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This article
is basically a summary of the original article by the same name written by
Duncan McDuie-Ra. He has glorified on the aspect of Delhi turning into a
neo-liberal state, which in turn creates a lot of employment opportunities and
embraces the economic charts of Delhi, with respect to migrants from other
parts of the country. The article is basically about the treatment these
migrants suffer or experience in Delhi, when these employment opportunities and
other reasons which have been also discussed later, attracts them here. The
author has mainly focused on North East migrants who are mainly the spotlight
of distinction among other parts of India. Also, there has been a flashlight
on, if Delhi as an exclusionary city will provide any beneficiaries with
respect to our main concern.

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India has
always been driving into the ideals of neo-liberalism, which in turn has a
profound impact on urban areas. Aspects like, reorganising, sanitising and
enclosing urban spaces were vastly affected, but the debate which was left out
was that urban poor and migrants would be ignored. But the process of
neo-liberalising and creating global cities, would create a lot of new
opportunities for different groups. All around us in Delhi, we can see a lot of
people from other parts of India and one of the noticeable group is of the
migrants of north east India. The neo-liberalisation has created a lot of job
opportunities in call centres, retail, and hospitality which may need the
expertise and skills of north eastern migrants as they seem to be the perfect
fit for these kind of jobs. Herein, Citizens of Delhi might consider these type
of jobs less dignified to be taken up by the middle class which makes them
consider north east migrants lowly and this gives them an upper hand in
exploiting them in any way they can to benefit themselves. Delhi can be rightly
viewed as the heartland and north eastern part of India can be viewed as the
frontier. About the N.E. area, it has always been very much secluded from the
rest of the Indian part, hence there are a lot of stereotypes among people
regarding north eastern people. These states are majorly, Arunachal Pradesh,
Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.


the Exclusionary City

of India’s economy promoted the privatisation and enclosure of urban areas,
creation of investment friendly infrastructure and public interests have been
secured and government partnerships have been incorporated. David Harvey
defines neo liberalism as,

theory of political-economic practices that proposes that human well-being can
be best advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills
within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property
rights, free markets, and free trade.”

liberalism’s distinctiveness can be seen in creation of ‘entrepreneurial
cities’ to trigger economic growth, consequences for the reorganisation of
urban space and the capture of urban politics by middle class. It is a crude
attempt to makeover a city as ‘global city’.

As the
ordeals of global cities may include gated neighbourhoods, restricted entry to
shopping malls and restricted entry to parks and green spaces, this could be a
result of believing by targeting encroachers on road as improper citizens of
the city, the pollute and are considered a hindrance in development or
globalising a city. Also the fact that, planned areas are an afforded
legitimacy while the unplanned can be deemed illegitimate and subject to
demolition. But then because of this, the measures taken up are giving rise to
long lost caste system and class boundaries, hence creating inequalities.

private organizations are working along government organizations to remove the
‘encroachers’ and petty commercial establishments i.e. the filth from the city
in order to sanitise their neighbourhoods. By this, we are not only creating
caste distinctions but the concepts like untouchability would be reinforced.
These groups would be completely marginalised and wouldn’t be able to sustain.
On the other hand, neo liberalism creates a lot of job opportunities for people
all over India, to which we can appreciate the participation of north east

migrants in Delhi  

North east
migrants are mostly from states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur,
Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura. These are completely cut off
from the rest of the India but is joined by a very thin connector between
borders of Nepal and Bangladesh. Also, scheduled tribes in India are majorly
from these north eastern states hence it solidifies the stereotypes for these
people by the whole country but especially among people living in heartlands.
Frontiers like north eastern states can never be able to be a part of India in
the same way as the rest of the states are. There has been a lot of migration
observed from frontier towns to heartland towns or urban areas during the post-independence
era. The trend was much higher from north eastern states to heartland city like
Delhi. North east migrants in Delhi are approximately 200,000 people which
accounts for 48.21 per cent of the total population of north east migrants in
Indian cities (Survey data from the North East support centre and helpline).
Most of the migrants are in their mid-20s and search for better job
opportunities and a better standard of living in Delhi and also because of
armed conflicts, such as Manipur. They have a hope of earning more than what
they could earn at home and experience lifestyle of Delhi. Most of the people wanted
to study in heartlands and also settle there or they wanted to pay for their or
their sibling’s education. Some wanted to send their earned money back home to
their parents and some wanted to earn to fulfil their desire of travelling
abroad. Also the jobs like in hospitality, retail, call centres, demand people
from north east India because of their English accents and their personality
matched with foreign people which will pose to be an in-budget way in
hospitality sector.



