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Saturday, October 16, 2010

COMMONWEALTH GAMES NOT FOR THE COMMON MAN?


This article was written well before the commonwealth games commenced and during the time when everybody “believed” that the commonwealth games were going to flop and were going to be a major embarrassment for India. These very hypocrites were later heard telling, “Oh! I always knew India is going to do it. India is the best.” I actually considered discarding this post of mine considering this drastic change in general opinion but then, I would be a hypocrite myself.

The build up to the Commonwealth Games wasn’t a very smooth one, which is an obvious fact. Credit goes to the media for bringing the various shortcomings to the notice of the common man and the concerned authority (though they were overdoing it by magnifying every scratch and leak in the stadia) which expedited the process in the right direction. News about incomplete stadiums, bad infrastructure and missed deadlines had become a part of our quotidian existence.

However, what caught my attention was something different. When I see figures like 28,000 crores* (maybe a lot more now) being spent on the games and in giving Delhi a facelift, it forces me to ponder, is it really worth it for a country like India?

Sports and entertainment, without a doubt, are a very important part of our existence today, probably the most exciting too. Representing your country in a sporting event like this is every sportsperson’s dream. But what if it’s happening at the cost of somebody’s basic subsistence?

Don’t even think for a moment that I’m accusing these deserving sportspeople of snatching a family’s food or shelter. However, in a country where millions are starving and struggling to survive, this exuberant squandering of the taxpayer’s money is immoral, criminal and pathetic.

One amongst my countless idiosyncrasies is, when I hear of a large amount of money being spent, I think of the countless other ways it could be disbursed. What you could possibly do with a figure like 28, 000 crores is crazy. If you were to give Rs 1 lakh of that amount per poor family, 28 lakh families would have benefitted and assuming that each family has an average of 4 members, then about 1.12 crore Indian people would have benefitted. Farmers could pay off their debts, education could become affordable or a family could simply just “live” for a year without the fear of starvation. Of course, I don’t expect this to happen. But then, is this spending justified?

Do these sporting events have absolutely any benefits?


“Economically it has been viewed as an industry around which cities can devise urban regeneration strategies. Socially it has been viewed as a tool for the development of urban communities and the reduction of social exclusion and crime.

 Most of these studies, however, have been conducted in advance of the events on behalf of interested parties without adequate measurement of final and intermediate outputs as well as inputs. Critical post-event studies point to their uneven impacts. Research shows that costs have usually been underestimated while beneficial impacts have been overestimated.

Gerd Ahlert (Institute of Economic Structures Research, Osnabruück) outlined a robust econometric forecasting model that has been applied to the Football World Cup 2006 in Germany. The calculation predicts huge pre-event investments and low direct economic impacts. But economic gains can be made indirectly through marketing and nation branding.

For modernizing nations, hosting a mega-event is a clear marker of international esteem for developmental achievements; in postmodern societies, events large and small fulfil the role of image generator.

Economic gains are less likely than social benefits, though this kind of legacy is difficult to plan and control.

From these studies, we can understand that these events could be passed off as a marketing scheme to show your country in a good light and raise its social standing. This could also bring in some investment but marginal compared to the money invested into the event. Sounds like a bad deal especially for a country like India. In spite of being the 2nd fastest growing economy and having the might of numbers behind us, India is still considered a poor country. Why? Because these numbers are attributed to the fact that the rich are getting richer and the poor don’t seem to be getting any better.

A study has shown that there are more poor people in 8 Indian states than in 26 African countries, a fact that was raised by Mr. Azim Premji in the 26th August, 2010 issue of the Times of India. Can we afford the luxury of spending so much money so injudiciously? Then why are we constantly trying to prove our “might”?

India is a proud country and its people think very highly of it, which is a great thing. So much so, that they are willing to deceive themselves by turning a blind eye to reality. The infrastructure and the standard of living have improved manifold times, especially in the urban centres but there is still a long journey ahead before India can begin comparing itself to the developed countries. However, that requires time and patience, which is not one of our best virtues.

