G20 Summit in India: Modi's Personal PR Extravaganza?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully transformed routine rotational G20 presidency into an extravagant personal PR exercise this week. The Indian mass media and the general public saw Mr. Modi's face plastered all over the Indian capital. Some analysts described it as the kickoff of  the Indian leader's political campaign for national elections scheduled for next year. As Mr. Modi spoke of "one earth, one family, one future", his right-wing Hindutva allies continued their unhindered campaign of murder and mayhem against the Christian community in the Indian state of Manipur.  Globally, too, Mr. Modi lived up to his reputation of "Divider In Chief" as the Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin chose to stay away from the gathering attended by all the western leaders. Both China and Russia stand in the way of the continuation of centuries-old unchallenged western hegemony of the world. 

Modi: Hero of Hatred at G20. Source: India Today

After the Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002, Narendra Modi made the cover of India Today magazine with the caption "Hero of Hatred". Modi was denied a visa to visit the United States.  The US visa ban on Modi was lifted in 2014 after he became prime minister. Since then,  Narendra Modi's image has been rehabilitated by the West as the US and Western Europe seek allies in Asia to counter the rise of China.  However, Modi's actions on the ground in India confirm that he remains "Hero of Hatred" and "Divider In Chief" at his core.  A recent two-part BBC documentary explains this reality in significant detail. The first part focuses on the 2002 events in Gujarat when Modi as the state chief minister ordered the police to not stop the Hindu mobs murdering Muslims and burning their homes and businesses.  The second part looks at Modi government's anti-Muslim policies, including the revocation of Kashmir's autonomy (article 370) and a new citizenship law (CAA 2019) that discriminates against Muslims. It shows the violent response by security forces to peaceful protests against the new laws, and interviews the family members of people who were killed in the 2020 Delhi riots orchestrated by Modi's allies. 

 Modi Divider In Chief. Source: Time Magazine

In a  recent piece for Nikkei Asia, Indian journalist Swaminathan Aiyar dismisses Modi's attempts to recast himself as "Vishwaguru", the teacher of the world. Here's an excerpt of Aiyar's piece titled "India's Modi is not the world's guru": 

"Modi's notion of being the world's guru is just as ridiculous as his twisted history of "centuries of enslavement," which has been used to attack India's religious minorities. A guru is nothing without disciples. If India or Modi himself is the world's guru, who are the disciples? The least likely candidates are Western powers which believe, rightly or wrongly, that they are the true global gurus. It might seem that India's disciples would be most likely to come from its geographic neighborhood rather than distant lands. But even a cursory examination shows otherwise. Does Pakistan regard India as a guru? No, it is India's greatest foe. It has allied with China, India's other major foe, to try and put India in its place. No disciples there. What about Bangladesh, which India helped to achieve independence from Pakistan in 1971? There is now little gratitude for India's help, which is accurately viewed as a ploy to split and disempower Pakistan rather than an altruistic move to aid Bangladeshis. Sri Lanka? Many there harbor ill will toward New Delhi in the belief that it supported the development of the Tamil Tiger insurgency when Indira Gandhi was India's prime minister in the early 1980s. The insurgency became a civil war in which up to 100,000 were killed. Hard to find disciples there. What about Nepal, a predominantly Hindu nation? Ever since then-Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru intervened in a royal power struggle in 1951, Nepalese have viewed New Delhi as an imperial power to be feared. India has on more than one occasion blocked essential supplies to Nepal to try to exert political influence. Nepalese may be Hindus, but they are anything but Modi's disciples" 

Cartoonist Mocks Modi's Answer at the White House. Source: Satish A...

President Joseph R. Biden and other western leaders are making a huge mistake by coddling divisive and dangerous Modi.  While the western nations are seeking an alliance with India to counter rising China, the Hindutva leadership of India has no intention of confronting China. In a piece titled “America’s Bad Bet on India”,  Indian-American analyst Ashley Tellis noted that the Biden administration had “overlooked India’s democratic erosion and its unhelpful foreign policy choices” in the hopes that the US can “solicit” New Delhi’s “contributions toward coalition defense”.

Earlier this year, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar confirmed New Delhi's unwillingness to confront China in an interview: “Look they (China) are a bigger economy. What am I going to do? As a smaller economy, I am going to pick up a fight with bigger economy? It is not a question of being a reactionary; it is a question of common sense.”

Modi's India is driven much more by a desire to bring back what the right-wing Hindus see as the "glory days" of India through "Hindu Raj" of the entire South Asia region, including Pakistan. The arms and technology being given to Modi will more likely be used against India's smaller neighbors, not against China. 

