PtG Article 30.08.2010

Human rights activists want India to call off Commonwealth Games

Human rights activists in India are demanding that the 2010 Commonwealth Games are called off. Human rights violations have grown in leaps and bounds around the event, one NGO said a few days ago. Another NGO estimates in a new report that people in India will spend more than 25 years repaying the debts incurred by hosting the 12 day long sports event.

The demand to call off the Commonwealth Games is coming from the Housing and Land Rights Network. The network's executive director, Miloon Kothari, said to the newspaper, The Economic Times, that in the name of preparing the city for the big event, the working poor are being evicted from their homes and work places, girls and women are being trafficked and turned into prostitutes for the Games, and beggars are criminalised and displaced.

The human rights violations were outlined at a recent press conference organised by the Housing and Land Rights Network. They include

  • Workers at construction sites for the Commonwealth Games are being exploited. Workers do not get paid minimum wages or overtime, there is no safety equipment, women are paid less than men, and there is evidence of child labour.
  • Beggars and homeless people are being arrested and arbitrarily detained as part of the Delhi government's clean-up drive before the event. Men are put in a beggar home in Lampur, women are sent to another place, and often mothers are separated from their children who are left behind in the streets.
  • Thousands of families have been forcefully evicted and houses demolished to make room for constructions related to the Commonwealth Games. The majority of families did not receive any notice, compensation or rehabilitation.
  • Brothel owners and escort agencies have begun to traffic new girls from other Indian cities and even Eastern Europe for the anticipated demand for prostituted sex during the Commonwealth Games.
  • Funds for social sector and development projects in Delhi have been diverted to the Commonwealth Games.

Miloon Kothari - who is also a former United Nation's Special Rapporteur - told the press conference that "even if miraculously the Games are a succes, it is already evident from the situation on the ground that serious human rights violations affecting thousands of people across the city are leaving behind a debilitating social legacy for Delhi and permanent disfiguring of Delhi's urban fabric. The Games are a clear step in the direction of Delhi becoming an apartheid city."  The highest price ever for Commonwealth GamesAnother Delhi-based NGO, Hazards Centre, points out in a new report that poor people are not alone in paying a price for hosting the Commonwealth Games.   "Big games also have an impact on the middle classes as the price of land, housing and rents shoot up sharply during and after the event. The average living cost increases and new jobs are created for only a very short duration of time,"  Dunu Roy, Director of the Hazards Centre, told the newspaper The Hindu.  The report called "Heritage Games: Cleaning up the Debris" details many of the costs  of the Games, and discusses how the city will handle the debts and the social and environmental impact of the event once it is over.  The report draws on an analysis of debts incurred by cities hosting previous sports mega events, and it  concludes that when cities in the developed world have taken 20-25 years to pay off debts accrued from big sports events, it is clear that the burden on India will be even higher.

That point is emphasized in a report in Time Magazine. According to the report, India has spent 7.5 billion US dollars on stadiums, roads, power and water utilities and a new airport terminal. That makes the 2010 Commonwealth Games the most expensive ever. Comparatively, the 2006 games held in Melbourne may have cost close to one billion US dollars. 


Download the report by Hazards Centre:Heritage Games: Cleaning up the Debris