China, which was our poor neighbour a couple of decades back is on its way to becoming a superpower and the knowledge that it has left us behind is troubling us. How often do politicians play with patriotic sentiments by calling India the next super power? Feels good, doesn’t it? I am a proud Indian but a rational Indian. I wish, like millions of you, that India becomes the greatest nation in the world but the way to do it is not by just hosting major sporting events. India can never be a super power if it keeps ignoring its poor, who are suffering because this great nation is trying to portray something that it is not.

Only when you recognize and acknowledge your flaws, will you correct them. The Indian government would go to any extent and spend any amount for the West to think highly of us. When Bill Clinton visited Hyderabad, the entire stretch he had to travel, was lined with flowerpots and there were huge billboards on the roads to hide “objectionable” sights.

Why, take the case of the Hollywood blockbuster slumdog millionaire. The kind of furore over the movie in Indian political and social circles was pretty amusing. “How can you show India like this? India is not only about the slums”, they say. Who says it is? But the slums are there and it is true and it is embarrassing. Not showing it in the movies or not talking about it is not going to change anything. Everybody knows it’s there. Aren’t we pushing it too far?

Take the case of the commonwealth games itself, how often did we hear the media and the various boards saying things like, “Oh the price money for the winners is still the same as the Sydney commonwealth games. Why is the infrastructure not as good as the Beijing Olympics? UK has already handed over a few stadiums to the International Olympic Committee for the 2012 Olympics. If you have already spent thousands of crores on this why can’t you spend a few more crores on that and make it as well as them”.

Sounds like a childish competition, doesn’t it? Not when it’s made possible out of honest, hardworking taxpayer’s money. Let me not even get into the corruption charges and misappropriation of crores of rupees that happens every time such an event takes place. I can’t help but wonder if these few are the ones responsible for bringing such events to India for their ulterior benefits. Is the government hand in glove with them? These are only speculations and nothing can or will be proved. This is quite evident and these men know it and move around with impunity.

So when is the right time for India to host such an event?

“We are ready to host the Olympics”, say some officials. It’s not only about having the money to host such events. When you have a country whose people are happy and have a stomach full, when they are satisfied and even then you have the additional funds, then you are ready.

The Commonwealth Games have gone on well and India has managed to save its face. The minimum return that we should have expected to get is some “social-standing”, according to research. The negative publicity, controversies and bad infrastructure has caused enough embarrassment that even a thousand slumdog billionaires wouldn’t be able to match up to. It is like putting the limelight on a ballet dancer with hands and legs fractured. Let’s just hope, for India’s sake, the successful hosting of the games has been able to overshadow the thousands of problems that had plagued it.

The disastrous start to this commonwealth games could have some positive implications too. The next time India thinks about hosting such an event, it would think a thousand times and right on top on its list of questions should be, “Do you want it, oh common man”?    

*Source: Times of India, 21st August, 2010-08-28



14 comments:

mink said...

i think i read somewhere that the misappropriated scam amount is Rs. 70,000 Crores! Yes you read that right!
And you're very right when you say that, and i quote the great man(Rajni saar), "The rich get richer, poor get poorer"!
Now that all the money has been spent and the games have gotten over, the question that arises to my mind is how much of the Rs. 70,000 Crores went into the wrong pockets. The government should dig into this and everyone found guilty should be hung(i know i'm talking a little impractically and patriotically!)
Damn good read! Thanks :)

ABI said...

get outta here..!!u shud b a columnist .. dats by far d best of blogs dat i hv read..!!
and damn 'em .. 33% of my money, including surcharge, EC, and SHEC, totally called the INCOME TAX is prolly used to buy tissues for the lavetories of the bigshots conducting the CWG :D ,, or may b to buy toothpricks for the players.. yaaaaay!!! dats awesome ryt.. am so excited,,, when i dont even know wats LAWN BOWLS.. WOW..:(

its sad wen people boast about the number of multiplexes in the cities, wen der r no PHCs or electricity in the hamlets, which form lyk 70% of the population.. r v relli dat shallow??and ya,, v giv preference 2 shallow things..and we dont need such gargantuan celebrations, wen few of us r deprived of our evryday necessity like FOOD.. this s class "z" genocide... and am a part of it.. :( wen i dont wanna be..but am working my way out of it.. :)




*dis is called the "mrs. krishnammal jaganathan " effect on me, and ts cos of the recent conversation i had wid her..she got me thinking.."Normal" me aint dis deep.. :P

Anonymous said...

"the govt should probe this"..be practical guys.....the money is for those who are in the govt....

and 28k crores being distributed to 1lakh families is probably no that gr8 idea because most of the people who get money for free in this case dont spend it to repay loans or anything...we cant criticize the media for everything...it did have an impact on the cwg...if it wasnt for the media, may be the authorities wouldnt even bothered to clean up the mess.

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Mayank--- If 70,000 is true, it's just pathetic man....there has to be a probe. Things would really have to change.
And thank you :)

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Abi--- thank you so much :D good to know your thinking deep and doing stuff....you seem to be on the right track :D

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Anonymous--- well I never said the money should be distributed. I was saying it's just a thought and I didn't expect it to happen.

I said the media was responsible for expediting the process in the right direction but they did overdo it at times.

ABI said...

yeahhh ;)

kvsmohan said...

Ashish, that was a brilliant piece of writing.Truly countries like ours cannot afford such costly events when it is a known fact that the money never really goes where it is required. The high rate of spiralling inflation, cost of living, poor health conditions and infrastructure all have made the common man's life miserable. However, who cares !! The Govt. as usaul puts up a committee which will give the necessary report for filing. And then it is Business, as usual. Already there is talk of hosting the Olympics ! God save us.

Ashish Kalsi said...

@KVS Mohan--- Thank you so much :)
Everybody seems to know right from wrong but it's unfortunate that these things still keep happening. Can just hope that things change for the better.

Varshaa said...

I am nt really informed of all the politics happenin. All I wanna say is tht ur getti beter and better at writing..!!! keep it goin ! very good piece of writing Ash!

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Varshaa--- well it's the usual here...the drama would go on for a while and would eventually just fade away....and thank you so much. You have been very supportive right from the start and I really appreciate it. Means a lot. Thank you :)

kvsmohan said...

Ashish, that was a brilliant piece of writing.Truly countries like ours cannot afford such costly events when it is a known fact that the money never really goes where it is required. The high rate of spiralling inflation, cost of living, poor health conditions and infrastructure all have made the common man's life miserable. However, who cares !! The Govt. as usaul puts up a committee which will give the necessary report for filing. And then it is Business, as usual. Already there is talk of hosting the Olympics ! God save us.

ABI said...

get outta here..!!u shud b a columnist .. dats by far d best of blogs dat i hv read..!!
and damn 'em .. 33% of my money, including surcharge, EC, and SHEC, totally called the INCOME TAX is prolly used to buy tissues for the lavetories of the bigshots conducting the CWG :D ,, or may b to buy toothpricks for the players.. yaaaaay!!! dats awesome ryt.. am so excited,,, when i dont even know wats LAWN BOWLS.. WOW..:(

its sad wen people boast about the number of multiplexes in the cities, wen der r no PHCs or electricity in the hamlets, which form lyk 70% of the population.. r v relli dat shallow??and ya,, v giv preference 2 shallow things..and we dont need such gargantuan celebrations, wen few of us r deprived of our evryday necessity like FOOD.. this s class "z" genocide... and am a part of it.. :( wen i dont wanna be..but am working my way out of it.. :)




*dis is called the "mrs. krishnammal jaganathan " effect on me, and ts cos of the recent conversation i had wid her..she got me thinking.."Normal" me aint dis deep.. :P

Ashish Kalsi said...

@Anonymous--- well I never said the money should be distributed. I was saying it's just a thought and I didn't expect it to happen.

I said the media was responsible for expediting the process in the right direction but they did overdo it at times.