Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Live...Learn... Sewage is a plus..

Listen up

I'm a few drinks down.. being my 25th birthday and everything.. although, truth be told, birthdays are pretty over rated, I'm just a tad bit sozzled cause my friends were around. We don't need an excuse -- it could've been a Monday!
(For all of you who know my Monday night theory... shh)

ANYWAY.. I spent the day shooting in Bawana. Basically, there is this slum outside Delhi. Technically its not outside the city -- but for us Delhi folk, it kinda is -- and what happened is this: they needed to build a luxury apartment "space" (not sure what the end result will be) BUT for this residential complex is getting built on the side of the Yamuna. The space they are building it on used to be, to an extent, where these slums were. Some history: what happens is this -- people who can't afford buying houses start building "jhuggis" -- shacks -- and live there. No water, no electricity, no nothing. It's illegal. Slowly, over time, as they work as domestic help, city cleaners, tea shop owners, they start making money. Bamboo/wood roofs make way for brick walls. At the same time, the government never really allowed it. Years go by. And as was the case, the other shoe drops. (What was the first shoe, well, its confusing, especially if you are a resident of the area).

NOW, the government moves you. Collective "you". A lakh people plus. They say, this land is not for you to live on -- fair enough. The government has a way of giving this makeshift community, but a community all the same -- a place to live -- "go where we tell you", they say. Notices go unheaded. Then comes the bulldozers. Move, dammit, says the government. So they do, our rebels without a clue.

AND, they come to the new place. Considering where they lived before -- "illegal" technically -- this is good. You have ID, they are told, and we will give you land. Ok. So far, so good. After all, lets be fair -- law and life can deviate often (and I'm the product of a lawyer and a government official, so I say this with some authority). The land they are given (if they can pay for it) does not have sanitation facilities. Build a HOUSE, withOUT a bathroom. So, you.... hundreds of families you... wanna pee? RUN to the end of the residential complex, and when you get there, pay Rs 1 to pee, Rs 5 to bathe/wash clothes.

YOU KNOW WHAT? People can live with that. Sometimes. In those plots of land, they have build houses. Richer ones have built brick houses. Poorer ones, the daily wage laborers, live in makeshift tin houses. The others, who could not muster up official IDs -- well, many, I mean tens of thousands, have disappeared -- they did not qualify for a plot of land, you see. Some, who live here -- this 'resettlement' outside Delhi -- live on the footpaths of Delhi so that they can skip daily travel expenses, save money, go home twice a month, and give their families money for food, life, school, and bribes.

COMING TO BRIBES, local officals, for a lack of a better word -- SUCK. (In more ways than one). I don't think I need to elaborate.


It's not like this is new to me. I live in New Delhi, born to parents who have worked with much of this before. Before I met some of you in Montreal/DC/London, there was Dehradun. I guess I'm more aware of what we can do, what we can't. NGOs: Need to tell people to make their own versions of RWA (Resident Welfare Associations) rather than wait for local government authorities as their saviors. Ain't gonna happen. I met a lady the other day, who worked with a Road Research Institute in India. She went on about how long she has polled data on why its not safe for pedestrians. And, tell me, I asked her, when you come with up "what should be done"; does the government listen -- incorporate it? "Umm... no, I mean, we give them suggestions..."


3am. As good a time as any to call it a night. Mr Vijay Mallya, we made you much richer this fine evening. Everyone else, I apologize. I heard what I did, thought what I thought. Now, all I can do is to wake up a little bit older, a little bit wiser. And any incoherent, incomplete thoughts.. **** ***



egg style said...

Mass resettlements/migrations are often an elaborate game of dangling the noose with one hand and "rescuing" the poor fellow from a lynching with the other. Governments with their consciences missing-in-action play it regularly in "illiterate India" in a variety of settings, small and large. It's a full fledged drama that is played out repeatedly with nauseating regularity, and amidst much cheering from the galleries, too.

Jhuggi clusters are terrorised by goons, bulldozers, lynch mobs and all the rest of the fork wielders, even as the government's "saviour" front turns up to pitch a "solution" for which the terrified few will only be too grateful (dimly aware as they are assumed to be of the actual beneficiaries of the whole arrangement).

Youngsters, however, can "see through the water that runs through their drain" (to paraphrase a Bob Dylan classic). That's what makes the blogosphere interesting.

mahima said...

Yup, they never give all essential supplies at once, after all, they need the promise of a hand-out every 5 years!