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Almost a Miracle: Encouraging Inclusive Growth in India

Authors: Mark P. Lagon, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Human Rights, and Samir Goswami
May/June 2013
World Affairs Journal


The free public elementary school is closer to ten-year-old Rita's home than the factory where she works ten-hour days instead of getting an education. Rita lives in Bawana, a slum on the northern edge of New Delhi that is home to more than one hundred thousand impoverished residents. In an effort to showcase a prosperous country to a global audience during the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Indian government displaced thousands of poor people from their makeshift homes in the capital city's center to Bawana. In exchange, they were all promised access to good paying manufacturing jobs in the nearby factories through which they could lift themselves out of poverty and create a better life for their children.

Reality, however, differs considerably from the image of India that its government tries to portray to the world: Bawana's thirteen city blocks are a maze of unpaved muddy lanes lined with open sewers, overflowing public toilets, and rotting garbage. Bawana is also a place where criminals traffic vulnerable children like Rita.

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