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AS THE BATTLE UNFOLDS

Step out of Delhi and the skies are blue, the air is fresh and crisp, as it should be as we enter the season of spring, with flowers in bloom, all laced with a splash of the inevitable end-of-winter rain. It is a time for renewal, for a reinvention and restoration of that which has frayed because of incompetence and neglect. At this rather special moment of the year, as the seasons shift seamlessly, India too will confront the political options for its immediate future. The general elections are forthcoming and we shall soon have a new government.

As the battle unfolds, and as all manner of predictable, opportunist factions try to become bedfellows again, India watches the charade, part sad, part angry that its political class has been so desperately ineffective in delivering the bare basics and not much more, for its people. The new generation voters are far less patient than those who voted over the last many decades and chances are that they will not be fooled like the generations before them. Each time there is talk of another ‘front’, there are groans of despair. The ‘front’ leaders mouth the same slogans, voice the same ideas, and promise to do all that they did not. The banal and untrustworthy rhetoric has started to irk. The personas are ageing, well past their due date, and almost all the players are devoid of the mental agility and excitement of dealing with the challenges thrown up by a new age. Watching them all perform a predictable pantomime on our television screens, trying to capture the gaddi regardless of the changing fundamentals of political ideologies and partnerships, makes one feel as if one is regressing in time, moving backwards.

Greedy builders

These parties and disparate dispensations are bound together by a rather flimsy glue that they have all, in concert, branded ‘secular’. This adhesive does not comply with any established quality consideration, nor with any reality on the ground. All political parties in India have played casteist games to enrich their vote banks at the cost of the citizens. All the parties have played the class card to divide society in a concerted effort to woo the lesser privileged by promising them the basics and failing miserably in giving them even a sliver of dignity over six long decades. The same political class has spoken against the entrepreneurs, the wealth-creators and the rich, and in the same breath, pretty shamelessly, joined hands with them in the game of neglecting the ‘other half’ for personal gain. The cocktail they created has debilitated India.

On the morning of February 27, the image of demolition squads and cops waiting to make the ‘homeless’ truly homeless at the Shadipur depot in the capital of India was sickening. It is here that artisans and puppeteers, musicians and traditional artists — all symbols of the creative soul of India — were once, under a far more intelligent, liberal and sensitive regime, given shelter to enable them to keep the culture of this civilization alive. Indian legacies were under assault, yet again, this time because the Delhi Development Authority had made a deal to sell the land to a real estate giant, which was about to swallow the livelihood of the men, women and children who look after our inheritance.

Real estate companies in India ape the ugly highrises of the cold West without a care for or comprehension of the strengths of India and its fine building traditions. There is not a single builder who has built anything that can be celebrated. Instead of relocating these people to a built environment where their skills can be enhanced for the joy of the next generations, the DDA and its partners debilitate them further because they know no better. This is yet another example of greed swamping sense and sensibility.