Sweeping slums behind curtains to look pretty

Is there the need for barricading and shutting off slums when a major event happens?

For the Union Government, the country’s slums are an eyesore. Be it in Gujarat, Mumbai or elsewhere, the slums are something not to be exposed to the world. Apart from being vote banks, these neglected parts of the Indian landscape do nothing but cause irritation for the powers that be. Or, so think the authorities!

The prestigious presidency of the G20, though actually a position that comes by rotation, is being seen as the Indian government as something that has come to it by way of ultimate merit. And it wants to make the most of it, so that the world would sit and notice.

Cool agenda, of course. But when a G20 conclave happens in Mumbai, is there the need for barricading and shutting off the slums that form part of the nation’s diverse sections of the population?

For the slum dwellers, G20 doesn’t mean anything

The slums are regions where most dwellers happen to be poor.  Why they continue to be poor and strive hard day in and day out to earn their bread is still a mystery in a nation that prides itself as launching itself as a major economic giant in the making. For the people who live there, G20 doesn’t mean anything. And now, coming out in the open when a G20 conclave happens turns out to be a risky proposition too. They have been pushed behind the curtains.

Mumbai is hosting the G20 meetings from December 13 to 16, and as part of making the city look beautiful and flawless, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has erected white curtains and barricades outside the slums along the Western Express Highway (WEH). This has, of course, been done with a view towards not letting delegates see the sad plight of the city’s slums.

By doing so, the administration is actually cutting away a major ingredient of the city’s population from the mainstream. For the administration, these dwelling places that don’t stand up to the so-called status of the city continue to be a stain in its well ironed out garb. Going by a report, authorities had arrived three days ago and installed barricades and kept potted plants to beautify the city. The slum dwellers feel that they do not want to show the slums to people coming from abroad. Hiding the reality is what is actually happening.

Hiding slums behind curtains

This is not the first time that the slums in India are being hid behind beautified curtains and barricades when dignitaries arrive. Earlier this year when former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had arrived, the slums in Gujarat were camouflaged so as to present a pretty picture of the city. In 2020, the same happened in Ahmedabad, when the then-US President Donald Trump came visiting.

Hiding slums to present a beautiful face of the city is in fact ridiculous. The Indian reality includes slums and their dwellers. Treating them as second class citizens and shoving them away behind barricades amount to bad governance. Hope the people behind such drama would realise this.

Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »

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