Daya Varma and Vinod Mubayi


The fiasco surrounding the Commonwealth games scheduled to start on October 4 at New Delhi is obvious; consequences might not be all that bad.


The Indian media is abuzz with details of the chaotic state of affairs of the oncoming Commonwealth games at New Delhi. Even the Globe and Mail of Toronto of September 22 had a front page headline “The hurdles ahead of the Games” and followed it up by a front pager “’Revolting’ village puts cleanup into high gear and athletes on hold”.  The New York Times of Saturday September 25 had a front page photo of a laborer standing knee deep in water in front of a mass of unfinished construction with a caption stating “Construction delays and subpar construction have erupted into a huge scandal as India tries to salvage its Commonwealth Games, along with a feature length article quoting copiously from many middle-class Indians sorely disappointed that they have been let down by corrupt officials and inept government.


There is no dispute that the preparation for the Commonwealth games has been dismal. But should that cause any surprise?  Corruption has been and continues to be the lifeline of governance in all South Asian countries and India is no exception.  So nothing new was revealed by the massive corruption that is commonly known to have occurred in the preparation of the facilities in which the Games are supposed to take place.  As the two largest countries in the world and as neighbors, India and China are frequently compared in various fields.  But the work culture and project planning and execution abilities of India and China are vastly different so no one except Indian government officials in a state of somnolence could have thought that they would match the show put up by the Chinese during the Beijing Olympics.


This issue of INSAF Bulletin would be out before the opening of the Commonwealth Games, if they open at all. In anticipation of the worst that might actually be for the best, we might frankly state that the worse the fate of the Commonwealth Games, the better it is for India.


For one thing, there is nothing common any longer about the Commonwealth, which is simply a relic of the now-vanished British Empire; in most of the 71 countries that now comprise it there is not much wealth either.  It is an archaic institution which perhaps needs to be cremated rather than commemorated.  India would do better promoting SAARC, which would be good for the region, that is currently a hot bed of raging conflicts.


The despicable state of affairs of the Commonwealth Games brings into focus most of what is wrong with India and that could, would , or should, lead to something with more promise for the country and the region.  It was wrong on the part of the Government of India to offer to host the games in the first place.  There is no place in India, least of all in a major metropolis where such games can be held without causing great dislocation, which exclusively and adversely affect the lives of common citizens, our slum dwellers and hawkers.


There is no way the monies spent in preparation of these games can be equitably distributed; they invariably go into the pockets of those who least deserve it but who are most adept at being able to grab it.


Corruption is not unique to India.  What is unique is that it is a part of the system and directly affects the lives of the people from the village to the cities. Most individuals in developed capitalist countries do not encounter corruption in their day-to-day life and sphere of operations.   Almost no individual can escape it in India. A few can afford to avoid it but most cannot. Those who are rich enough or powerful enough and can afford to ignore or avoid it, in fact perpetuate the culture of corruption by their silence or complacency with the overall system in which this culture flourishes.   Most of course neither have wealth nor power; they cannot escape from the clutches of corruption and accumulate misery.


At this moment, “India Shining” is really “India Sliming.”  It is almost a tautology to say that if India is really to enter a new era, it must find a solution to this all pervasive culture of corruption.   There is little doubt that the nucleus of this sordid practice is the seat of power and the bureaucracy.  But the tremendous growth of financial capitalism and opportunities for speculation in recent years has entrenched this culture in hitherto unimagined fields and places as witnessed by numerous scams like Satyam Computers.  It is not as if this problem is simply insoluble.  In the early years of independence, election scams in India were more common, but a greater amount of professionalism on the part of election officials and greater awareness on the part of the electorate have led to a situation in which Indian elections are probably more credible than in most older democracies such as the U.S., where sleazy practices in various states are locally tolerated as shown by the Bush-Gore fiasco in 2000.  No doubt corruption in India is more entrenched and older but a similar effort is needed.  

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