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A summit not for the people, not by the people, not of the people

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By Sidharth Mishra

The organisation of G20 summit is just two weeks away. The city is getting ready for an event of such nature after a long time. Having been a resident of the national Capital for almost four decades now, one has been witness other such mega events in the past.

In 1982, the Asian Games were held, its organisation left behind a legacy infrastructure. Asiad gave us – Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Talkatora Swimming Pool, IG stadium, Yamuna Velodrome and the refurbishment of whole lot of the existing sports infrastructure. But more importantly it gave the Games Village and the Siri Fort auditorium complex, which added to the cultural life of the city.

In the times to come, the posh area of New Delhi grew up around this nerve centre. Delhi went to grow beyond the ‘Sarkari’ yellow coloured government quarter lining up the Ring Road. The Outer Ring is an Asiad legacy.

The Asian Games were soon after followed by the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit. In the Cold War era, non-aligned countries formed the major third bloc other than those who followed the United States and the Soviet Union. Before that was held CHOGM, the summit of the former colonies of the British Empire, which again was a large number.

With the huge infrastructure built for the Asiad and refurbishing of the 1956-built Vigyan Bhawan, these summits were a great success. The image of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi grew as world leader independent of the two blocs with the Cuban leader Fidel Castro handing over the official leadership of NAM to India with a bear hug.

The last big event was the hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2010. Though it got mired in corruption controversy courtesy the role then head of the athletics federation Suresh Kalmadi, it left behind a huge infrastructure legacy. In the three decades since the Asian Games, Delhi had expanded into various directions especially in the areas across the Yamuna river. With Noida, beyond Delhi’s eastern border, having blossomed into a major industrial and residential hub, the traffic to trans-Yamuna areas increased.

Under the tutelage of then Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Commonwealth Games saw the culmination of a plethora of infrastructure projects that her government had initiated in the past decade. The increasing network of the Metro lines, the building of the Barapullah elevated roads, the Commonwealth Village in the neighbourhood of the Akshardham Temple, escalator propelled pedestrian over bridges and so on.

She gave a makeover to the bus fleet, with the low floor buses entering the city roads. The idea of travelling in an air-conditioned bus gave an unparalleled fillip to the public transport system. The reenergised Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses complimented the metro trains running effortlessly on their tracks.

Unfortunately, the G20 Summit has so far failed to create the public enthusiasm about the mega event. It has come to be identified more with the proposed shutdown and closure during the summit than people coming out to bask in the glory of the mega summit.

The traffic authorities have prepared a comprehensive advisory and the security protocols being put in place would make the national Capital out of bounds for common citizens. Given the advisory complemented by a long week end starting with the Janmasthami festival on September 7 that’s Thursday followed by G20 closure, has made a large number of Delhi’s residents plan a holiday outside the city.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for the success of the summit, has urged people to put with the discomfort caused by the closure. However, what fun having a summit in a city with deserted roads, closed markets and its people away to different destinations..    

(First Published in The Morning standard)


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