Saturday, September 18, 2010

The real danger in the Commonwealth Games' success

Anyone having access to news reporting by the print or electronic media is well aware of the highly corrupt and incompetent manner in which the Organising Committee and the various agencies of the central and Delhi governments are making arrangements for holding the Commonwealth Games in Delhi from the 3rd to 15th of the next month. The total cost of the games, including expenditure on stadia and urban infrastructure, will never be known to the people of India who have to bear it like a cross. It could easily cross rupees seventy thousand crore or US$15 billion, here it can be noted that the entire expenditure on the 2006 Commonwealth Games held in Melbourne (Australia) had come to US$1 billion, of course there they did not have to spend money on providing modern infrastructure. What has made it worse is that all this construction, except perhaps of the Delhi Metro, is of suspect quality because it has somehow been put up on the ground. Since only the last of the seven years given to Delhi for the games’ preparation was used for this purpose, in very many cases proper tendering and other codal requirements were suspended because it had become a matter of national prestige to complete all projects related to the games in time. Why could the UPA I & II governments at the centre having a continuous run of six years and four months to the games and the Congress government in Delhi having been in place since 1998 not prepare for the games in a planned way? There is no answer to this question; the Organising Committee headed by Suresh Kalmadi of the Congress and a multiplicity of central and Delhi government agencies are being blamed collectively for the monumental mess. And since the culprits are far too many, they all will escape punishment; after all there is security in numbers.

Somehow, however, the games will be held and because of the colourful pageantry and servile hospitality, for which the Indians are known the world over, throughout the games together with heavy-duty gyrating by the Bollywood stars at the opening and closing ceremonies they may even be called successful. There will be another reason behind the tag of ‘successful’ – the Commonwealth Games Federation can not afford to call any such games ‘unsuccessful’ for the fear of dissuading future bidders. The games are a cash cow for the Federation and its functionaries and must, therefore, go on at all costs (to the cities and countries holding them).

And there lies the real danger. Having held the Commonwealth Games ‘successfully’ the Indian government will be emboldened to bid for the 2019 Asiad and 2020 Olympics when the bidding for them will be held around 2012-2013. To the Indian people the government will claim that most of the infrastructure is already in place in Delhi and will only require refurbishing. But in reality, for holding the Olympics in Delhi, India will have to outspend what China did on the 2008 Beijing Olympics - US$45 billion were officially spent, actually it was close to US$60 billion. Making allowance for much worse corruption and inefficiency in India, total expenses of the Delhi Olympics is not likely to be lower than US$100 billion or rupees 4,80,000 crore at 2008 prices. For estimating the actual amount to be spent in 2020 or later cumulative inflation since 2008 will have to be taken into account. There is a real possibility that the amount will thus inflate to rupees 10 lac crore in 2020. So, whenever the Indian Olympic Association or the government speaks about holding the Olympics in Delhi we should know the kind of funds to be deployed – Rs. 10 lac crore or more. Can the people of India afford this extravaganza, particularly when they know that half of the amount is going to be gobbled up by the unholy alliance of politicians, bureaucrats, builders and other free-loaders? The expenses over the 2019 Asiad would be about one-fourth for the Olympics, and so would be the loot.

Let this be decided once and for all that until Indians have a per-capita income of minimum US$5,000 at 2010 prices, India will not bid for any games – Asiad, Commonwealth or Olympics. Let the Indian government beware that its ultimate masters, the Indian people, are now awake and watching its moves carefully.

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