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Comment by Riaz Haq on September 11, 2023 at 7:12am

#India is a country of 1.4 billion. But the only face you see everywhere in the capital these days, after 2 days of hosting world leaders for #G20 summit, is that of PM #Modi. From monuments to food, India’s diversity was denied a stage. #G20SummitDelhi https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/11/g20-summit-what-india-show...


What you don’t see in the videos is also telling. You don’t see the Jama Masjid, one of the most iconic sites in the capital. I didn’t spot any churches. The Taj Mahal, India’s most famous landmark and heritage site, built by the Mughal dynasty that is reviled by the rulers of today, gets only a photo on one of the walls. The Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of Sikhs in India, gets a tiny video clip.



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You see him (Modi) not only at the airport and at the grand venue that was recently constructed to host the summit, but on practically every road, every few feet. Sometimes, two car lengths, at most. It’s a one-man show.


Having spent many of my growing and working years in New Delhi, the changes in the city for this mega event stand out.

Schools and offices were shut for the summit, roads blocked for so-called VIP movement. Sometimes you had to wait 15 minutes to cross a street as police cars barricaded them.

Vendors, otherwise ubiquitous on Indian streets and selling everything from fruits and vegetables to clothes, shoes and household items, were missing the past few days. They need a daily income from their sales to survive – but clearly don’t figure in the Modi government’s agenda to push India as the voice of the long-suffering Global South.

On some streets, there aren’t even the stray dogs that are a staple of all neighbourhoods. They, too, were rounded up.

But if Modi was the hero of the diplomatic extravaganza, monkeys were the designated menace. Life-sized cut-outs of langurs have been put up to scare the monkeys that can run rampage in Central Delhi, which hosts most major embassies and hotels, and is close to the summit venue.

The relatively heavy rain cooled temperatures in the capital but the partly flooded
roads also showed that you may spruce up the city but until you really fix the infrastructure, things are not really going to change.

It’s at the venue, however, that the deep stamp of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – which will stand for national elections next year – was most visible.

The old exhibition halls at Pragati Maidan – which means “field of progress” in Hindi and previously hosted anything and everything from international trade fairs to book fairs and auto shows – have been replaced with a grand new convention centre called the Bharat Mandapam. It’s a Sanskrit name, where Bharat refers to India, while a mandapam is the front porch of a Hindu temple.

Just with that name, the exhibition ground moves away from its secular, humdrum past.

The grounds are supposed to be the biggest exhibition space in the country. And as the official information tells you, there are more seats than the Sydney Opera House. But it’s next to one of the busiest roads in the city and near the Supreme Court of India, so it’s not really easy to get that many people to visit in one go anyway.

Unless the government pulls out all the stops to do just that.

The cavernous, warehouse-like halls have barren grey walls, currently hidden behind large G20 billboards and video clips of the different cultural trips the delegates and their spouses have undertaken in the past year.

The billboards are covered with images of the lotus flower. That is India’s national flower but it is also the BJP’s election symbol. And it is everywhere. Even in the official logo of the G20.

The video clips playing on the walls tell a story too. They show glimpses of Hampi – a UNESCO World Heritage site which was also the capital of a 14th-century Hindu empire – of Khajuraho temples and of the Nathdwara temple dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna’s avatar.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2023 at 8:01am

Don’t Expect Modi’s New India to Be a Friend to the West
Analysis by Pankaj Mishra | Bloomberg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/09/11/modi-s-new-india...


India is, suddenly, Bharat, and it could be asked, as Shakespeare wrote, what’s in a name? But Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who embraced the Sanskrit name for his country in the same week that he played lavish host to the G-20 summit in New Delhi, is trying hard to project India as a “vishwaguru” (guru to the world). It is time to examine his claims more closely, and also to see the present and the future of his “New India” without comforting illusions.

Take, for instance, the booklet, “Bharat, the Mother of Democracy,” presented by Modi’s government to visiting dignitaries at the G-20. According to it, ancient Hindu sages and kings were partisans of equality, inclusivity, and harmony. Even modern feminism was anticipated by the 5,000-year-old bronze statue of an “independent and liberated” dancing girl.

Such claims are part of an elaborate narrative that is decisively shaping the outlook of many Indians today — one in which a once-dynamic Hindu civilization was ravaged by vicious Muslims and exploitative Westerners.


