poverty

India
Rana Paul*

COVID Weighs On Shanty Town Life In New Delhi

Residents of the state’s 'bastis' get free rations and state-provided services on the back of ID documents with proof of address. But their homes are also subject to frequent demolition on the grounds that they are illegal encroachment.

The distribution of rations and other necessities during the crisis created by last year's COVID-19 lockdown took place mainly in the slum areas of Delhi. The irony, however, is that although the Delhi government provides the residents of these settlements with essentials, their homes are frequently demolished to evict them from their neighborhoods on the grounds that they are encroachments. And this practice has continued even during the lockdown.

"Thousands of households in Delhi were demolished during the lockdown," says Shakeel Ahmed, the convener of Basti Suraksha Manch (BSM), one of the networks that constitute the Delhi Housing Rights Task Force (DHRTF). "Some clusters even experienced multiple phases of eviction."

The evictions took place despite the fact that on April 28, 2020, just about a month into the nationwide lockdown in India, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing declared "an end to all evictions' until the end of the pandemic.

We have valid identity documents. So why are we devoid of justice?

Although there is no constitutional right to housing in the country, in 1976, India had ratified the UN's 1966 Covenant of the Right to Adequate Housing. Several court judgments, including many in the Supreme Court of India, have affirmed the right to housing, such as Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985), Chameli Singh vs State of U.P. (1996), Sudama Singh vs Govt of Delhi (2010) and Ajay Maken vs Union of India (2019). Along with these judicial measures, established policy regimes such as the Delhi Slum & JJ (JhuggiJhopri) Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy (DUSIB policy, 2015) intend to preserve the right to housing for all. But Delhi scripted a very arbitrary fate for its marginal urban dwellers during the pandemic.

When the bulldozers arrived at east Laxmi Nagar market colony, Jagatpuri, in June 2020, the residents of the settlement knew what they had needed to have done to stop the demolition of their homes. But they had been given no time to do it.

"If an application had been filed in court, there wouldn't have been any demolitions during the pandemic. But we got only three days to organise ourselves," says Ram Chandra, the pradhan (head) of the settlement. "The notice that should have come to us on Friday arrived on Saturday. Sunday was a holiday and on Monday our deadline had ended. Where do you go in this kind of hurry? Who do you get suggestions from?"

A September 2020 eviction in a basti near Batla House, New Delhi — Photo: Rana Paul

The east Laxmi Nagar market colony had been identified as a jhuggijhropri (hutment) cluster in 1982 by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) through its Census of Squatters survey. Over the years, the residents of the settlement turned it into a habitable space that was entitled to state-provided services. But although the colony had a historical presence, a decade-old lawsuit demolished it in the name of encroachment.

Elsewhere in Delhi, near Shastri Park, more than 135 families were evicted in a single sweep on Feb. 11, 2021. When Geeta Devi, a resident of the settlement. asked why her home was being demolished, an official told her: "The order has come from the court."

This left Devi frustrated by the paradox of existence in urban India. "If an order came from the court (to evict us), then why are we given free rations? Why were our gas services not cut off? We are offered free rations and simultaneously evicted from our houses," she says. The point she makes asks a valid question of the contemporary urban landscape: What does welfare mean if the right to a home is breached? The narrative of those who are frequently evicted shows that their life is exactly at the point of intersection between welfare on one axis and homelessness on the other.

Residents of such settlements argue that the government's provision of free rations and other essentials are not the only evidence that they are rooted in their homes. Their voter identity cards prove their address and their existence in the city, they point out. But even these identity cards are ignored during the evictions.

The tragedy in India is that the right of universal suffrage does not automatically lead to the right to housing.

"We have valid identity documents. So why are we devoid of justice?" asks Akbari Bibi, whose basti (settlement) near Batla house has been demolished three times since the pandemic began, on Sept. 24, 2020; Oct. 4, 2020 and Dec. 24, 2020. "We cast our votes in the name of the jhuggi (hut) numbers that are listed as our addresses on our voter identity cards. Our jhuggis are our identity on the land," says Bibi.

The tragedy in India is that the right of universal suffrage does not automatically lead to the right to housing, even when policies exist to provide housing rights. For example, the residents of the settlement near Batla house still have not received rehabilitation though they have valid identity documents that satisfy the DUSIB policy, 2015.

Even the poorest people in India find ways to invest in the construction of homes when the formal housing supply cannot meet their needs. The houses built by marginal dwellers are officially termed "informal," but Delhi has 675 jhuggijhopri clusters, according to the DUSIB policy, 2015, where people invest with money usually borrowed from their employers to construct houses that either remain unconstructed or are demolished due to routine evictions.

