Thursday, October 14, 2010

Redeem India's honour - An open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

I write to you as a common citizen of this country, who like millions of others is concerned at all the charges of incompetence, dereliction of duty and corruption levelled against those in the positions of authority in various government and other bodies responsible for making the infrastructure ready for the Commonwealth Games. Through this letter I hope to urge you to deliver on your promise to investigate these charges and to hand out ‘exemplary punishment’ to those found guilty.

The last of the fireworks lighting up the Delhi sky this evening have just marked an end to the Commonwealth Games’ closing ceremony. Allow me to congratulate you and my fellow citizens on India holding the games successfully and safely! It goes to your government’s credit that it has managed to snatch success from the jaws of failure which till about two weeks ago looked the almost certain outcome.

However, tomorrow morning ought to bring a mood of introspection for all of us, as to why the entire nation was put in such a precarious situation by the scandalous and shameful conduct of most of the Games’ organisers, not just in the organising committee, as extensively reported on in the print and electronic media. The fair reputation of this country, built through decades of hard work and determination by our space, nuclear and agricultural scientists, exporters of civil and electrical engineering projects and IT and ITES industry amongst others, was severely tarnished in just a few months by some selfish individuals. We must understand why such a situation was allowed to come to be and what is being done so that it is never again repeated in the future.

I believe that you, as the leader of the country, should take lead in enlightening the nation on what went wrong and setting things right for our future generations to never have to be in the same situation again. The citizens of India will not rest until action has been taken against all those guilty of sullying the name of our beloved nation.

The steps below, if followed, would go a long way in convincing the common man that your government is serious about tackling this issue.

(1) Please appoint immediately an inquiry commission chaired by a person high in integrity, competence and courage – the name of former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh springs to mind (or if he is not available, another person widely known to be his equal in these measures). He should be allowed to hand-pick a team of investigators and they should be given a period of twelve months to complete the inquiry. The detailed terms of this inquiry should include the following matters:

i) In 2003, at the time of bidding for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, under what circumstances, and by whom, was it decided that each of the other 71 countries in the Commonwealth should be given a cash incentive of US$100,000 ?

ii) Confident of India “shining”, the NDA government had won the bid for holding the 2010 Games but India was found to be less than “shining” in the May 2004 general elections and the NDA government lost. Did the new government, UPA’s, in 2004 or 2005, consider rescinding the proposal to hold the Games on the ground of their non-affordability by a country which was still facing the problem of malnutrition, even starvation deaths?

iii) Who decided to send a large contingent led by popular Hindi film actors to put up a Bollywood-inspired “cultural” show at the closing ceremony of the Melbourne 2006 Games? Was any thought given to the fact that this itself was going to cost the country Rs.29 crore as against only Rs.3 crore spent on sending the sportspersons to Melbourne?

iv) The cost overrun of organizing the Games has been more than fifteen times the original budget – what is the explanation for this and who is responsible?

v) Who are the people responsible for leaving almost everything for the last of the seven years given for making ready for the Games? And then for suspending the Codal requirements and laid-down procedures for tendering in the name of saving “national prestige”?

vi) Were Jaipal Reddy, M.S. Gill, Tejender Khanna, Sheila Dikshit, Suresh Kalmadi, Lalit Bhanot and their senior officers responsible for misleading the nation at any stage into believing that all was well with the Games’ arrangements? Are there any credible charges of corruption, incompetence or dereliction of duty against any of these people? Did they exercise sufficient supervision and control and institute systems for timely completion of various projects and for elimination of any corrupt practices by their juniors?

vii) Did Mike Fennel, Mike Hooper and others of the Commonwealth Games Federation recommend to the Games organising committee their own kith and kin for award of various contracts?

viii) Were the senior functionaries of the Games organising committee guilty of nepotism while recruiting their staff, very highly paid by the standards of the Indian public sector?

