Commonwealth Games Impact: Livelihoods and Security?

Tree being transplanted

Trees, pavements, markets, people…everything has been ‘uprooted’ or ‘transplanted’ for the CWG 2010

I am in this Monday market in my East Delhi neighbourhood buying vegetables and suddenly all the trader shopkeepers of informal stalls start wrapping up their goods and merchandise on display. I heard a few complains about ‘they’ could have told us earlier before we set it up today. These traders are packing up and there are a few policemen around, a Hawaldar and an Inspector with them.

While walking on, I overheard a conversation, a cop apologizing to a middleman cum negotiator, “your think there is any benefit for us in having to shut down this market?’ That was the first time I came face to face with the connectedness of the cops to the local traders and how much they were equally helpless due to the orders coming from the ‘top’.

I like to think that the state is a monolith and every one who is on the other side–the judiciary, the executive and the police are on one side and the common man on the other which also includes these small traders.

The rest of us are mere victims of this and we all experience it in our every day lives. One trader winding up the stall explained to me that it is because the Games are coming to the city. Did I ever anticipate the impact of the Commonwealth Games on the weekly markets spread throughout Delhi starting from now till September? No.

These markets are the heart of the city affecting the livelihood of the small informal traders in the city. Will the income lost be more than compensated for by the new job opportunities that would be available in the city then?  I don’t know. Is this a one time thing like a rehearsal or will it continue every week till the Games? I don’t know. After sealing the border and keeping a watch for terrorist will it be enough to keep the violence at bay? I don’t know.

The only thing I know, is being connected and in communication with people who live in our neighbourhood, makes us feel good, feel that we belong to the city and do not feel alienated by it. We trust each other. We experience power and freedom in our own city. The actions that follow are then to keep a watch for what is suspicious in our neighborhood. We wish or nod to each other and form a community to which we all agree we we belong. The need to get violent and to support violence disappears.


Environmental anthropologist by training, been in the field for over 20 years, Gialome (pseudonym) is mainly concerned with the impacts of infrastructure and technology projects on local communities.

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