"I invested money for my house through a karza (loan) from my madam (employer)," says 40-year-old Sunita Devi, a resident of Israeli camp near Vasant Kunj, Delhi, who provides domestic help. "Only two days after the construction was completed, they demolished it. If I had known it was going to be demolished, I would not have taken the loan."

Devi's home was demolished along with hundreds of others on Sept. 28, 2020. Now, like many others in the same position, she worries both about paying back her debt to her employer and the possibility of getting another loan for another house.

The pandemic has led to exceptional changes all over the world in how people live and work. But for Delhi's marginal urban dwellers, the coronavirus changed nothing. They had always had to live their lives in increments that regularly collapse, building homes only to lose them and hope to start all over again.

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Geopolitics

De Klerk’s Death: How South Africa Saw Its Last White President

Having shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, former President Frederik Willem de Klerk was largely credited with courageous leadership and a key role in dismantling apartheid. But his legacy, both before and after the transition, is decidedly mixed.

Mourned, derided, in equal measure…

Since South Africa's last white ruler Frederik Willem de Klerk died at his home in Cape Town on Thursday at the age of 85, the reactions of South Africans have mirrored the contradictions that characterized de Klerk's political life.

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Madagascar
Laure Verneau

In Madagascar, The Democratization Of French Cheese

In one of the world's poorest countries, cheese is still a niche market. And yet, little by little, even the working class are starting to getting a taste.

ANTSIRABE — Sam Mimouni holds out his artisanal Fourme d'Ambert, a semi-hard, French blue cheese. "The more it stinks, the better it is," he jokes.

The gray rind, the visible mold, the melting texture: This is the perfect example of the Auvergne specialty, but without the official French designation of origin. There's a reason for that. Sam doesn't live in central France; he's in Madagascar, in the town of Antsirabe, 172 kilometers south of the capital, Antananarivo.

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Ideas
Sarah Steele

Ethical Questions Facing The For-Profit Breast Milk Market

New companies have been launched around the world that employ women to pump breast milk on contract. Yet it could lead to women pumping for profit, and even sacrificing the nutrition of their own child.

CAMBRIDGE — Over the last few decades, the demand for breast milk has grown. The message “breast is best" has driven parents and caregivers to buy breast milk. Even the unwell, bodybuilders and “clean eaters" are known to use it. Once limited to milk banks and peer-to-peer sharing, a new for-profit milk market has emerged.

Companies producing a range of breast milk products are popping up around the globe, including in India, Cambodia, the U.S. and England. These products include formula replacements – designed to be the sole source of nutrition – and other dietary supplements that complement or are added to formula.

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Economy
Fernando Fernández*

Piling Up Public Debt, Risks Of A COVID Economic Consensus

The pandemic has prompted financial authorities to take a more relaxed approach to debts. For Latin America, overspending in response to the crisis may take them back to the poverty pits of the past.

-Analysis-

The world is engaged in a dangerous experiment. When the 2008 financial crisis hit, central banks abandoned their manuals on traditional monetary policy to become the chief protagonists of an economic stabilization approach. They guaranteed infinite liquidity at historically minimal prices, and embarked on monetary expansion so sustained and spectacular as to be far more than just "unconventional."

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Economy
Hamed Mohammadi and Roshanak Astaraki

Iranians Used To Flee For Politics, Now It's Economics

The desperation to leave Islamic Iran has spread from writers, dissidents and minority groups to hundreds of thousands of Iranians willing to live and work "anywhere that isn't Iran."

-Analysis-

Not so long ago, people leaving Iran did so temporarily, and were from specific social groups like students or persecuted minorities. Today, emigration has become a crucial life choice weighed by many, if not most, Iranian families.

The principal destinations in previous years were Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia. Iranians were ready to pay the price required to buy themselves a better life in "first world" destinations. Today, they're no longer eyeing the most advanced countries but anywhere "that isn't Iran."

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Society
Kudzai Mazvarirwofa and Fortune Moyo

How COVID-19 Has Made Hunger Worse For Zimbabwe Child-Care Centers

Feeding vulnerable children was already a challenge in Zimbabwe. Since COVID-19 swept the globe, it's only gotten harder.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Before the coronavirus pandemic, Mai Tafara Children's Center was a bustling refuge for the 50 children it serves.

The kids, many of whom are orphans, would come to the center in Tafara, a high-density suburb in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare, and enjoy a heavy lunch consisting of sadza — a dense porridge made from maize meal — plus sugar bean, leafy greens or soya mince, an inexpensive, soybean-based protein. They would eat their fill and spend the afternoon doing arts and crafts or homework.

