As the world’s attention turns to Delhi for the highly anticipated G20 Summit, the Indian government has spared no expense in transforming the city into a picturesque haven for diplomats and world leaders. From resurfacing roads to adorning walls with vibrant murals, the preparations have been nothing short of extravagant. However, beneath the facade of grandeur lies a darker, more unsettling truth – the ruthless eviction and marginalization of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
In its quest to portray India as a global superpower, the government’s actions have raised disturbing questions about the price being paid by those who can least afford it. The beautification drive has led to the heart-wrenching destruction of slums and the displacement of thousands of families. The irony couldn’t be starker: a nation aspiring to stand tall on the world stage is choosing to hide its poverty and inequality instead of addressing them head-on.
In the shadows of Delhi’s gleaming facades, we find stories that demand our attention. The residents of the Coolie Camp slum near Vasant Vihar, many of whom were already living on the fringes of society, have borne the brunt of this makeover. Almost 1000 families were forced to leave their homes as bulldozers razed their makeshift dwellings. Their struggle for survival has intensified, with little hope for the future.
Ragpickers from Jaunpur, who call this slum home, share tales of despair. They speak of a sense of abandonment, as if they are being erased from the city’s narrative. The very people who play a vital role in recycling waste and contributing to the environment find themselves pushed to the margins, struggling to make ends meet.
Another poignant story is that of a 55-year-old woman from Rajasthan who ran a humble tea stall near JNU’s north gate. Forced to close her business due to security concerns in the run-up to the G20 summit, she, like countless others, faces an uncertain future. The livelihoods of street vendors and small entrepreneurs hang in the balance as the government prioritizes aesthetics over the well-being of its citizens.
Similar actions were taken during former US President Trump’s visit in 2020, where entire slums in Ahmedabad and Delhi were concealed behind tin walls and makeshift coverings.
Aasma and Altaf are students of MA Mass Communications at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.