Anyone who has been to Delhi will tell you that the Rickshaw drivers are the life-blood of the ever busy cit, ferrying it’s millions of people through the multitude of crisscrossing veins that are Delhi’s streets. So I came up with the notion that to find out India’s real view (not what the media wants you to see) of the progress of the Commonwealth Games was to ask the drivers.
The games are due to be held on the 4th of October but the city is structurally unready and politically even less so. A multitude of corruption allegations and never-ending delays caused by human error and a battering monsoon have led to the increasing likelihood of the games not going ahead or at least not occurring in its full capacity, a thing unheard of for these games. The roads once smoothly laid are now completely destroyed and impassable in places by the worst monsoon in over 10 years. The metro system that should be used to transport competitors around the city remains in sections covered in scaffolding.
The rickshaw drivers seems to be in general agreement that these games will not go ahead, they cite corruption and weather but for the most part the blame the lack of preparation. Lative a driver from Old Delhi told me “London and Delhi are in the same place of readiness but we have two weeks and you English have two years!” This is very evident as Delhi is littered with Commonwealth Games banners acting as modesty shields for Delhi’s naked and unready roads and buildings.
The main question I asked and the question that none of the rickshaw drivers could truly agree on is whether or not the Commonwealth Games are for the commonwealth of the Indian people, as in will everyone benefit from it. The answers were contradictory and often extreme. Khader, a driver originally from Chennai stated that because of the widespread corruption “no-one but the fat and the greedy will be smiling at the end of the games”. This was heavily contradicted by Prabaker who exclaimed with great passion that “You see all the people working on the streets, painting and building to make Delhi beautiful. Now they earn money and are becoming proud of Delhi and all of India, so of course it’s good for India”.
Campaigners in India have accused the organisers of enormous and systematic violations of labour laws at construction sites. Human Rights Law Network reports that independent investigations have discovered more than 70 cases where workers have died in accidents at construction sites since work began. Although official numbers have not been released, it is estimated that over 415,000 contract daily wage workers are working on Games projects. This seems like a huge number and therefore beneficial for Indian people, however, unskilled workers are paid 85 to 100 rupees (70 rupees to the pound) per day while skilled workers are paid 120 to 130 day for eight hours of work. Both these wages contravene the stipulated Delhi state minimum wage of 152 rupees. Furthermore those who are beggars in Delhi’s streets will suffer greatly because due to the games ‘no tolerance zones’ for ‘beggars’ are being used in Delhi, and that the city has arbitrarily arrested homeless citizens under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act 1959. Moreover, over 100,000 families have already been evicted in order to make space for Commonwealth Games related projects.
Whether or not the games will go ahead or not will be known in a few days, however, if the games will help or hinder the many remains very much in the hands of the few.