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Geopolitics
Meike Eijsberg

Duped By North Korean Propaganda, Japanese Expats Are Suing Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, has been summoned to appear in a Japanese courthouse. Five people who moved to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) between 1959 and 1984 are seeking 500 million yen (3.8 million euros) in damages from the North Korean government for deceiving them with promises of a prosperous life they never found in the totalitarian state, South Korean daily Segye Ilbo reports.

The plaintiffs, four women and one man, are among the estimated 93,000 Japanese-Koreans and other Japanese who moved to North Korea in the latter half of the previous century, often persuaded by a propaganda project (Zainichi Chosenjin no Kikan Jigyo) to attract immigrant workers. The targeted campaign was carried out through the General Association of Koreans in Japan (Chongryon), the de facto representative of North Korea in Japan, touting life in the Northern peninsula as "paradise on Earth."

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Sudan Coup, Drug Lord Busted, Bulls Are Back

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]

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La Tribuna
Alidad Vassigh

It's Raining Fish, Hallelujah! Mysterious Lluvia de Peces Lands Again In Honduras

Residents near the Caribbean coast of Honduras have been witness to an unlikely, and much welcome, event: fish that seem to arrive from the skies. Or maybe from somewhere else?

CENTRO POBLADO — "Sunny with a chance of fish..." In one area of northern Honduras, weather forecasters await the unlikely arrival of a kind of "fish storm" in the summer months, which allows locals to feast on small silver pesces. It's a phenomenon with no clear scientific explanation. Sound fishy?


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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Pandora Papers, Japan’s New PM, Spicy Medicine Nobel

👋 Bom dia!*

Welcome to Monday, where the financial secrets of the rich and powerful are exposed in a massive data leak, the two Koreas get on the phone for the first time in months, Japan has a new prime minister and there's a spicy Nobel prize winner for medicine. For Paris-based daily Les Echos, we have Anna Rousseau reporting on how fashion-famous France is finally starting to catch up with the plus-size market.

[*Portuguese]

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Geopolitics
Yanick Lahens*

Hard Truths, And A Glimmer Of Hope In Haiti

In the wake of the July 7 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, Haitian writer Yanick Lahens revisits the history of the island, addressing its fractures, but also seeing a reason for cautious optimism.

-Analysis-

Not wanting to respond in the heat of the moment to the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, I declined requests to speak with journalists. Typically, a real-time reaction forsakes nuance, resulting in an answer that severs the event from the deeper factors that caused it. The inevitable shortcuts taken to summarize an event for "front-page news' tend to compound the reservoir of cliches and prejudices that exist around it, despite any attempts otherwise. And when an event worthy of the front page takes place in Haiti, the temptation is even greater to dive into such an abyss.

There's a reason for that. Haiti, more than any other place, has the capacity to boggle the minds of those unable or unwilling to stretch outside of their intellectual comfort zone. This emblematic island nation challenges and disturbs all at once. And yet, those who have not grasped the place Haiti holds in modern history — in its very birth and subsequent transatlantic influence — will only see the fire, poverty and bloodshed. They will only see another coup d"état, and they will only see black skin.

What happens in Haiti must always be placed in conversation with its inescapable history, summarized quickly around its unthinkable independence in 1804, when the country thwarted slavery, colonialism and nascent capitalism, and at a time when the Western powers were preparing to consolidate their world empire. Independence made Haiti the first country of the South, and subsequently the mold and template — I cannot stress this enough — of North-South relations.

Haiti understood before everyone else. Placed in quarantine (today we would call it embargo) by the colonialist powers of the time, the country was forced, as a condition to ending its political and economic isolation, to pay reparations for profits lost to the former French colonizers of Santo Domingo. This would place a heavy burden on Haiti from the beginning, dragged down by a steep mortgage that would send the country spiraling into a debt it wouldn't be able to pay off until the middle of the 20th century. And yet, during its difficult period of isolation, Haiti still helped Simon Bolivar liberate five Latin American countries and even inspired Greece to gain its independence.

Independence made Haiti the first country of the South.

Writer Laurent Dubois, in Les Vengeurs du Nouveau Monde (Les Perséides, 2006), noted that in 1801, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson was already thinking about what would happen should Santo Domingo achieve independence, which he feared would set a bad example for the other slave-holding countries in the region. In a conversation with delegates from France and England, he laid out conditions of engagement: "Not allowing blacks to own ships will be enough." In essence, Jefferson ceded Haiti the right to exist as a large village of maroons, but there was no possibility of accepting it into the concert of nations.

