The Commonwealth Games have not improved the lot of either New Delhi’s poorest residents or the capital’s natural environment.
FOR 36-YEAR-OLD NEW DELHI RESIDENT Lata, the Commonwealth Games did not mean anything until last month. That’s when the police officers started showing up and asking questions.
“They told my husband that he would have to shut down his shop for the duration of the Games,” she says. “Even though he’s neither working for them nor anywhere near the facilities.”
India’s poorest people like Lata and her husband are quickly becoming symbolic of the Commonwealth Games, as they are quietly made invisible so that the city will look ‘world class’. Lata, one of the 150,000 wastepickers in the city, is part of an informal workforce that has existed in India for decades. In the country’s culture of recycling, nothing goes to waste, and there is always someone willing to buy second-hand items. Lata collects and sorts through the rubbish from people’s homes and then sells the bits of paper, metal and plastic that she can find to wholesalers. They then sell it to the recyclers.