In Modi’s own account, Hindus were enslaved by Muslim invaders for 750 years and then for an additional 250 years by white British colonialists — a version of history used in India today to justify the degradation of Muslim and Christian minorities, the destruction of mosques and British-built buildings, the purging of textbooks, and now the unofficial renaming of India.

Modi’s own popularity, unconnected to his party’s variable fortunes, stems from what is a potent promise in a country full of humiliated peoples: to destroy the corrupt old political order and, as he put it in his Independence Day speech last month, to ensure a fully modernized New India enjoys a “golden” period “for the next 1,000 years.”

Such millenarian bombast — also echoed in the speeches of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping — belongs to a longer tradition of anti-Western demagogues proclaiming themselves heirs to distinguished ancient civilizations, including the Germans and Italians who sought to build the Thousand-Year Reich and the Third Rome, respectively.

It is a common mistake to suppose that German and Italians Fascists rejected modernity in favor of an idealized past. On the contrary, they pursued, often with help of Western nations they derided as “decadent,” ultra-modern technologies, modernist architectural plans, advanced transport systems and awesome public works. Like Hindu nationalists today, they used mass media, sporting events, and scientific breakthroughs to raise the pitch of collective emotion and project the image of a united and resurgent people.

Of course, since technological and military power still clearly lay with Britain, France and the US, the peoples failing to catch up with the West tried to feel superior to it in the realm of culture and philosophy. Invoking their great ethnic or racial past even as they sought grandiosely to supervise the future of the modern world, they became exemplars of what the American historian Jeffrey Herf has called “reactionary modernism.”

Presenting ancient Indians as pioneering democrats and feminists (also, the world’s earliest plastic surgeons), Modi belongs to this extended family of catch-up nationalists. His nation, too, seeks to blend neo-traditionalism with modernization while measuring itself, with volatile feelings of insecurity and resentment, against a weakened but still superior West.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2023 at 8:02am

Don’t Expect Modi’s New India to Be a Friend to the West
Analysis by Pankaj Mishra | Bloomberg

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2023/09/11/modi-s-new-india...

It is no accident that Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an organization that has, since the 1920s, deliberately modeled itself on the organizational structures and propaganda modes of anti-Western authoritarians. Moreover, nine years of BJP rule have confirmed that Hindu nationalists seek to remake Indian society as a forceful civilizational repudiation of Islam and the West.

This won’t change. Those hoping to recruit Modi’s Bharat as a Western ally should consider the plain historical fact that, as the scholar Nirad Chaudhuri wrote in 1954, the most ineradicable aspect of Hindu nationalism is “xenophobia, both personal and ideological.” The sentiment may be muted “when and where the military and political strength of the foreigner” is overwhelming but nevertheless thrives on an “incessant campaign of slander and denigration.”

Thus, there was nothing extraordinary about an Indian official effectively taunting Western countries on X, formerly known as Twitter, for the G-20’s failure to condemn Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Sweeping denunciations of the West as selfish and arrogant, deserving of a comeuppance, are now routine in India. More remarkably, as Modi’s ministerial colleagues as well as social media trolls go after George Soros, India is openly participating, for the first time in its long history, in the global networks of anti-Semitism.

Certainly, neither of the two main commonplaces about the world’s most populous nation — that it is a rising, vibrant democracy or that it is descending into authoritarianism — will seem adequate in the treacherous months and years ahead. More historically grounded analyses will be needed as yet another batch of reactionary modernists rises in the east.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2023 at 5:05pm

Can #India Challenge #China for Leadership of the ‘Global South’? India still has a long way to go to be called a great power. Even by its own optimistic estimates, it will not become a developed nation for decades. #Modi #G20 #Hindutva #BJP #US https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/12/world/asia/india-china-global-so...

That disparity was clear during the recent summit of the BRICS nations, which include Brazil, Russia and South Africa in addition to India and China. Even after Mr. Modi had spent a year promoting India as the voice of the global south, it was Mr. Xi who received the royal treatment.

In one video of a side meeting, the leaders, including Mr. Modi, all waited as Mr. Xi arrived to shake hands. They remained standing until after Mr. Xi had settled into a much larger seat than theirs — an entire sofa.

“Money talks,” said Ziyanda Stuurman, a senior analyst with the Eurasia Group’s Africa Team. “Whether it’s India or the U.S. or Europe, if they are not able to match or be as serious as China with rolling out funding, China will still enjoy this place of leadership.”



------------

A rising India has moved aggressively to champion developing nations, pursuing compromise in polarized times and promising to make America listen.

