioned about the forced removal of beggars he responded by saying, “ We are used to beggars but foreigners are not.”
Following this powerful discussion the speakers and students engaged in a Q&A session when several more questions were asked. Lokesh Sharma from New Socialist Initiative later also intervened and spoke about the situation in the University.

New Socialist Initiative
Naveen 9013074978
Devika 9278338726

The University Community for Democracy (UCD) conducted a public protest meeting on Friday the 30th of July 2010 against the forced eviction of students from north campus Delhi University hostels. UCD is a forum composed of students, teachers and others concerned about the impact of the commonwealth games on the city and Delhi University as well as larger issues of democracy. It came into existence due to pressing need to challenge the decisions of the University with regard to the Commonwealth Games. The most drastic step taken has been the forced eviction of students from University hostels for three months. Students have been asked to vacate so that hostels can be turned into ‘world class’ living quarters for athletes and officials during the Games. The subsequent sky-rocketing of unregulated rent rates has made accommodation in neighboring areas unaffordable. All those who have been residing in these areas have therefore also been badly affected. Women students have found themselves in a particularly dire situation. In general, we at UCD are deeply critical of the manner in which Delhi University, an institution of learning, is implicated in the commonwealth games project, which has grossly violated labour laws and diverted funds from social spending like the SC/ST poverty alleviation budgets.

Shalini Mishra from the Housing Land Rights Network (HLRN) and Shabnam from Hazards Centre addressed students of Ramjas college at a discussion organized by New Socialist Initiative and History Society Ramjas College prior to the public meeting. They presented data from various reports which exposed the abysmal working conditions of laborers at CWG sites, the high level of corruption and mismanagement of funds, and the huge burden that the urban poor are bearing in the name of national pride. 

Today’s program raised many of these issues through music, theatre and individual speeches. The protest meeting was attended by more than 400 people from the university community. The program began with a street play performed by Khalsa College Dramatic Society which forcefully depicted the exploitation occurring due to the CWG. Following this, students, teachers, street vendors, university groups and city organizations came together to publically denounce many of the actions undertaken by the government and university to make the city ‘presentable’. Groups which spoke included Lok Shakti Manch, People’s Union for Democratic Rights, New Socialist Initiative, Burning Voices, All India Students Association, Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha, Pratidhwani, Centre of Struggling Women and Sangwari.

Points raised:

- The violation of every single stage of a democratic decision making process.

- Eviction of students without any dialogue and without provision for alternative accommodation.

- The conscious diversion of funds from other social spending budgets.

- The hollow promises of better infrastructure, sporting amenities and mass employment opportunities.

- The superficial notion of ‘beautification’ which violates a number of human rights.

- The exploitation of construction workers on all front, starting from the non-payment of minimum wages to the flouting of other labour laws.

- The unregulated raising in CWG expenditure, which has increased around 2000 times more than the initially passed budget.

Contact: Naveen 9013074979
Devika 9278338726


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