Well Said, Mani Shankar!
It is usually not easy to concur with the views that Mani Shankar Aiyar often articulates for the benefit of the people on various current national concerns. He has openly spoken on the “The agony and the Irony of the Commonwealth Games”. He equates the organisation of these Games to a jamboree that “reflects a misplaced sense of pride and distortion of national priorities”. He hits the nail on the head; and the vibrations reach the ears of every concerned citizen; when he says that “the money could have been well spent on bringing basic sports to every mohalla and Panchayat.” Mani Shankar deserves appreciation for one of his attributes which is so rare amongst politicians these days: he sticks to his views even when his own people do not come forward to accept these or support him. His latest articulation on the ‘prestigious’ Commonwealth Games, CWG-2010, have been termed as ‘anti-national’ by the current Czar of the politics of Indian sports Suresh Kalmadi. The Chairperson of the organising committee, Kalmadi, when asked about the Chief Vigilance Commissioners report on fraud in construction works came out with a possibly already-prepared response: “I have nothing to do with the construction works!” Mani Shankar, spurned by his electorate in the Puddukottai Parliamentary constituency in Tamilnadu, has perhaps made some sincere efforts to assess and comprehend the mood of the people of India better than before. What he has said on the ensuing Games is an expression of general consensus amongst those who take interest in education sports and the welfare of the future generations of India. It is indeed so tough for the general public to visualise what benefits would accrue to the children and young of India as the outcomes of these Games? Mani’s apprehensions are based on very sound logic: After the successful completion of the Games; vested interests shall not sit quiet. These would embark upon other ventures of higher magnitude being brought to the country; thus relegating the burning issues before the nation being relegated to the background!
The CWG-2010 must be a rare example of initial estimates ballooning over hundred times on what is the direct expenditure. It is not only the cynics but people in general confidently point out that delay in sanctioning work contracts was deliberate? Less time for execution a certain task provides greater justification for cost inflation, less rigorous inspection and all that which everyone knows. Catering contracts have not yet been sanctioned. At the last moment, procedural formalities shall be waived off and you know who will get the contracts. Most of the construction work is said to be behind schedule. Visit the Connaught Place, officially the Rajiv Chowk, of Delhi and you would be reminded of a war ravaged town of Iraq or Afghanistan. But if you are the proud citizen of Delhi, or preferably New Delhi, you must know that it is just the prior preparation for a great prestigious event; the Commonwealth Games; CWG- 2010; which India is blessed to get the opportunity to organise in October this year. One witnesses demolitions, repairs and construction all around. Everyone seems to be worried on one count, India must provide best hospitality to the guests. No one associated with the organisation of the Games talks about what preparations Indian sportsmen and sportswomen selected to participate in these Games are making to bring laurels to India. No one is talking about the usual advantage that the host country gets in such situations by permitting its players to practice on home turf! This has already been lost. China completed all its preparations for the Olympics exactly on schedule; leaving one full year to its own participants to use the newly created facilities. Large number of functionaries; ‘officials and organisers’; from India had visited Beijing to study the organisation of Olympics to learn lessons for the CWG-2010. The government of Delhi and the Indian Olympic Association regularly declare it from rooftops that these Games would bring glory and prestige to India. Everyone would like that to happen; CWG-2010 must be held properly and in adequately acceptable conditions. People in general are concerned that all this is orchestrated to help political leadership in power in Delhi to acquire higher reputation. Certain vested interests see great potential in this event; it would pave the way to bid for organising the ultimate, the Olympic Games in near future. Imagine the scale of constructions, contracts that would flow and ‘contacts’ that would be reaping the harvests on such an occasion! The Chief Minister of Delhi appears worried and harried but dexterously attempts to exude confidence and even assurance: the CWG would be a great success! She would obviously like no one to talk about any deficiency in any aspect of the prestigious preparation for the Games. Not many may recall that the bid for the Games was made in 2003 by the Delhi government without any concurrence or approval from the central cabinet. A couple of people decided that they should bring the Games to India; they were successful and now everyone is supposed to appreciate whatever is being done in the name of national prestige. In 2003, it was stated that the Delhi government needs no assistance from others (read central government) and it would organise on its own. The initial estimates were projected at just a few hundred crores which have now got inflated to over thirty thousand crore. Some are of the view that both direct and indirect expenditure would touch a figure that crosses one lakh crore!
Mani Shankar’s observations deserve serious debate. What benefits would accrue to the children and youth of India if the Games, hopefully, are a great success? We all know that it will create no impact on the condition of sports and games in schools and colleges. The only benefit would be that the money bags in collusion with the politicians shall go all out to bring more such events to India which means more construction, more swanky flats, more contracts and more of liaison activity. It would help the mobile companies and those in the hospitality business. Remember the 1982 Asiad Games. India got its low power television stations—which could have transformed the elementary education scenario of the country. That was not to be, India lost on the basic objective of using television for education and literacy. We became another entrant amongst countries trying their best to ape the West. TV became a purely commercialisation venture and even Doordarshan followed suit. Asian Games that were organised in 1982 were certainly far better planned and managed.
How visitors and the tourists would come to India for the Games alone? India’s position in the arena of sports and games invariably remains more or less comparable to its poor rating on Human Development Index (HDI). Obviously, no one is expecting wonders being created in these Games by Indian participants, though one would very much like that to happen. The numbers of those who may come to India just to see the prowess of India in sports and games would certainly be worth being counted on fingers. Even those who would come to India would like to see the India of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Baba Sahib Ambedkar, Sri Aurobindo and other illustrious Indians who were original in thought and deeds. They would not come to witness how far ahead India has gone in copying the West. In fact, most of them would be disappointed to witness the way Indians are getting delinked from India! This exactly what the British wanted to do ‘to subjugate India’! They failed but now Indians themselves have decided to do the same! One would like to concur totally with Mani Shankar when he articulates: “The only good that would come out of Commonwealth Games would be a decision to never again bid for such games until every Indian child gets a minimum to eat, an assured basic education and a playground with trained coaches to discover the sportsperson in himself or herself. That, alas, is no part of our self-satisfied middle class dream for India which is why Maoist is knocking at our gates.”
One wishes that decision is indeed taken and adhered to. Amen.
By JS Rajput
The writer is the former Director of the NCERT and the former Chairperson of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE)