The interrupted game

Sanjay did not come to the project yesterday. The reason: an eviction notice by the Municipality. Sanjay is a Lohar who lives in what is known as the Maharana Pratap Camp but is actually a motley assortment of 40 ramshackle tenements made of plastic sheets and tarpaulin. The Camp has been in existence for 3o years and Sanjay was born there and for the last 30 years there have been innumerable evictions notices. Along the way the camp gained respectability and recognition with a postal address and voter Id cards for its residents: you see they were after all a sizable vote bank. As for the eviction notices, they were warded away with a few coins. It was almost a game being played to perfection, with every protagonist playing its role faultlessly. This by the way is a play running in many locations across our city. However this time there was a new entrant in the plot: the Commonwealth Games and it seemed that this time the denouement could be different.

Sanjay to say the least was definitely worried. Would this eviction be for real? The red letter day dawned and passed. A hurried visit to the local politicos revealed that perhaps the camp would be saved and the ludicrous idea of hiding it, the one mooted by our Chief Secretary, be enforced. The camp would be hidden not behind bamboo screens as once thought, but behind some kind of screen, maybe even publicity ones to rake in more moolah! The jury is still out on this one.

This incident raises once again the question of our attitude towards what we call, for want of a better word, the poor. With the advent of the Games this attitude has come out of the closet and is out in the open. We are ashamed of our poor and yet unable or rather unwilling to address the situation and find lasting solutions. We just want to brush the problem under the carpet and hope it goes away.

A TV show aired yesterday tried to debate the issue. Sadly most participants did not get down to addressing the real issue but simply tried to defend their position rather unconvincingly. The debate was on the lack of concern of the middle class towards what was termed as the other India. It actually became a weak defense on the said lack of concern. This is the sad reality. We have lost our heart and soul in our quest for riches. Yet we forget that to acquire these very riches we need the other India be it to construct our new homes and malls or simply to make our every day life easier and better.

The question that begs to be asked is how long will the other India remain silent? How long are we going to simply ignore the facts that glare at us: children dying of malnutrition, people living in inhumane conditions, farmers committing suicide: the list is endless. It is time we addressed these issues if we want our good times to continue. As one participant tried to say: we need to empower the poor and we need to do it now.

The last few weeks have been replete with stories of corruption in the CWG. Yet nothing much was said about the people who lost their homes and livelihood, about the children who worked on construction sites, about the labourers who lost their lives. They do not make news. Nor does Sanjay and his kin. They may lose their homes or may be hidden behind a screen as we are too embarrassed to accept their existence. And after the games the screens will be removed and the eviction game will resume after a brief interruption.