There is a high quality drama going on in the capital, people have shifted from entertainment channels to 24 x 7 news channels. A few days ago Anna Hazare was being portrayed as the new Gandhi because of his non-violent protest against the Indian government, then came Baba Ramdev with his excellent event management skills, promising to bring back all the Indian black money stacked in Swiss accounts. The familiar talk in the drawing rooms, TV channels and social networking sites is, things can’t go on like this and there must be a change. Netas from different parties are exposing skeletons of different sorts in each others cupboards, pots are calling the kettles black and in turn kettles are fuming and steaming with anger.
Today is “Independence Day” and I am trying to be happy and thankful. The Prime Minister has unfurled the National Flag and has started the customary address to the nation from the Red Fort. He is making new promises and trying to tell us what all they have achieved in the last one year. I am not able to believe what he is saying, every word sounds pretentious. Can’t believe when our politicians say they are hurt by riots in Assam, can’t believe when they say they are pained by the recent violence in Mumbai. All these tragedies look so choreographed and planned by one group of politicians and their supporters or the other. OB vans and cameras with journalists are confusing us and we are unable to differentiate between rumours and reality. Let people in govt and opposition fight about fiscal deficit, revenue deficit, budgetary allocations and other such technicalities, we, the people are concerned about governance.
No matter what he says and promises, the opposition will trash the Prime Minister’s speech and the ruling party will show us the moon till the next Independence day. All we want is, a less corrupt system( can’t dream of an incorrupt system) where there are equal opportunities of growth for all Indians. Basic health and education be made available to all, arrest of the ” Gopal Kandas” and a criminal Justice system that works for the “aam admi”. Is that expecting too much?????.
Two days before Independence day instead of being euphoric about the achievements of India in the last 6 decades I am in a pensive mood. There are many reasons for my state of mind. The panic created by Swine Flu, drought like situation in some parts of the country and regular scare created by our intelligence agencies of different terror groups. A famous editor tweeted- “Why do decent people die of swine flu? When all the swines flourish…” I tried to understand who he is hinting at. Instead of discussing fiscal allocations and deficit management in the budget session our MPs happily discussed late-night television shows. Sworn enemies like the BJP and SP came together in the Parliament, as ‘Sach Ka Saamna’ threatened to destroy our civilisation which we have preserved for thousands of years. Lok Sabha resounded with protests by former ministers whose security was about to be reduced, presently they get a contingent of 21 National Security Guards each. Their security hasn’t been reduced and they are as safe as ever which leaves them happy and the tax payer depressed.
There was something else which made me feel guilty and I am finding it difficult to get it out of my system. A long time ago I rejoiced at something which I should have felt bad about. A kilometer away from my house there was a jhuggi cluster which was removed about 4 years ago. Like most people in the neighbourhood I was very happy about it. When some opposition MPs tried to protest, like everybody else I believed that they are indulging in vote bank politics and I was not wrong. But only recently did I realize the human misery associated with the displacement of the jhuggi dwellers. My daughter works for an NGO where young women and men teach small kids from the slums on Sundays. At home sometimes we talk about the kids and we know some of their names. The result is that their issues and problems are real to us and not fiction. I feel really happy when I hear about the different activities like theatre workshops that they are involved in, and when I hear about some mothers being very serious about their children’s studies and so many of them improving. As the Commonwealth games are around the corner news is that these jhuggis will be removed from there and the people living there will be shifted to a new location. What happens to the residents of the shanties is bothering me. They have been living there for decades, their kids were born and brought up there. Their schools are near the shanties and their world is there. Women from these hutments find employment in the nearby posh colonies, support their families and make life easy for their employers. If they are shifted to a distant location there are chances that the children will stop going to school and add to the already existing law and order situation of the city.
Slums are mostly the result of the expansion of cities. When construction works are on, people from villages come as workers and reside near the sites. Once the work is over they keep living there and a slum is created. The slums pile up in cities because of the inflow of rural people to cities in search of employment. There is no control on this as the government is never really interested in removing the slums as these are their vote banks. Slums represent some sort of remnant of untouchability in Indian society, and those who live there are treated as a burden on the more privileged classes. The leaders keep on promising that they will provide them with shelter but politicians are not known to fulfill their promises. The slums should not be allowed in the first place and the officers responsible for neglecting their duties while the slums were being created should be punished. If the slums are to be removed instead of throwing families in undeveloped and far away areas of the city they should be provided economy housing. The only problem I can reasonably foresee in rehabilitating the slum dwellers could be that some of them might sell their houses for quick money and construct a new jhuggi somewhere else. Their need for money is not small. But it is the duty of the govt officials to create checks and balances to stop this from happening. Displacing slumdwellers without providing an alternative arrangement is not an answer to this problem. The jhuggis is the middle of the city are an eye sore and breeding grounds for diseases because of the unhygeinic conditions in the surroundings but a solution like this means killing the patient instead of curing the disease.
I was really looking forward to flying kites with my husband, kids and friends on Independence Day but the rain stole the show. Millions of little water drops were seen in place of the regular multitudes of colourful kites that normally adorn the Delhi skies on the 15th of August. So there was nothing to distinguish this day from the other days of the year, but it was still beautiful. And of course the national holiday! Kite sellers however did not stay home in spite of the rains, and we saw many many kite stalls around the city on Friday (the beauty of the kites far more visible than usual too, because they were all on the ground.
However the weekend washout did not have an impact on the day after Independence Day. But the kite taking ground routes the previous day seemed prophetic of the kind of traffic we had to encounter as we went around the city meeting relatives… two hours to travel 20 kilometres… one way! One gets used to such traffic when one has lived for over 20 years in Delhi celebrating every festival of the year (and our festivals are many) in such conditions. Who isn’t excited to meet every single near and distant uncle and auntie and friend, when there are sweets and presents :-)
The best of all was yesterday, a birthday in the family. A long weekend with 3 days of celebration in a row, we don’t see very often, but how good it all was. I took some pictures with my faithful N73. Enjoy :)