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News Reports

The big Little Indian clean-up Part 2

Seriously, when it comes to reporting on the ground, metinks The New Paper wins hands down. First, we get a break from seeing busty babes on its cover. Second, it has reporters who do plenty of legwork, this time in Little India.

So we know that there are close to 300 buses which ferry foreign workers from their dorms to the area every Sunday. A conservative estimate means the area fills up with an extra 40,000 or so bodies on weekends.

We know that there are seven liquor shops along the 400m stretch of Chander Road. Just one road. We even know the names of Indian beer, like Kingfisher, Knockout, Haywards 5000, which go for about $3.50 a can, compared to $4 Heinekens and Tigers. At 8 per cent alcohol content, they can knock you out faster than a 5 per cent Tiger.

Both transport operators and liquor shops rake in big bucks from their South Asian patrons – and both are now worried that the G will clamp down on their operations. Should we side with them? Or say that this is the price of keeping the peace? It really depends on the G means by a “calibrated’’ response – so not a total ban on alcohol sales, but maybe on selling hours. Not a ban on entry to Little India, but better staggered “visiting hours’’?

Seems like the G is pulling out other stops, with cameras in Little India (you mean, there are none now?) and stepped up police presence in the area as well as where foreigners congregate, like the Geylang and Golden Mile stretches. People are asking for fences to close in the residential areas from outsiders. Others are asking for more social amenities and spaces so that they can enjoy their weekends stone cold sober.

That’s a good point. Do we really expect workers who do hard labour to stay in their dorms on their day off? They want to meet and mingle, send money home and yes, knock back a few beers just like the locals do.

TWC2 has a point when it said that “a more sustainable solution’’ involving creating sheltered spaces with amenities should be found. “We need to be conscious of the fact that sometimes Singapore actively denies foreign workers use of public spaces, such as void decks. Moreever, with low pay, they can’t afford to spend their leisure time within commercial spaces,’’ the NGO said on its website. With just the five-foot ways and open fields which are no good in the rain, they will crowd on walkways.  

“This can raise tempers,’’ it said. Presumably it is referring not just to the temper of the migrants but residents, shopkeepers and other locals who would view it as an “invasion’’ of their space.    

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Maybe the NGOs themselves can step up to the plate here?  Not too long ago, there were movie screenings on open fields for them – are they still on? And football and cricket matches were played. Can NGOs and business groups, and even the labour movement, work together to take over the organisational aspects? Or can the foreign workers themselves be encouraged to organise such activities for their community?

Possible to bring the remittance agencies to the dorms? Rather than have them go to Little India to send money home?

What I really want to know is the name of the hero who tried to protect the female bus conductor in the initial stages of the riot. The burly man in a plaid shirt has been caught on camera and video shielding her and waving off the rioters. I hope he wasn’t injured in the process.  

We should give that man a…Kingfisher?

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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