Commonwealth Games: The Indian Ishtyle

A tumultuous week goes by and Commonwealth Games (CWG) are just round the corner. Two days back I asked my friend- Were the authorities sleeping all this while? Prompt came his reply “That is one allegation you can’t levy on them, they were very much awake”.

From the start, the attitude of the “men in charge” i.e Suresh Kalmadi & Co can be best described as apathetic. And while it would be easier to say that Kalmadi was in charge of the proceedings and therefore must go, government of Delhi and civic authorities need to apportion the blame as well. Sports minister M S Gill comparing the preparations of the games with wedding ceremony in India saying that by the end everything falls in place showed the mentality of the authorities concerned. And from the past two weeks dirt and mud is coming out, Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Organising Committee, has best shown his evading of questions and passing the onus.

Extravagance started four years back on the closing ceremony in Melbourne when bollywood big-wigs (Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee, Saif Ali Khan, etc) were paid exorbitantly, around 40 crores, for no more than 11 minutes’ performance. And what was dubbed initially as Rs 767 Cr affair got increased to 1620 Cr. Officials say that the figure has gone past 2000 Cr and rumor has it that it has spiraled well past 10,000 Cr and maybe even more.
So, where did the money go and why is the budget burgeoning? Recent developments have made our worst fears come true. Lax approach, shoddy state of affairs, passing the buck (and keeping lots of it in one’s pocket), all boiling down to that one infamous word which, sadly, defines our system- Corruption.

Inflated prices of equipments and paraphernalia- from treadmills to umbrellas and even toilet papers (It can happen only in India). Sample this- Rs 89,502 per computer rented for 45 days when the best of the best computer set is available for around Rs 60,000. 43 Ice making machines at 1, 06,279 as against 1.5 lakhs. Liquid soap dispenser hired at Rs 3397 when the best of the lot is available at Rs 460. And there are many more instances of lavish spending which could have been easily avoided.

The whole exercise of tender put in a clout as news surfaced about lawn bowl tracks built at 1.35 Cr per track by a Delhi firm as opposed to Australian firm which quoted Rs 27, 19,500 per track. Conflict of interest coming to the fore with international firm Rebound Ace grabbing the contract to relay tennis surfaces, Aditya Khanna being the the firm’s Indian representative, son of Anil Khanna who happens to be All India Tennis Association (AITA) secretary. Anil Khanna also held the post of Organising Committee (OC) treasurer, has recently resigned from the post. Also shown the door are Joint Director General T S Darbari accused of ridiculous payoffs to London based AM films and M.Jeychandren, treasurer of the Queen’s Baton Relay.
But all this was kind of on the expected lines (Corruption was bound to happen). What really is worrying is that Delhi is still dug up. Stadia are not yet ready and the one’s which were deemed ready lasted a couple of monsoon rains. Around 50 days to go and even asking the question “Will we be ready?” is abominable. Pessimism and cynicism is cropping up and just putting up a show (no extravagance) would be great.

I don’t believe that we must wait till the Games get over to look into all these corruption allegations and the guilty will be brought to justice after the Games. Suresh Kalmadi needs to go and OC needs to be dissolved and under the aegis of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, people of eminence need to overlook the remainder of the games.
Good or bad, one thing is for sure, Commonwealth Games, Delhi 2010 will be remembered.

Post script: In a land where politicians milk crores on fodder, cronyism and nepotism (all in the family), stamp paper, to even raising questions in the house, it’s no startling revelation that CWG wasn’t spared. After all Games are the fiefdoms of political class.

Aatish Sharma

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