in India primarily creates new consumer spaces and other work places like call
centres. As discussed earlier, these kind of jobs are a fit for north-east
migrants, be it a stereotype or that we as recruiters, look down to those
people in such a way. North-east migrants have a fluent English accent hence
they could be a perfect fit in call centres to deal with the international
connections. Coming onto the new consumer spaces, these may include, up-market
shopping malls, amorphous global markets. Apparently, according to citizens of
heartland, these malls are the desires of the upper and aspiring middle classes
to ‘live abroad in India’.  The author,
concentrated on the elite malls of Delhi, which are, the Ambience Mall, the DLF
Promenade and the DLF Emporio. Typically in these malls, north-east migrants
worked mostly in clothing stores, spas and cosmetic stores. Stores were mainly
of global image, like Adidas, Puma, Zara, Benetton etc. Also, they worked in
big restaurants as waiters/waitresses, sometimes the qualified north-easterners
could possibly get the job of the chef in good restaurants as obviously they
would be able to provide with the good north-eastern food. For women these job
opportunities were of a sexual character, related to fashion, clothing and
hospitality. At some places, they were dressed in cheongsams, the tight fitting
Chinese evening dress. They were used to depict the cultural diversity of
north-east India which fascinated the people visiting the stores or
restaurants. The highly orientalised labour force constructs a space that is in
Delhi but not of Delhi; perfect for ‘World-Class’ aspirants for the middle
classes. Due to this specificity, some migrants felt that their caste and creed
were used to portray ‘exotic’ or global aesthetic, but some saw it as an
advantage over the other migrants from all over the India. As a bureaucrat,
I’ll see it as cultural diffusion and a way of linking frontier to the
heartland. As they were mostly employed in malls like these, some of them liked
working in a fancy environment where they couldn’t be harassed and for other
reasons, whereas some thought it to be a stereotype that they are considered to
be the slaves of ‘wealthy and sophisticated’. Some felt that they aren’t taken
up too seriously in terms of other professional work or in studies, as they
were eligible to work in the malls but couldn’t afford to shop there so they
were seen as people for assistance for wealthy. North-easterners were exploited
on their love for fashion, which in turn made them a perfect fit in fashion
industry, models for magazines. Despite of fashion, a lot of left out talent of
north-easterners have been underestimated and uncovered.  These economic opportunities have broadly
categorised these ethnocentric groups based on the type of work they are fit



Due to
neo-liberalism in India, the industrial focus has shifted from manufacturing
and heavy industries to service sector. Delhi has ranked the first in
cumulative foreign direct investment flows in India from 2000 to 2005.
Investments have all the way more benefited the services sector, especially
special economic zones. Gurgaon and Noida are the biggest hub of call centres
and require a comparatively cheap labour force with fluent English accents.
North easterners English speaking skills are commendable as they attended
English medium high school and literacy rates are also very high. Working in a
call centre requires time flexibility which can easily be provided by the
north-east migrants as most of them travel alone. Call centres majorly recruit
from north-eastern neighbourhoods in Delhi. North-east workers working in call
centres have a very different outlook towards their work environment with
respect to their home land. People worked both reluctantly and willingly in
call centres as there were different perspectives to look upon them.  But yeah of course, each one of them get
exploited in the workplace, they get summarily dismissed, they have pay
withheld, they are refused to leave etc. These were minor concerns for them in
front of the hardships they face at home.


