The Commonwealth Games are less than two months away and New Delhi is very busy preparing itself to receive the 100,000 tourists expected.
The CWG will be the largest sporting event to be held till date in India. The CWG is a matter of National pride and through its successful completion the Government intends to show the world that India has progressed.
When work on the Commonwealth Games began in 2006, the budget was an estimated Rs 22,000 crores. Four years later, the budget has shot up to Rs 30,000 crores.
The Commonwealth Games Village had a budget of Rs 464 crores in 2004 and now has a budget of Rs 1400 crores.
The expenses seem endless, and currently it looks like the Government is shedding an additional few hundred crores of rupees on a daily basis to new and unexpected expenditures, such as, streetscaping, traffic and communications infrastructure, and also security which demanded Rs 370 crores in light of recent terrorist attacks in India.
Under the pretext of the Games, New Delhi is undergoing rapid infrastructural changes. Very soon, affluent residents of Delhi can boast of living in a truly world-class city.
The beautification of the city involves building flyovers and under-bridges, relaying bad roads, constructing lavish five star hotels, underground metro train stations, etc., besides preparing the city for the sporting event by renovating existing sports stadia as well as constructing new ones.
The beautification process is intended to project New Delhi as an emerging modern, world-class city. Internationally, what the common man knows about India is what he sees on television. India is seen as a land of slums and poor people – accentuated further by the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The beautification ahead of the Games is intended to make international tourists change their mindset about Delhi, and realize with awe that Delhi is truly world-class.
Another significant aspect of the beautification process is the eviction of slum-dwellers. In order to “clean-up” the city and make it look modern, over 100,000 slum dwellers have been evicted from their dwellings and been forced to move to the outskirts of the city.
As over 100,000 beggars and destitute families have left their homes and moved to the outskirts, it seems to me that the Government believes that national prestige lies in making the nation’s poor suffer. As always, the Government has not been successful in rehabilitating all the families. Most of them still remain homeless. What’s more – even their livelihood has been taken away from them. Rickshaw pullers have no work in the outskirts, and it takes them an exhausting two hours to drive into the city to find people who require rickshaws. The sole breadwinners for their families, are now struggling more than ever to make both ends meet.
Another direct consequence of the games is how living in Delhi has become more expensive. Delhi has been ranked the most expensive city in India to live in. The Commonwealth Games has added increased the size of the hole in the common man’s pocket. Facing a financial crisis due to the Games, the Delhi Government has resorted to increasing taxes and removing subsidies. As per the 2010-11 Delhi budget, the common man now pays 40 rupees more for LPG since the subsidy on it has been removed, and 20 per cent tax on diesel fuel (previously 12.5%). Bottled drinks, energy drinks and juices, tea and coffee have also become dearer. Tea and coffee outlets are now taxed 12.5 per cent extra while other bottled drinks now cost 20 per cent more. .
Has the government considered the fact that India is a developing country, with nearly 40% of its people below poverty line, before it bid Rs.22,000 crores to host a sporting event? I feel that the 22 grand crore rupees are only going to help portray Delhi as a world-class city in front of the world. That, in any case, is a false image. I don’t see anything world class about the way the evicted homeless are living right now. If the government had invested that money in the development and education of the poor, at Rs. 1 lakh per poor family, 22 million families would be living a better life as of today! But instead of investing money on them, the government has actually looted them of their homes and livelihood and left them to suffer on the streets, while it is working hard on the country’s prestige to conduct the Commonwealth Games.
Moreover, if the government really thought India’s pride was at stake, I’d think the organizing procedure would be free of corruption charges. The British government has raised questions about why A M Films, a little known British company, was receiving 25,000 pounds a month from the Games Organizing Committee. The OC is reported to have made a substantial payment for video equipment while A M Films had claimed that it provided car hire services, make-shift toilets, barriers and electricity. There has been no written contract agreement between the two. Another disturbing discovery is that all quality certificates scrutinized by the CVC on games projects have been forged. Renovation of the well known Jawaharlal Nehru stadium has been so sub-standard that the roof starting leaking when heavy showers happened recently.
Where is the national pride in hosting an event in this way?
The Commonwealth Games is a complete waste of public money. Delhi will be a world-class city when poverty is eradicated rather than hidden.
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