For more than a decade, China has courted developing countries frustrated with the West. Beijing’s rise from poverty was a source of inspiration. And as it challenged the postwar order, especially with its global focus on development through trade, loans and infrastructure projects, it sent billions of much-needed dollars to poor nations.

But now, China is facing competition from another Asian giant in the contest to lead what has come to be called the “global south.” A newly confident India is presenting itself as a different kind of leader for developing countries — one that is big, important and better positioned than China in an increasingly polarized world to push the West to alter its ways.

Exhibit A: the unexpected consensus India managed at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi over the weekend.

With help from other developing nations, India persuaded the United States and Europe to soften a statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine so the forum could focus on the concerns of poorer countries, including global debt and climate financing. India also presided over the most tangible result so far of its intensifying campaign to champion the global south: the admission of the African Union to the G20, putting it on par with the European Union.

“There is a structural shift happening in the global order,” said Kishore Mahbubani, a former ambassador for Singapore and author of “Has China Won?” “The power of the West is declining, and the weight and power of the global south — the world outside the West — is increasing.”

Only one country can be a bridge between “the West and the rest,” Mr. Mahbubani added, “and that’s India.”

At a time when a new Cold War of sorts between the United States and China seems to frame every global discussion, India’s pitch has clear appeal.

Neither the United States nor China is especially beloved among developing nations. The United States is criticized for focusing more on military might than economic assistance. The signature piece of China’s outreach — its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative — has fueled a backlash as Beijing has resisted renegotiating crushing debt that has left many countries facing the risk of default.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2023 at 6:45pm

Subramanian Swamy
@Swamy39
If the G20 New Delhi Meeting is considered an organisational success, no one can deny it. But it was an unnecessary expenditure of the State revenue collected from tax payers merely for a two day conference. Finally except a feeble consensus nothing else was achieved.

https://x.com/Swamy39/status/1701565545995485497?s=20

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 12, 2023 at 7:09pm

@suhasinih
Breakdown of how India spent RS.4,100 cr or nearly $500mn on the G20 summit and comparisons to past G20s

https://x.com/suhasinih/status/1701776907430506826?s=20

---------------------------

Thanks to G20, the capital is all spruced up. But at what cost? This was India’s first ever G20. and we spent a whopping Rs. 4100 Crore. How was the money spent? Watch the breakdown here.

https://www.indiatoday.in/newsmo/video/g20-summit-budget-india-has-...

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 13, 2023 at 6:40pm

Narendra Modi is widening India’s fierce regional divides
The southern states feel increasingly oppressed


https://www.economist.com/asia/2023/09/13/narendra-modi-is-widening...

Narendra modi likes to pull rabbits out of hats. One evening in 2016 the Indian prime minister declared that 500- and 1,000-rupee notes—representing 86% of cash by value—would cease to be legal tender by the end of the night. In 2020 he locked down the country at only a few hours’ notice. So it is hardly surprising that speculation has been running rampant since Mr Modi’s government announced that it is to convene a “special session” of Parliament, from September 18th to 22nd. What trick does he have up his sleeve now?

For the moment the guessing game has settled on two possibilities. One is that Mr Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (bjp) will change the country’s name in English from India to Bharat (which is already the name in Hindi). The nameplate Mr Modi sat behind as he negotiated with g20 leaders at a summit over the weekend has added fuel to that theory. The other guess is that Mr Modi intends to reorganise the electoral calendar, so that India’s never-ending carnival of state and federal elections henceforth take place all at the same time, once every five years. In either case the change would serve a project Mr Modi has been pushing from the start: trying to centralise and homogenise a staggeringly vast and diverse country.

Since coming to power in 2014 the bjp has set about transforming India into something more like a European nation-state. That vision involves both strengthening the central government and promoting a pan-Indian, Hindu-nationalist identity. The government routinely emphasises that India is “one nation”, implementing policies such as “one nation, one ration card” (for subsidised grain) and proposing many more, such as “one nation, one uniform” (for the police). The idea of synchronising polls has been on the bjp’s manifesto since 2014. It is known as “one nation, one election”.

In economic matters, the government’s centralising tendencies are mostly very welcome. In 2017 Mr Modi introduced a national goods-and-services tax (“one nation, one tax”, better known as gst) seeking to deepen the country’s common market. It seems to be paying off. Between 2017-18 and 2020-21 the value of interstate trade increased by 44%, more than double the growth in gdp during the same period, according to a study in the Indian Public Policy Review, a journal. The paper’s authors attribute the increase to the introduction of gst and greater economic integration.

