LALIT and Muvman Lakaz held a joint session Thursday last (18 May 2017) in the Site Richelieu housing estate to begin a process of thinking about the development of the area, whether the planned Metro Express due to pass by there materializes or not. The meeting was held in the context of protests against the “gated communities” that Government is encouraging big land-owners to build and then sell off to millionaires from abroad.
People present at the meeting thought that there were two urgent problems in the area. First, the 20 or so houses that were badly constructed before being sold to inhabitants (not the original houses, which are still in fair condition) must be pulled down and reconstructed at Government cost. Second, there is the problem of flood drainage with the two new developments across the road from the Site. Mr Francois Woo’s factory already there blocked some drains while the Mourat headquarters, are right now doing a land fill. Together they effectively block the natural flow of flood waters to the sea in the rainy season. This kind of massive private investment must be made to make massive drains. Instead, there will be serious problems of flooding for hundreds of families if this is not seen to. But, the meeting said that inhabitants of Site like Richelieu must not only react to problems, but come up with proposals that we insist that Government implement, or force the private sector to implement. If not, the present system is not good enough.
People present agreed that if the Metro Express comes by, they do not want to see any new shopping-mall style development, and proper production for job-creation for the area. There are two ready-made features for this: first there is a lot of Government land that has traditionally been used for agricultural purposes and can be developed once again. Richelieu was once famous for its milk, and can be again. People enumerated the crops that are known to grow well there. Second, there are a number of closed down free zone factories in Coromandel, on the other side of the land. So, people are calling for good agricultural production and factories, to give both field and factory jobs to the young people as they leave school or university. “People will also be needed for marketing, in Mauritius and abroad,” one man said. Another young man present took responsibility to download the Google Earth map, so that we can map our proposals on to its general outline.
LALIT’s enquiry into Government statistics on employment and housing included Site Richelieu. We found some years ago that the Government figures of 7-ish per cent unemployment are far-fetched. About a half of people do not have a pay-slip. This means they are either without a job at all, or they are in such informal work that the basic legal duty for the boss to provide a payslip does not hold. We know why. The Government adopts the weird assumption that working one hour a week is “being in employment”, and the figure is quoted as though it refers to work with, say, a 45-hour week. (This indicator was long ago suggested by the ILO, we can only assume, so as to see what percentage of peasants in countries like India, China, Indonesia, Madagascar, was moving into the job market. If they did one hour a week that meant “yes” they were no longer pure peasants. It is certainly not a useful indicator of the anger due to unemployment in a country like Mauritius.) LALIT also found that the “9 out of 10” Mauritians that are home-owners is just as useless a figure. 9 out of 10 families do not pay rent. Half of them live in over-crowded houses that already have a name, “lakaz zeritye”, the house of many descendants. With the absurd Napoleonic Law, these descendants are supposedly owners of a tiny bit of totally unsellable, unmanageable housing. Most often the bully of the extended family pushes other bits of the family into lean-to’s next to the main house.
It is for this reason that in Site Richelieu people are mobilizing to insist that Government do three things, all at once:
- create productive jobs
- Assure food security
- Build housing for all
A meeting to give form to these ideas has been planned for next week.