Monday, September 13, 2010

Whose 'common'? Whose 'wealth'? Why 'games'?

This is indeed very good news. I suggest this alliance be sustained even beyond these games. Unless the exploited and oppressed organized themselves there is not going to be any challenge to the emergency imposed on them by former colonial alliance for the purpose of neo-colonial agenda. Games are a favored strategy of the global-local elite nexus. In 1983 Commonwealth Heads of States (CHOGM) met in Delhi and came for retreat in Goa. It was hardly a retreat. It was an invasion of people of Goa and long term alterations in tourism policies favoring luxury tourism that benefited largely Tatas who had build their Taj hotel in 1975. New roads were built connecting cities to the coast (Panjim to Siquerim), land of the local people were sough to be acquired forcefully to construct Volley ball court for then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her common wealth colleagues to play on. Land was acquired to build heliport so that Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi could land safely. In short retreat was used to create infrastructure for the long term penetration of imperialist mode of development that has exploitation and dispossession of people as its core essence.

Unfortunately it was bad timing for the heads to land up in Goa as State had vibrant student movement then. Progressive Students Union (PSU) launched its street play campaign all over Goa against this bonanza. Nearly 52 street plays was staged withing 72 hours. Awareness picked up new levels. Students then aligned with affected people in Sinquerim and gave a tough fight. All the projects were forced to be cancel and land return back to the families from whom they were taken. Only expansion of connecting road was possible.

Tourism in Goa witnessed new wave protests that many in India are unaware of. I am prompted to write this mainly because there is so much similarity between Goa in 1983 and Delhi in 2010. Both has roots in Commonwealth and snatching away of commons and making people poorer and less dignified. Tourism in Goa is still struggling to invade Goa. And people of Goa have given total resistance till date. Number of projects like these continues to get mocked in Goa. Golf courses, new international airport, casinos, continue to be in the rage of controversy. The protests are no longer limited only to the students alone. It is lot more widespread and fresh students on campus yet to know about what happened in 1983. Our schools and colleges do not think it is wise to include protest history. Our historians do not believe that it is important to consider protests and day to day history making process worth attention. But history is constantly being made irrespective whether intellectuals, historians recognize it or not. They can ignore it at the peril of their profession. It is being made on the streets. It is being made is small village joints. However very little is known to the outside world about the magnitude and intensity of churning in Goa. I write this from the middle of all this in Goa.

Games like these that also includes Olympics are largely used for the purpose of creating consensus for what otherwise would have been scorned at. Nation's dignity is attached here as a clever ploy to morally damage any imaginations of resistance and articulations. This technique has been the invented and fine-tuned in Nazi Germany when Hitler ruled its affairs. There was need for justification for the large scale alterations to facilitate rapid creation of infrastructure. While games took place so often all over the world, it was during Nazi period that games merged with interest of capital and not just physical fitness. Physical fitness in fact took a back seat after win-at-all-cost mindset got on to the boardroom meeting planning for the games and steroids found its way on the global sports scenarios.

It is remarkably simple to argue today that these games wherever they are held has got less to do with physical fitness, showcasing of national pride, and creating harmony between nations. These are merely camouflage for long-term bulldozing of agenda of the world order dominated and dictated by capital. This one of the finest examples wherein the emotion of nation facilitates process of poverty generation with total backing of all the political institutions together with the icing by none other than author of 'Jai Ho'.

As has been argued well in the below notes by the organisers it is pertinent to stress the logic that simmers silently in the commonwealth agenda. It is important to de-construct the latent notions, and agendas. First, the notions. The two words 'common' and 'wealth' are sounding naive and politically neutral till one begins to tinker around as to who is the head of it. It is now well established that England usurped necessary 'wealth' from India's undivided Bengal and Latin America's Brazil. From Bengal via its corporate of the times - East India Company before went about other parts of the world and fighting world wars in the bargain. From Brazil via its senior non-industrial colonial power - Portugal whose political leaders remained indebted to British naval prowess to save their lives on ocean journey from Portugal to Brazil in 1790s when Napoleon Bonaparte decidedly invaded Iberian nation that feasted on grape wine.

The forest products and minerals from these two places laid the basic foundation for the Industrial revolution to kick-start in England and then spread to other parts of Europe. This was the 'wealth'. What is ‘common’? The notion of 'common' is the common destination of these sources. The common destination is industrial enterprise that we today come to know as Industrial Revolution - Minerals got value added and revolved around profits just as Moon revolved around Earth and Earth revolved around Sun. The word Revolution was then used in astronomy with Copernicus and Galileo as its Avant-Garde. The 'common' thus is Industrialization - Common wealth to facilitate British colonial ventures. To reach further in this journey England could hardly remain satisfied with impoverishment of peasants of Bengal and Indigenous people of Brazil. Private company - East India Company had to be reconsidered after the tribal rebellion in 1855 and the revolt of 1857. East India Company had to be turned into full-fledged colonial enterprise backed by State power. The loot of Bengal had to be upgraded into State backing from none other than royal family of England and blessed with authority of loot with rules. Three days ago Arundhati Roy has passing referred to this her latest writings. Now loot has to be sanctioned by common law to repress rebellions that were to become nuisance for the British. Indian Penal Code came up was the first colonial legal intervention in India. It came about in 1860. Indian Evidence Act came after dozen years of preparation in 1872. And since these were not enough to keep people subdued Code of Criminal Procedure was passed the very next year in 1873. So there is common legal framework for colonial administration. It was the case in nineteenth century and it is the case in twenty-first century. So there is obviously common legal framework in colonial India and post-colonial India.

But then, why games? The Agenda. The games, the way they are marketed in the present format are the most palatable way of enacting colonial decrees in Independent countries. It involves not just country's elites who are oblivious direct beneficiaries but also celebrates colonial hangover in a dramatic manner amongst mass of people as the Queen's baton makes round in the state capitals all over India. Athletes and celebrities are roped in, and respect and tools of honor are showered Commonwealth Games to serve the glorious purpose of renewing and refreshing the colonial mindset. This is an important thing to do to ensure that even after decolonization and change in flags in various countries to keep people in perpetual delirium.

This is one of the rare moment of colonial mindset wherein the business-politician-media-artists joins in one chorus, one agenda - massive clearing of path for capital to enter, capital to rule, capital to dominate. This is orchestrated in periodic manner in different countries. This time it is India.

It is with this realization I stand in opposition to Commonwealth Games. It is with this realization that I support the promising alliance of poor from various parts of Delhi. This is a beginning of a marathon even before the games and has to last long after, and it needs to be run as such. I have already joined it!

Sebastian Rodrigues

On Mon, Sep 13, 2010 at 10:27 AM, Kaveri Rajaraman wrote:

What: Several community based groups are coming together to organize a coordinated set of roadblocks and chakka jams in ten different locations around the city, centered around a set of demands relating to displacement, labor and price rise, with the commonwealth games as a focal point. All groups will have a common banner and parcha, but the form of protest will vary based on the affected community's uproar.

When: Tuesday 14th September, 9 am, to target morning traffic.

Where: 10 locations : ITO, Noida Mod, Nigambud Ghat, Raj Nivas Marg, Jehangirpuri, Bhalaswa Highway, Bawana, Khanpur (south Delhi), Okhla, Mall Road.

Demands: The idea is for the mobilization to push the city to granting the demands around stopping the displacement of bastis, stopping the displacement of informal sector workers from the streets, reversing the recent cancellation of tens of thousands of ration cards, paying workers minimum wage and their due rights at games construction sites, providing housing to those displaced and the homeless, taking action against the trafficking of women for the games, returning all funds diverted for the games including from farmer relief and the SC/ST funds, ending privatization and taxation as a way for the city to fund the games and not organizing any more such mega-events in the city.

People from many basti communities around the city have been devastated by the pattern of displacement and evictions planned by the Delhi authorities over the years. The Commonwealth games is just the latest milestone for the city as it races towards revamping itself as a world class city - and following their pattern of displacing all working class people to the periphery of the city. This adds to the escalating cost of living for workers between the lack of affordable housing, transportation costs to their sites of labor spike, labor gets contracted out and wages slashed, and food, water and sanitation provisions to those who are not rendered completely homeless.

The commonwealth games are a sporting event organized between those 72 countries who were former subjects of the British Empire. These former subjects of the Empire consider this to be a source of pride, and this year it is India playing host to the games. The question that arises is - exactly whose pride is this we speak of? Whose common and whose wealth? Sixty three years after freedom from the British Empire, in our country where the ordinary Indian people still sweat to make enough to feed themselves as prices of daily goods skyrocket, the government is throwing money at the Commonwealth Games. In order to make a beautiful "world class city", the Delhi government is frenziedly constructing malls, metros, parks, roads and stadiums, and in the process it has displaced over 200,000 families. The possibility of eviction also hangs over hundreds of bastis, especially 44 that have been slated for demolition in the near future. This demolition drive has been accompanied by a sweeping move to kick ragpickers, hawkers, cycle rickshaw peddlers and beggars off the streets. The slogan of 'elimination of poverty' has now become one of 'elimination of the poor'.

Of the people evicted from several locations including Yamuna Pushta, Jehangirpuri, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kirti Nagar, Gadia Lohar Basti, Pusa Road, Jangpura Barapullah Nala, and Lodhi Colony, only a small slice have been rehabilitated, all 40-45 kilometers away from their former sites of residence, in places like Bhalaswa, Bawana, Narela, Sabda, etc. When dumped at these sites, they have found not even the most basic facilities of even dry ground to stand on, let alone housing, or any source of water. On top of these, they have been so far from the rest of the city, without any public transportation, that their ability to travel back to their worksites and earn a living has been severely compromised. In order to pay for the games, the government has removed fuel price subsidies, which has also raised the costs of transportation, and in consequence, food, compounding the problems of these communities. Also, basti residents are facing a situation of sever deprivation with the cancelation of thousands of BPL ration cards. Without APL or BPL cards, they have no access to vital rations. Meanwhile, the poor have not been the only victims of displacement; hostel residents of Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia have been evicted to make way for the international attendees of the Commonwealth Games.

Meanwhile, there is a consistent pattern of labor law violation at the various construction sites for the Commonwealth Games. Of the 100,000 odd workers in these sites only a fraction have been registered, and most are nowhere near getting minimum wage or other basic labor rights. These expenditure on these games, organized in the name of national pride, is effectively going only to the large companies, contractors, traders, politicians and capitalists in this business, both nationally and internationally. The 1400 crore budget that the government began with for the CommonWealth games has skyrocketed into a budget that now surprasses 100,000 crore! Hundreds of crores of money slated for SC/ST welfare schemes and farmer relief have been diverted to the games. Ultimately, it is the people who are paying from their pockets for these games.

Organized by: All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh, All India Kachra Shramik Mahasangh, Beghar Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, Bhalaswa Lok Shakti Manch, Delhi Forum, Delhi Solidarity Group, Hazards Center, INSAF, Initiative for Social Upliftment, Mahila Chingari Samuh, Mahila Kalpana Shakti, Mahila Pragati Manch, NACDOR, NGO Sabha, Pehel, PUDR, SADED, Safai Mazdoori ke liye Rashtriya Abhiyan, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Social Development Foundation, Women's Development Cell Miranda House, Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha

Contact: Shashi Bhushan 9968413109 Pushpa 8800631852 Kaveri 9958789298

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