For or Against CWG?

This is the simple question with which begins the quest of Shekhar Gupta in his piece “Temporary Insanity”. He reminds how readers were proud until 2 weeks ago of this major competitive event and of the hoardings and newspaper advertisements that were coming up, “drilling basic lessons in civic sense: how to treat foreign tourists with dignity, keeping the city clean, etc, etc”. Not only that, he says, “….we were indeed pleased that the Commonwealth Games had become such a gift to India’s capital”. He then moves on to claim the credit for being the first through the four stories filed by the journalists of IE in exposing the now bloated “Hawa” of corruption that has sullied the fair image of the games. The belief that corruption is to the extent of tens of thousands of crores in CWG is like scoring a self goal when according to him the evidence doesn’t suggest more than 1 ot 2 crores at the most. To describe this build up as “utterly dangerous beliefs” in total disregard to the “cold light of facts” he has added a new phrase to our political lexicon, “Twitterisation of journalism”.
I must say despite a profound disagreement with much of what he has to say, I have to totally agree with him in his new found phrase of twitterisation of journalism. If by twitterisation he means irresponsible & speedy chorus about trivialities that mainstream media is capable to whip up into frenzy most of the time, then my agreement with him turns into unabashed admiration of his candid admission about his profession. But that is not what he means. His accusing finger is pointed at his readers and not at his profession. Before we move on to examine his major premises, take a look at the factsheet his paper has presented.

Indira Gandhi’s staging of Asian games in 1982 “with her call of India can do it” is of course a stratagem he uses to arouse the feeling of chauvinism & patriotism to make readers fall in line. But he has to omit the “Cold light of Fact” that how the mighty Indira and her desperate bureaucracy had to shamelessly call on the Armed Forces to take over the entire management of the games including security. It was an abject failure of her administration and an abdication of responsibility. There was a talk then among some circles that if even the games cannot be handled by the civilian administration, then might as well armed forces take over the management of the country. If they deliver on the games, surely they could deliver on the Nation too. Fortunately, no one in the army to their eternal credit took such talk seriously. Opposition to organizing such grand spectacles those are no different than the filthy extravaganzas engaged in the marriage ceremonies of the rich and mighty existed even then. Like the nuptials, holding the games adds to the “prestige” and “power” of few, but does little for the rest. An argument proffered then that holding such sporting events in the country would spur Indians to seek glory on the podiums of world class sporting competitions hasn’t come to pass in last 30 years save some embarrassing individual glories achieved through individual efforts here and there. विद्रोहकी आवाज तबभी उठी थी गोरख पाण्डेय की समर्थ वाणीसे : स्वर्गसे बिदाई : The translation is by Radhika Menon( Robbing the Commons for the Games of the Wealthy).

Gupta also forgot when he wrote his piece that he is the editor in chief of a national daily and not of some small time pamphlet coming out of Delhi. India is not Delhi, and even if Delhi is the national capital, Delhi is not India. Therefore, when he talks of the feeling of “Delhiites” about CWG being a gift to the national capital; obviously he is unable to see like them beyond his nose. Again, the inhabitants of national capital region are not a monolith to talk in one voice. So of what slice of the Delhi’s population is he talking about. He is not talking about the thousands evicted from the informal settlements and slums for beautification & construction activities, or of the thousands of livelihoods destroyed of rickshaw pullers, street vendors and informal sector workers who have been shooed off the streets of Delhi to protect the sensibilities of our foreign guests, nor is he talking about the rampant exploitation of the thousands of workers involved in creating the “beautiful edifices” of the games. Likewise nor are the numerous other poor and lower middleclass families, who are only concerned about their daily food basket that price rise is mercilessly assaulting, are on his radar. When one excludes all these voiceless people, then what is one left with? That is the class, the well heeled or those aspiring to be well heeled, is his concern (Read Whose Wealth Whose Commons?).
One of the strategies used like in the case of Wikileaks ‘Afghan Diary dump’ to trivialize any highly significant discloser is to belittle it or to say there is nothing new in it. He belittles the corruption prematurely and with little justification. With time and investigation the true scope and magnitude of corruption in any case will come out and nail squarely the lie that it happened only in case of London baton rally. Already other allegations of corruption and mismanagement have surfaced in all the areas of the game, which were sought to be insulated from the spreading stink. But that is not the main reason at all why the CWG games have come under real serious criticism, though by itself corruption is enough of an issue to make everyone concerned accountable. The real issue is that while all eyes of the rulers are riveted on making stone & mortar infrastructure “world class” at astronomical costs and that too just in Delhi, the social infrastructure is in absolute shambles because the same rulers have no funds. Child mortality, malnutrition, illiteracy, abysmal access to education or healthcare, lack of housing, female feticide, hunger, etc are the indicators that cry out for urgent attention all over the country but more so in the states like Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh etc. geographically and among scheduled tribes, scheduled castes, minorities, other extreme back ward castes, etc. demographically. This social infrastructure needs mending now on war footing rather than divert Nation’s wealth & energies to pursuits that pander to the entertainment and aggrandizement of rich.

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