ix) Why did the central government wait until the 19th August 2010, i.e. only 45 days before the start of the Games, before curtailing the powers of the Games organising committee and placing it under a group of senior civil servants? This despite the ultimate humiliation suffered at the hands of the visiting British prime minister, David Cameron, when, during a meeting of the two prime ministers on the 28th July 2010, he offered to hold the Games in London if India was having problems in organising them. Even a constant barrage of damning media reports on the sordid state of affairs in the organising committee had failed to move the central government before it finally did!

x) What was the total amount spent on providing Games-related infrastructure (to be listed project-wise) and that on organizing the Games? How much of it was actually put up on the ground, and what portion lost to corruption and what to sheer wastage? A case in point is the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, built at a cost of about Rs.30 crore in 1982 - equivalent to today’s Rs.500 crore – but renovated at Rs.961 crore for the 2010 Games.

xi) What was the over-all scale of corruption and who are the main persons accountable for it – in the central and Delhi governments, CPWD, DDA, NDMC, MCD and in the games’ organizing committee? How does the organizing committee explain spending obscene sums of money on renting overlay equipments, hiring services and buying ordinary articles of daily use, like toiletry?

xii) What is the quality of construction of various stadia and other buildings, roads – surface and raised, underpasses, overbridges and cloverleaves built for the Games or as a Games-related project? Was any compromise made with the engineering designs and quality of construction because the entire exercise had to be rushed and/or to benefit some preferred architects and contractors?

xiii) When was the first time the UPA cabinet discussed any matter relating to the 2010 Games? And what was discussed, what decisions were taken?

xiv) Was it a UPA cabinet decision not to assign the entire responsibility of organizing the 2010 Games to a single authority? If so, for what reasons?

xv) How many times from the 22nd May 2004 until about a year ago, when the Commonwealth Games Federation raised an alarm over Delhi’s lack of preparedness for the 2010 Games, did the Union cabinet discuss this state of preparedness and were any remedial measures decided and taken?

xvi) After the CGF alarm, did the Union cabinet appoint any oversight committee for the Games’ preparation?

xvii) Right up to two days before the Games started, the shoddy and shameful upkeep of the games village, collapsing foot over-bridge, caving in arterial roads and falling false ceiling had been getting international opprobrium, what agencies and individuals are accountable for this all?

xviii) What was the need to dig up pavements in a good condition and giving them an expensive make over? At whose orders was this done? And who was behind spending hundreds of crores for giving a new look to the Connaught Place? Could mere re-plastering followed by white wash for perhaps Rs. ten to fifteen crore not do?

xix) Who are the persons really responsible for creating an impression among all connected with the Games, be they in the central or Delhi government or the Games’ organising committee, and exercising financial powers that money was not a problem and that in order to save the “national prestige” they could spend any amount, in fact, the more, the better?

xx) Why were no lessons learnt from the 1982 Delhi Asiad which was organised in a far more professional manner at a fraction of the cost of the 2010 Games, even after providing for the accumulated inflation, and for which the then central government and Delhi administration had got only two years and nine months as compared to the six years and four months available to the UPA’s central government and more than seven years to the Delhi government?

xxi) Knowing fully well that the first half of October is the dengue season in Delhi, why did the powers that be agree to hold the Games precisely at that time? The 2010 Games could be held in November (like the 1982 Delhi Asiad), pushing the Guandong Asiad to December 2010 or Spring 2011.

xxii) What was the state of preparedness for organizing the 2010 Games at the time the Melbourne 2006 Games were held?

xxiii) Did the central and Delhi cabinets ever ponder over the human cost of holding these games which in any case are considered only friendly and un-official by the International Olympic Committee? Who are the persons in the central and Delhi governments accountable for forced eviction of the city’s voiceless brazenly violating the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement, to which India officially subscribes?

xxiv) Who were the people responsible for paying daily wages much less than the statutory minimum of Rs.203 to as many as 1,00,000 construction and other workers? And for not providing protective gear to them, nor drinking water, medical facilities and livable quarters to their families, nor crèches and schools for their children?