You may shrug and tell me that this happened long ago. But since then? Alas, the spirit and even the very words of this statement have persisted and infiltrated the policies that the great powers enforced on Haiti throughout the 19th century and up to the present day.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, a Democrat and in keeping with Jefferson's vision, did not bat an eye when referring to Haiti as the "backyard," implying a location where garbage is dumped. Donald Trump, the latest Republican president, stooped lower, remorselessly referring to the country as a "shit hole." The former eliminated Haitian rice production in the 2000s by forcing the Haitian market to accept subsidized, and therefore much cheaper, American rice. The latter, seeking the Haitian vote against Venezuela, promised unconditional support for the authoritarian regime of the late president.

But how was all this possible, you may ask? Well, it was made possible due to the complicity of the political and economic sectors that have ruled Haiti since independence.

The departure of the colonizers brought about a double shift that resulted in two different approaches to government and societal organization. The majority of the Bossales, the men and women who had just arrived from Africa, radically rejected the plantation system and liberal economic logic. Throughout the 19th century, they built an original culture that incorporated a common language and religion, prioritized the lakou (the common dwelling) as a basic community space, emphasized the cultivation of gardens and shared everything down to the last piece. It was a culture that would be protected from the beginnings of the neo-colonial project. The rural environment is referred to in everyday language as "the country outside."

Artists performing during a ceremony in honor of slain Haitian President Jovenel Moise — Photo: Orlando Barria/EFE/ZUMA

The other group was made up of the Creoles, many of whom were revolutionary leaders and others who accepted and adopted colonial traditions after independence, namely, the French language, the Catholic religion and Western legal foundations. With the two cultures constantly at odds, the chaos truly began with the failure to integrate the state model of the Creoles, across the country, and, as the sociologist Jean Casimir specifies, with the international community's negative view of the Bossale. Now, the country must find a way to build a community out of a centuries-old conflict.

Many of Haiti's struggles since the 19th century originate in this specific disconnect. Back-to-back international and internal crises throughout the 20th century progressively weakened the country's institutions, leading to long-standing distrust in government and placing a large swatch of the population into poverty without any structures intended to offer support, all of which was reinforced in 2010. Global and local crime syndicates have taken advantage of and co-opted these weak institutions. The licit and the illicit ended up merging, establishing corruption as a mode of governance, a process that eventually led to the shocking assassination of President Moïse.

Some may be quick to highlight the international aid Haiti has received over the years. But this aid perverts those who give as well as those who receive. When the aid does not simply feed corruption on both sides, a substantial portion of it goes back to the donor, leaving the recipient dangerously dependent, even if a few organizations, thank God, escape this model. The aid given after the 2010 earthquake is a perfect manifestation of this dysfunction.

As rapid urbanization unfolded and the centrality of the Creole language spread through various media and social networks, a youth has risen up, eager to stake their claim as the "country within" by showing the world their desire to fully exercise their citizenship, and build community and institutions. It is this young and new "country within a country" that has, with their bare hands, fought back against the unconstitutional referendum project supported by the international community. And they have managed to do this, as the young philosopher Edelyn Dorismond points out, despite the serious assaults on symbolic architecture; despite the massacres orchestrated by gangs, instruments of the powerful; and despite widespread imprisonment and the general exhaustion of so many.

We Haitians must save ourselves from reductive narratives.

It was these young people who were preparing to do the same, to fight against the widely contested elections that were supported by the international community. In the face of such obstacles, building community and democracy will take persistence and time. A lot of time. It will demand the construction of a new political order and fresh representation. There is no speedy solution or quick answer.

We Haitians must save ourselves from reductive narratives whose harmfulness lies in their ability to trap us in sad emotions, as Gilles Deleuze says. It is natural, and we will feel sadness, fear, hopelessness. But let us also remember, using the guiding light of history, how to make room for clear-mindedness and strength and draw from familiar joy. Let us not be defeated twice.

Contrary to what is conveyed in international or even national media, there is hope in the projects that are at work. One is the ecological community project in the lower northwest region, which is building a multifunctional park in a working-class neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Others are artistic endeavors, agricultural activities, building an efficient university, creating innovative models for schooling. All these initiatives share one key point in common: They have been able to integrate the people in their approach. In contrast to our collective misfortunes, they are unfolding far away from the "front-page" sound and fury.

In the Failles, the novel which I wrote in 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake, I repeatedly asked myself how to write without "exoticizing" misfortune and tragedy. Let's refuse to deny our suffering, but let us not indulge in self-flagellation or use our misfortune as a means of profit. Because if there is misfortune, it is not only Haiti's, it is the misfortune of the first world, the second world, the third world and the fourth world. It is the misfortune of our dominant world-model. It is not exotic; it is the misfortune of all.

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