The proposal to round up beggars in the Capital and send them back to their respective States is disturbing, said former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A. P. Shah here on Thursday.
“The government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court to deport beggars back to their states of origin. Fraudsters, thieves and corrupt politicians can stay in the city, but not beggars!” said Justice Shah releasing a report by Housing and Land Right Network titled “The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?”
According to the report, beggars and homeless citizens are being arrested and arbitrarily detained under the Bombay Prevention of Beggary Act, 1959. The Department of Social Welfare had also announced “no-tolerance” zones in Delhi and there are plans to send the beggars back to their States of origin.
Describing the Commonwealth Games as a very powerful tool of exclusion, Economics teacher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Prof. Amitabh Kundu, said: “In the context of exclusionary urbanisation, particularly in Delhi, the recommendations made by the report suggest that there is need for in-depth analysis of issues.”
“The key message of the report is that events such as the Commonwealth Games have certain inherent uncertainties involving the bypassing of institutional mechanisms and cost escalation for national prestige. We must think about what sort of institutional controls we can have,” he added.
In the context of slogans generated in the run-up to the Games, Prof. Kundu said slogans such as “slum-free city” and “affordable housing” were misleading as they meant different things to different sections of society.
He said the report did not imply that there were no benefits arising from the Games, rather it tried to analyse who were the beneficiaries.
Alleging that the Games had been planned without considering the opinion of democratic institutions, Director of Hazards Centre, a professional support group and resource outfit, Dunu Roy said: “The Prime Minister has claimed that the Games will be green in nature. Such statements represent bad or poor information or deliberate and wilful ignorance.”
Questioning the concept of a “world class” city popularised by authorities, Mr. Roy said money in excess of Rs.30,000 crore had been spent for the Games.
According to the report findings, the Games budget had risen from an initial projection of Rs.1,899 crore to an official figure of Rs.10,000 crore. Independent expert estimates have pegged the budget at Rs.30,000 crore.
HLRN Executive Director Miloon Kothari said: “Our decision-makers have not taken into consideration the experiences of previous world sporting events many of which have not left behind a good legacy.”
“Between now and till the Games occur and during the Games, the city is going to be affected in many ways,” he added. As per the conclusion of the HLRN report, “the entire 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. Preparations for the Games have already resulted in an irreversible alteration in the social, spatial, economic and environmental dimensions of…Delhi…”
The report recommends that there is need for a detailed inquiry into the decision-making and bidding process as well as the total expenditure on the Games. It states that the government should have a long-term legacy plan based on human rights and environmental sustainability.
There is also a need to investigate officials who had overstated the benefits of the Games, withheld critical information and misappropriated funds and also to investigate allegations of human rights violations related to the Games.
“A post-Games audit and detailed social and environmental impact assessment are also required,” the report said.
Keywords: Social discrimination