Delhi: Comm Games 'Beautification' fallout

Excerpt from a Sarai Reader List post: Nizamuddin Basti Faces Massive Demolition to Create Vistas to the Dargah "As Delhi adorns herself for the appreciative gazes of visitors to the Commonwealth Games in 2010, several habitats and lifeworlds are being destroyed "in public interest" to make way for beautification projects in place of dense, unseemly residential areas. Nizamuddin Basti, the thriving, bustling, colorful settlement with over of 800 years of recorded history of continuous human habitation, is going to come under the developmental bulldozer next week, on April 10 according to residents. The grand urban revitalization vision for this master plan designated heritage zone does not include anything in the foreground of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya's Dargah. The thriving settlement of Nizam Nagar, a neighborhood populated by migrant labor for the last thirty years, will definitely be flattened to create lush landscaped foreground for beholding the monument from all three roads bounding the Basti—Mathura Road, Lodi Road, and Lala Lajpat Rai Marg. The Dargah however had never been a separate piece within the settlement but an integral part of the residents' lifeworlds. The next layer of colorful pucca houses with many floors will also be demolished as they too block the view of the dargah from all three roads. Several shops on Lodi Road have already been sealed. A major part of the open space on Lala Lajpat Rai Road has been walled up and residents said that it will be made into a parking lot for the Dargah tourist coming from that direction. The pucca house owners will receive deals for resettlement while the majority of the migrant settlers along the periphery will be evicted without rehabilitation. No one has any information as to what exactly has been proposed and by whom. There are rumors of MCD and Aga Khan Trust and ASI working together to create a beautiful tourist paradise with paved walking routes, lush landscapes and showcase remnants of the old village and way of life of people. I visited the basti yesterday and felt people's helplessness. I made several phone calls to everyone I knew to find out about the development plan. No one has a clue. Nothing is discussed in the public domain. But how come all the residents knew? MCD has really been smart about this one to avoid undue attention and therefore resistance to the beautification project with Aga Khan Trust's money. I did the only thing I could. I filed a RTI this afternoon with MCD. But as I am not a directly affected party the information will be made available in a month's time, long after the demolitions had taken place. I got the Hope Project, an NGO that works within the Basti, to mobilize the community to exercise their right to information and get it within 48 hours. But community mobilization is easier said than done. Moreover, this is a long weekend. The governmental machinery will be resting. If anyone has any advice on how to put up a resistance to an uncontested beautification scheme for a contested urban space, please email me. Some of us are working on first assessing what exactly will be demolished and what rehabilitation proposals had been made for displaced people to prepare a case for resisting the demolitions and demanding adequate rehabilitation for all displaced people. In addition I would encourage this forum to engage in a much stronger public debate on the future of the city and its quietly outrageous beautification/revitalization/development plans ahead of the Commonwealth Games." -- Sudeshna Chatterjee, PhD New Delhi, India