The national capital city of India failed to capitalise on the Commonwealth Games to bring about lasting change to its residents including enabling the poor to improve their living conditions a little, says a new book.
"Finding Delhi: Loss and renewal in the Megacity" compiled by environmentalist Bharati Chaturvedi talks about how the colossal Games project forced the city into acceleration, a pace of remodelling that the residents find hard to keep up with and in a direction that has outraged its hundreds of thousands of citizens.
In the years since Delhi was chosen to host the Games, it should have been possible to make plans that would have enabled the poor to improve their living conditions a little, says the book.
The benefits from increased economic and development activity should have made it possible for them to invest in their meagre infrastructure better their lives - a permanent gift of the Games to the citizens of the host city, it adds.
"Several thousand people have suffered losses because their shops, kiosks and mobile carts were removed several months ahead of the Games, to clean up the streets.... And yet, there has been no reserve or thrift shown in the often absurd projects specifically undertaken for the Games... There is little that the average person can count as enduring or indeed endearing," writes Chaturvedi introducing the book.
Apart from the Games and its impact on the city , the book contains essays from 14 full and part-time residents of Delhi, ranging from urban planners to informal-sector workers, who write about issues as diverse as public transport, the state of Yamuna, women and the megacity, housing rights for the poor, recycling and recyclers and shopping malls.
The chapters examine the nature of this transformation: what kind of spaces and opportunities are becoming available to some of the twenty million, and how much is being taken away from others.
A long time activist working on the shelter and livelihoods in Delhi, Lalit Batra, traces the pattern of housing rights for the poor in his essay. He points out that the big picture has not changed that much in the last hundred years for the poor.
Harsh Mander, a former civil servant describes how little Delhi's empowered residents care about the other lesser citizens and how easy it is for someone poor to simply die unnoticed.
Two contributors write about the trend of a new emerging urban alchemy in Delhi. Sociologist Amita Baviskar explores public spaces as they are being recreated and ruminates on their actual public-ness when it comes to letting in the poor.
Also, Kalpana Viswanathan takes a look at the gendered experiences of the city and reveals interesting trends.
Urban planner Anshu Sharma in his essay suggests Delhi's wealthy must begin to conserve resources and reduce their consumption. He suggests a new urban mindset, one that shares and not hoards and goes on to extend the argument to say that climate change mitigation can become a means by which some of the inequity in Delhi could be bridged.
Apart from well-read academicians activists and consultants, the book also records views of vendors, daily- wage labourers and some who cannot write more than a few words.
Their essays begin as recorded dialogues that have been subsequently distilled into monologues about the city and later transcribed.
Published by Penguin Books India, the volume is priced at Rs 350.