xxv) How many vendors, street hawkers and rickshaw pullers were driven out of Delhi, for how long and at whose orders? Were they compensated in some ways for loss of their livelihood, and how? And how are their children going to make up for loss of schooling?

xxvi) Who decided to uproot scores of thousands of slum dwellers in the run up to the Games, very many of them in the Delhi’s worst ever rainy season? Where were they relocated? Were they given any alternative dwellings?

xxvii) Whose decision was this to drive the beggars away from Delhi for months? Was it considered what would happen to them and their families?

xxviii) At whose orders thousands of Delhi University students, both boys and girls, were denied the use of their hostels for more than three months? Was any thought given to where they would find alternative board and lodging and at what cost? Was it of no consequence to the decision makers that it would adversely affect their studies?

(2) In the interest of impartial conduct of the inquiry, not to mention their prima-facie ineptitude, inability to self-start and exercise control and lack of strategic thinking, please remove immediately Jaipal Reddy, M.S. Gill, Tejendra Khanna and Sheila Dikshit from their offices. They, however, should be told to be available to the inquiry commission all through and cooperate with it fully. If given a clean chit by the inquiry commission they could be restored to their positions, otherwise they should never be, nor even considered for a sinecure like the governorship of a state.

(3) Please also immediately replace the organizing committee from Suresh Kalmadi down to the deputy directors general by a small team of civil servants having proven ability and competence. The replaced persons should be ordered to assist the new team when called upon to and be also available to the inquiry commission, if necessitated by their conduct and the gravity of the charges against them, they could even be asked to be deposit their passports with the government. Until they are cleared by the inquiry commission, none of these persons should again be associated with a government or joint sector project in any manner.

(4) Immediately on its submission, please make the inquiry commission’s report public and set about meting out political and administrative punishments to the indicted or prosecuting them in a court of law, as required. Of course, please rehabilitate those found innocent with alacrity.

(5) The apparent success of the Games, despite months of uncertainty, confusion and minor and major disasters which severely dented India’s image as an emerging super power, has emboldened the protagonists to claim that Delhi or India is ready to hold the Asiad or Olympics. Based on what China spent in organizing the last Olympics and the fact that ‘inefficiencies’ are much greater in this country, it is estimated that organizing the Olympics in the 2020’s will set the country back by US$100 billion (or Rs.4,50,000 crore) at 2010 prices, and obviously by much, much more at the then current prices. Under no circumstances can we afford to spend this humongous amount on a sporting extravaganza to please some Indian politicians and bureaucrats and international and Indian sports bureaucrats! It should not at all figure on our list of priorities unless of course we develop in the real sense in the next decade or so. Therefore, I would request you to make a binding promise and commitment in Parliament that in future an Indian city, surely not Delhi which has already held two Asiads and one Commonwealth Games, will be allowed to bid for an Asiad, Olympics or Commonwealth Games only in the event of all, repeat all, of the following targets being fulfilled:

a) The country’s per capita is at least US$5,000 at 2010 prices.

b) On the United Nations’ Social Development Index, India is among the top 50 countries - in 2009, it was at the 134th place.

c) The Transparency International has placed India among the world’s 25 least corrupt countries (in 2009, there were 84 countries less corrupt than India).

d) In each of the last two Olympics, India has won at least 15 gold medals.

e) We would be able to take the visiting chefs de mission around our labour camps with pride.

f) It is no longer necessary to use view-cutters to hide our shame.

g) No part of the country is troubled by armed insurgency.

The entire country is watching as to whether you can strike a decisive blow against corruption, incompetence and dereliction of duty by public servants, and leave a lasting legacy for the people of this country to remember you by. This is a God sent opportunity for you to redeem the honour of India and her citizens. Please do not fail us.

Thanking you,


Kanan V. Jaswal

Noida (U.P.)

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