in Delhi

inclusion in the spaces created by neo-liberalism in Delhi draws migrants from
all over the frontier to Delhi. But for north-east migrants they were mainly
these closed spaces that we talked above. And there are a lot of challenges
they face in their everyday life, like racism, discrimination and harassment.


north-easterners racism mainly included their distinctive factual appearance,
hence they create one of their own ethnocentric groups in India. Even if they
wish to they are unable to blend into the rest of the Indian citizens. They’ll
perhaps always be treated as outsiders would be looked upon as strangers or
less dignified to others. For most of the north-east migrants, racism in Delhi
is reflected in the epithet “chinky’. Chinky is a term basically use to
describe somebody who has very small eyes, likewise a Chinese, Japanese or a
North-eastern Indian.  North-east women
are cast as loose in morals and sexually promiscuous or vulnerable. As these
women mostly get jobs in fashion sector where their sexuality is emphasised,
moreover they are not yet married, they move about the city without male
persons. North-east men also have been brought under the claims of being
immoral in terms of heavy drinkers, unpredictable and prone to violence.



is most strongly felt in the housing sector. Most of the north-easterners
prefer to live in areas like Shanti Niketan, Safdarjung Enclave, Green Park,
South Ex-1 and other areas like Munirka near JNU and the suburbs around G.T.B.
Nagar.  A large amount of money as rent
is asked from the north-eastern tenants, while the rent is comparatively less
for a Delhite. North-east migrants just don’t have the resources and that kind
of power, nor can they speak fluent Hindi so that they can bargain and confront
their land owners and so hence they have to suffer and pay high rents. Also
they are given petty reasons like the smell from their staple food creates a
disturbing environment for other tenants and for that they will have to pay a
compensation, hence more rent. Sometimes, they also do not get accommodation
easily as most of the people here thinks north-easterners as immoral as they
live with their opposite sex friends in the same house. For that matter,
sometimes, male north-easterners would talk on behalf of female
north-easterners and people would leave their flats for their other friends
when they go back home or go somewhere else. Though exploited, they never even
go to the authorities, as they always think they’ll be on the losing side and
nobody will actually hear them out.



In the words
of north-east migrants; ‘They will always
go on about Delhi being unsafe. They think it is not different for us. But it
is. We are walking targets.’

Delhi has a
history of being a violent city. North-east migrants feel that they are
targeted because of their race, they have virtually no recourse to justice
aaand they are blamed for the violence they experience. North-east females are
seem to be more vulnerable than other females all over Delhi, they feel
attacked even at their workplaces. Delhi has a history of raping north-east
females, not once but a noticeable amount of times. And these crimes were a
push over for the Delhi government to take action against it and finally
protect the north-eastern females.



north-east migrants benefits from the neo-liberal transformation of Delhi, at
least in terms of employment and economic inclusion in the city. These changes,
connect and interlinks the heartland and the frontier in very peaceful ways.
Neo-liberalisation has changed the perspective of north-east migrants in a
greater way which the state development schemes, scholarships and reservations
were unable to do so. There has been a strong belief that their economic
inclusion in the city would significantly alter their place in Indian society.
Also this neo-liberalisation have opened those kind of job opportunities that
did not even exist decades ago. But their workplace has been still confined to
places like malls, call centres, spas etc., and outside this circle they are
portrayed as a marginality. This unevenness will benefit some and as well as
harm some. So evidently, the case of north-east migrants in Delhi rules out the
exclusionary concept of the city and focus sharply on the intricate dynamics of
the urban change. It also shows the ways in which the frontier lands are
connected to the heartlands, i.e. the periphery is connected to a neo-liberal
transformation of urban India. North-east migrants are not only the beneficiaries
of these changes yet their prominence in the consumer and the service sector,
and the impact this had on the flows and the profile of migrants from the
frontier to urban India, make them the ideal case for analysing these changes.

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