New Delhi to host Commonwealth games – but at what cost?

Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

New Delhi is preparing to host its first Commonwealth Games (GWG), a multi-sport competitive event between independent countries, most of whom used to be part of the old British Empire. But forced evictions, unfinished construction sites and spiralling costs have left Delhi residents wondering whether the ‘extravaganza' is worth it.

The government trumpeted New Delhi's successful 2003 bid to host the CWG as a chance for the Indian capital to shine as a "world class city". The city has undergone a major face lift, built five new stadiums and a games village to host the athletes on the banks of the river Yamuna.

But the makeover came at a cost - both social and financial. Official cost estimates have risen from 390 million euros in the initial 2003 bid to over 3.6 billion euros, and could surge even higher.

Furthermore, a report by the Indian chapter of the Housing and Land Rights Network underlined a violation of the human rights of slum dwellers and construction workers in the run-up to the Games.

Despite the spiralling costs, several construction sites remain unfinished, with the games due to start in a little over a month (opening ceremonies are on October 3). City officials are reportedly considering hiding unfinished work behind ‘aesthetic' scaffold nettings.

“More than 40 slums have been demolished, and thousands of people displaced by force”

Bonojit Hussein is a member of New Delhi's University Community for Democracy, which is campaigning against student evictions and poor labour conditions on CWG construction sites.

"In the name of beautification, more than 40 slums have been demolished, and thousands of people have been displaced by force. Students are also hit: over 12,000 students have been evicted from their hostels, to make room for renovation and the construction of sports complexes on the campus of Delhi University. Furthermore, landlords are taking advantage of the situation to raise their prices, forcing many residents in the university neighbourhood - students or otherwise - to vacate.

"The work conditions of labourers on CWG sites are unacceptable"

The University Community for Democracy organised campaigns and a relayed hunger strike to denounce this situation, as well as the unacceptable working conditions of labourers on CWG construction sites. They are paid below the minimum wage, (which is of 203 rupees [3 or 4 euros] per day in Delhi), work in hazardous conditions and live in makeshift tents or on the street by the construction sites. The stagnant pools of water left by monsoon rains on construction sites have fostered mosquito breeding, and there have been reports cases of malaria in the worker community, as well as among university students."

Stagnant body of water construction worker shacks. Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

"The city is littered with debris and dust"

Abhishek Khanna lives in Delhi. He writes for the blog The Furobiker.

I pass in front of the CWG sites every day on my way to work, and the construction work is visibly not complete. Even if it is finished by October 3, chances are some buildings will be of shoddy quality. There is litter and debris everywhere, and the neighbourhood of Noiba, where most of the sites are being built, is covered in dust. The rain has added to the problem, creating pools of mud in the excavated streets.

Excavation work for a CWG site in January 2010. Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

The citizens of New Delhi are paying for the games with an increase in VAT on fuel prices. Although there have been complaints about that, and general scepticism as to the real benefits the games will bring to the city, I think that once the competition begins everyone will join the fun." 

"The money could be used for better purposes”

Ankit Sharma is a member of the editorial team of the Indian website Radical Notes. He co-authored an article titled "Toiling for the Commonwealth" describing the harsh working conditions on CWG sites.

According to the government, the Commonwealth games are something that will contribute to the development of New Delhi and of the country as a whole. International events are posited as India's national pride, and the general consensus is built for us to view them as our only way forward. But if you look closely, only a small segment of the population - the upper and middle classes - will benefit from this so-called development. We are completely neglecting an entire section of our society - the majority in fact - which is marginalised. Furthermore, I believe these events provide a chance for officials to restructure urban spaces according to their own needs. The money could and should be used for better purposes. I don't believe the Commonwealth Games are a worthwhile investment - just as the Athens Olympics in 2004 did not, apparently, help boost the Greece economy, but only increased the country's huge debt."

Living and working conditions of migrant labourers on GWC sites

A migrant worker family on the Delhi University campus. Photo courtesy of New Delhi's University Community for Democracy. 

Worker's tents next to a construction site. Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

Young children sleeping under a construction cart. Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

Workers sleeping under a makeshift tent. Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

Workers on a CWG site on the University campus. Photo courtesy of New Delhi's University Community for Democracy. 

The CWG has come under attack for the presence of underage workers on construction sites for its venues. Photo courtesy of New Delhi's University Community for Democracy.  

Photo by Ankit Sharma, posted on the Flickr album "Toiling for the Commonwealth".

 

Comments

to Ankit

hi

was going through your photographs...great once,...working on a documentay on the same subject..."CWG at what cost??"...would like to get some help...if possible please get in touch ...my email id ... mithas22@gmail.com...thanks

Too much poverty and filth

There are plenty of smart and hard-working people in India. There are no excuses for the massive amounts of filth and poverty in this country.

idiocy

a fiasco,did anyone think it wouldn't be??tales of bribery,profiteering etc.
its india.brilliant,sad,venal.toiletless.

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