Moreover, the government is furiously building highways, commissioning new airports and launching zippy train services to knit Indians closer. The roll-out, over the past decade, of a national digital identity system and of digital payments has assuaged problems that sometimes caused headaches for Indians who travelled outside their own regions. It is getting easier to build businesses that span the country.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 13, 2023 at 6:41pm

Narendra Modi is widening India’s fierce regional divides
The southern states feel increasingly oppressed


https://www.economist.com/asia/2023/09/13/narendra-modi-is-widening...


It is plainly in India’s interests to forge a more sophisticated single market. Yet the government’s strident “one nation” rhetoric is causing some other ties to fray. The chief divide in India is between the industrialised, richer south, and the agrarian, impoverished north. The south is made up of five states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana (see map). The north is home to two of the poorest ones, Uttar Pradesh (up) and Bihar. The south is richer, safer, healthier, better educated, and less awful to women and Dalits than the north (see chart). Bihar and up occupy the last and second-last positions when India’s states are ranked according to their scores on the human development index, a measure of well-being.


At the time of the last census in 2011 up and Bihar had 25% of India’s population, to the south’s 21%. The gap has grown. The latest official estimates suggest that in 2022 up and Bihar had 26% of India’s people, while the south’s share had declined to 19.5%. Their economies have also diverged. gdp per capita in the south is 4.2 times greater than in up and Bihar, up from 3.3 in 2011-12. The southern states contribute a quarter of India’s corporate- and income-tax revenues, compared with just 3% for up and Bihar. When companies such as Apple open new factories in India they head straight to the south, home to skilled workers and industry clusters.

Southern alarm bells
Politically, too, the north and south are different countries. No state in the south is ruled by a bjp government, which is seen as a party of the Hindi-speaking north. Karnataka, the only southern state where the bjp had made inroads, voted out Mr Modi’s party in elections earlier this year.

Regional differences are now causing tensions on three fronts: cultural, fiscal and political. Start with culture. The south has long resented what it sees as the imposition of values and language from the north. In 2019 Amit Shah, India’s home minister, tweeted that “if one language can do the work of uniting the country, then it is the most spoken language, Hindi.” In response protests broke out across the south, and even the bjp’s allies in the region distanced themselves from his comments. It is not just about words, explains R. Srinivasan of the Tamil Nadu state planning commission. Southern defenders of language also believe they are protecting a broader political identity, one that supports social justice, gender equality and emancipation from caste prejudice.

Complaints about India’s fiscal compact are growing, too. Though the central government rakes in revenue, states do much of the spending, particularly in crucial spheres such as education, health and welfare. The introduction of the gst weakened states’ revenue-raising powers. In 2021-22, spending by states accounted for 64% of public expenditure, but they raised only 38% of revenues. As a result, states are now more dependent than ever on transfers from the centre. How much they get is decided every five years by the Finance Commission, a constitutional body.

What each state receives varies depending on measures such as its population and level of development. As a result, southern states receive far less from the centre than they contribute. Redistribution across states is a feature of any federal system, a moral duty and, in India, a constitutional obligation. But it is becoming more controversial as state economies diverge. Concerns will probably redouble later this year, when the next finance commission starts working out how it will share revenues for the period 2027-32.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 13, 2023 at 6:42pm

Narendra Modi is widening India’s fierce regional divides
The southern states feel increasingly oppressed


https://www.economist.com/asia/2023/09/13/narendra-modi-is-widening...


The third and potentially most dangerous set of tensions relates to political representation. The constitution requires that seats in Parliament be allocated according to population, with a roughly equal number of voters in each constituency and redistricting carried out after every census. But in 1976 the Congress government froze India’s electoral boundaries for 25 years to avoid penalising states that succeeded with family-planning policies. In 2002 a bjp government extended the moratorium until 2026. The south’s share of India’s population has since dropped by five percentage points, while that of up and Bihar has grown by three points.

The result is a misallocation of seats. Going by the 2011 census, the south should have 18 fewer mps in India’s 545-seat lower house than its current 129. up and Bihar ought to gain 14 over their existing 120, according to calculations by Milan Vaishnav and Jamie Hintson of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think-tank in Washington. On average, an mp in Uttar Pradesh represents nearly 3m people; his counterpart in Tamil Nadu a mere 1.8m.

The constitutional and moral arguments in favour of redistricting are plain. But the practical ramifications for southern states would be large. If the centre goes ahead with it, warns a prominent figure in the south, “that is the beginning of the end of India as a country…In my children’s lifetime this will not be one country anymore.” In May Mr Modi inaugurated a new Parliament building, capable of seating 888 lawmakers, lending credence to the idea that his party intends to reallocate seats while also expanding the house in order to soften the blow for states that lose out.

