Pramod Biligiri's Blog

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Delhi Darbar
pramod kde
There's understandably a lot of outrage at how the Commonwealth Games have been mismanaged by the government bodies. But this feeling has been mostly about corruption, incompetence, cleanliness etc. There's another class of cruelties related to the Games that should have elicited quick condemnation, much earlier.

For example, for many months now the Delhi government has been rounding up thousands of beggars, hawkers and deporting them so that visitors esp. foreigners are not disturbed. A Frontline article provides good info about that. Indeed there are laws against begging on the streets, but the current drive is linked too closely to the Games so it's unsettling. The relevant Minister has been found saying, We Indians are used to beggars. Westerners are not. So, we must make the city free of them. Many slums have been demolished. It is good to see property rights being enforced but the Games themselves violate that idea in many ways.

That Frontline piece refers to a study done by a land rights related think tank. I went through parts of that very well written report and have shared it on Google docs. Below is page 77 from the same (click to enlarge):

Schools have been ordered to close during the period of the Games. Students at Delhi University hostel have been evicted to make way for Games related delegates so they've Youtubed a good discussion program about the various negatives of the Games. The numerous construction projects and now traffic restrictions will no doubt take a toll on quality of life in the city. The Hindustan Times warns Delhi-ites, "for the next one month, try not to get married, don't visit family and friends, do not shift or renovate your house and if possible, don't fall sick. In other words, either stay home during the Games or if possible, go on a long vacation."

Back in '06 the Delhi govt. had signed MoU's with some quasi-governmental power generation/distribution companies with explicit guarantees just for the Games. Of which, NTPC - the official power partner - has been able to ramp up. A huge chunk of power was expected from greenfield power plants of Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC, govt-owned), but this has not come through partly because of land acquisition problems: Andal project in Bengal follows the usual villagers-protest police-firing Mamta-Bannerjee theme. Koderma plant got stalled due to land owners not consenting. (Thankfully no violence). I don't know how the rest have fared.

Still, I see a newspaper report that there will be blatant diversion of power from UP, Bengal towards the Games by all involved parties in violation of laws and wonders if the Electricity Regulatory Commission will sue the Delhi government.

Philosophically too, there's nothing to commend the Games. If we think it's sensible or feasible for government to spend thousands of crores for a sporting extravaganza we're bound to be disappointed in many ways. It's almost an adage that such events are mired in corruption. If further proof is necessary, that report I've shared has a wealth of historical data.

To me the most frightening part is how so many people believe that the Games have something to do with their emotional connection to the idea of India and wish for its success from a patriotic standpoint. The Twitterverse and incessant media coverage only reinforce that sentiment. This is not entirely unexpected. Even during the 2008 Beijing Olympics many youth took offense at criticism of Chinese government's handling of the games (which was probably a 100 times worse than anything our govt. can conceive of!).

Normally I give a pass to older folks on this issue, because their idea of India differs in many ways. But if you are in your 20's or 30's and nurture any nationalist feeling about the current Commonwealth Games, you ought to exorcise that ghost. Hopefully next time around more Indians will rise up and protest if India even considers bidding for such an event!

P.S: My similar post on the '08 Olympics.


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