G 20-Gipfel: Menschen in Delhi fühlen sich wie lästige Insekten behandelt

The first time Saroaj Devi heard about the G20 summit was when tall green walls were erected around the slum in Delhi where she lives. Soon, she realized that these walls were meant to hide their impoverished homes from the foreign heads of state and government who would populate India’s capital for the G20 summit this weekend. The concealment is part of a facelift project costing approximately 115 million euros, in which Delhi aims to present itself in a shiny condition and enhance its image, while its poor neighborhoods remain out of sight or even slums have been demolished.

„I cannot reword“

On the outer side of the large billboards that now surround many of Delhi’s slums, posters with the face of the host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are displayed, welcoming the passing G20 summit delegates instead of the sight of oppressive conditions. Devi and other residents of the Coolie slum in South Delhi not only feel humiliated during this summit but also deprived of their livelihood.

Drei Tage Ausgangssperre für die Bewohner Delhis

To ensure safety and keep the streets clear while Joe Biden, Rishi Sunak, and Olaf Scholz’s limousines are on the move, a comprehensive lockdown has been imposed on the 32 million people living in Delhi. Schools, offices, markets, restaurants, and non-food stores must remain closed for three days. Traffic on the streets will be significantly limited, and people are advised to stay at home.

While the police constantly assure in their statements that this is „not a lockdown,“ it certainly applies to the poorer residents and daily wage earners of the city, many of whom live from hand to mouth and cannot afford to lose even a single day of work. The consequences of this suspension will be devastating.

„Shouldn’t we go to work and eat? Are we supposed to die because we are poor?“ asks Devi, who earns around 3,000 rupees (24 euros) per month as a cleaning lady but is now losing her salary, which she absolutely cannot afford. „I never miss a day of work, even when I’m sick, because I simply cannot afford to lose money. Poor people like me can only curse this event because we suffer and our stomachs will be empty.“

Vineet Singh (35), who operates a small grocery store in a slum, believes that the large curtains have hidden his business from the customers‘ view, so he had to cut a hole in them to still be seen. His earnings have already decreased from 1,000 rupees (8.50 euros) per day to just a few hundred rupees. „I have a family to feed,“ he says. „Who will do that for me?“

Aus der Öffentlichkeit getilgt

In Hafiz Nagar, a slum area located almost opposite the magnificent new conference center where the summit is taking place, residents claim that they have been prevented by the police from leaving their homes for days. Mohammad Imran (45) expresses his outrage, stating, „We are being treated like insects, not like human beings.“

In the past few days, more than 4,000 homeless people who were living under bridges and on the streets have been relocated to emergency shelters on the outskirts of Delhi. Harsh Mander, a civil society activist, sees this as „a kind of frantic attempt to either drive the poor out of the city or completely erase them from public view. We are the fifth largest economy in the world, but the reality is that we also have the largest population living in poverty. All of this is an effort to conceal the flip side of economic prosperity, which is extreme inequality.“

The imposed ban on street vendors is particularly frustrating, as they have already been instructed by the government to renovate and modernize their stalls at their own expense for the summit. Now, bankruptcy looms over them, and they have to endure days of losses.

Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Askash Hassan are correspondents for the „Guardian“ covering South Asia.