Thursday, September 23, 2010

Growth Story: No, Never Heard This One

(Photo of the Week: Sept 22): Two young men prepare for a night's rest at a shelter provided by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, under orders from the High Court, in a South Delhi colony.

These youngsters along with many other families were earlier living under flyovers near the Inter State Bus Terminus. For them, the India growth story might just be an apocryphal one for people of the streets like these boys. This night shelter had almost 50 people, including a large number of children and even babies.

Unfortunately for these people, the residents living nearby were not too happy that a government building in their midst had been handed over to these people. The residents were on the verge of moving court and various government authorities for shifting these people to another space.

Some of the complaints, many were indeed true, included drunken brawls between the relocated people, their unhygienic and filthy ways of living as well the smells that would emanate from their cooking. On the day this photo was taken, some of the families had already fought between themselves and threatened each other with dire consequences. The reason: a very young wife had objected to her husband's frequent bouts of drinking as well as indulging in gambling. And that family dispute soon spread to the other inhabitats of this shelter.

Many of these people work as labourers, most are migrants and they were all rather surprised that they could actually find a pucca roof over their head in a city like Delhi. Before they had moved under this roof, shelters meant working on construction sites - bridges, flyovers, underpasses and houses - and sleeping under the open sky or under one of those constructions.

These people, who are drivers of the India growth story and witnesses to its fast-paced Shanghaisation are themselves ring-side audiences to the country's growth marathon. For them, and these two boys above, the "growth story" remains one to be seen and not to be participated in.

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