The idea of synchronising India’s many elections is also causing worry. The government’s critics insist that holding all polls at the same time would reinforce the advantages that national parties enjoy over regional ones (such as those that run most of the southern states). Regional parties, which have limited resources, would struggle to fight both national and state-level campaigns at the same time. The bjp counters that the current system, which sees a handful of states go to the polls every year, is broken. It paralyses policymaking, forces political parties into non-stop campaign mode and costs a fortune for parties and the exchequer. Having simultaneous elections would be cheaper and lead to better governance, say supporters.

Analyses of past elections have produced conflicting answers about whether harmonising polls will change how people vote. Any new policy would have to make provisions for state governments losing the support of their legislatures and collapsing in the middle of electoral cycles. And it is unclear whether Mr Modi would be able to push through the constitutional amendments this plan would require.

Since coming to power nine years ago, Mr Modi and his party have fulfilled many elements of their agenda, from turbocharging infrastructure upgrades and raising the country’s global profile to revoking the special constitutional status of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu & Kashmir and building a temple to the Lord Ram in the northern city of Ayodhya. The mystery session of Parliament next week may be about simultaneous elections (an old pledge), about changing India’s name (a newish obsession), or about something else entirely. Whatever the agenda, the great magician must be careful not to saw the nation in half.

Comment by Riaz Haq on September 13, 2023 at 8:07pm

India’s Poor Paid for G20 With Homes and Livelihoods Halted

More people will be left homeless and unemployed than before India decided to host the G20 Summit in Delhi.

https://www.newsclick.in/indias-poor-paid-g20-homes-and-livelihoods...


The range of distress caused to the poor by the preparations for the G20 summit has been widely reported all year. Since January, over 3 lakh of the capital’s poor have been displaced, while other cities that hosted G20 events reported more evictions and displacements. The lives of India’s poor are jeopardised in the process of urban ‘beautification’ projects meant to please visiting foreign dignitaries and other attendees.

Eighty per cent of Delhi’s workforce is employed in the informal sector, and 15% of its population lives below the poverty line. The city and central administrations, which prepare the capital for summits, have repeatedly behaved with contempt towards its poorest residents. Walls were constructed to hide the city’s poverty and poor residents during the Commonwealth Games in 2020. And in 2023, slums and shelters for the homeless were razed to make way for dazzling optics for the G20 Summit.

The city allocated a expense budget—Rs 1,000 crore—to prepare for this Summit and related events, choosing to chase away the poor rather than work towards poverty reduction. Slum settlements and shelters for the homeless were pulled apart or concealed and demolished with no alternative arrangements made for residents. In effect, more people have been left homeless and unemployed than before India decided to host this event. Homes were declared encroachments and bulldozed, roadside vendors were evicted, and lakhs whose voices are never heard were further destabilised. The brilliant lights of the newly-decorated city darkened lives—and the coming effective ‘shutdown’ of a large and prominent section of the city will worsen the situation.

When a city as large and economically diverse as Delhi is brought to a halt, people are likely to face challenges, significantly more so its weaker and disadvantaged sections. Of the ways in which the poor are affected, the easiest to identify is the loss of daily wages, for instance of the hawkers in parts of the city that are being subjected to near-total lockdown during the forthcoming summit.

While the lockdown may officially apply to sections of the city, roads passing through this crucial area will out of bounds during the days of the G20 programmes. It is bound to affect thoroughfare, having a ripple effect across the city.

Most of Delhi’s poor residents—over 49 lakh people, according to a 2022 estimate—work in the informal sector. They rely on daily wages to support themselves and their families. Any disruption in normal economic activities results in a substantial loss of income, making it difficult for families to meet basic needs. Many poor might find it impossible to stock up on essential food items to provide them with two meals a day when they are forced not to work. This is what leads to food insecurity and hunger for those who live from day to day.

Further, road and office closures can disrupt access to essential services such as healthcare, education, and social support. Vulnerable populations may find it challenging to access medical care or emergency services during this period. Even a short shutdown can have lasting economic consequences for poor individuals and the local economy. Job losses and income reductions during a shutdown can create financial struggles that persist after normal economic activities resume. It’s a fact that today’s food is tomorrow’s work energy: a poor worker who goes hungry today will not have the energy to work tomorrow, perpetuating poverty beyond the days when work was unavailable, and pushing families deeper into poverty.

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