Why Ram Pyari couldn’t take her daughter home

SHAH ALAM KHAN writes from New Delhi: The so-called “irresponsible remarks” by Mani Shankar Aiyar on the Commonwealth Games have left the government and its beloved babus fuming.

The mainstream and the alternative media are buzz with outright condemnation of Aiyar, calling him anti-national and an unworthy son of this great motherland.

It all amuses me.

As an Indian, I know that the stakes of Indian pride on a global scene are too high to be meddled with at the last moment. The Beijing Olympics have showcased China to a global audience and we are told by the self-righteous hawks that we too should use this opportunity to showcase the might of India, the next super-power.

We are told that events like the Commonwealth Games bring with them employment and opportunities for developing and improving the existing infra-structure. The government sees the event as a boon for economic development and prosperity.

I won’t be wrong in concluding that we have been made to believe that the woes of the common Indian will be laid to rest on 3 October 2010 as soon as the games are declared open!

Alas!

This could have been true.

The darker side of the organisation of these Games is not only murky but plainly speaking dirty to the soul. Corruption, malpractices, poor quality and irrelevant budgeting have plagued the games in a big way. The Games will conclude with an approximate budget of Rs 35,000 crore (or $1.3 billion).

Imagine a sum of Rs 35,000 crore just to develop a showcase of might and economic wellbeing in a country where 47% of population earns less than $ 1.25 a day!

What can we call this?

Are there words to describe this inhuman and irrelevant extravagance?

I agree with those who argue that events like the Commonwealth Games shouldn’t be compared with governmental policies of public welfare. True but unfortunately it is not all about money; it is the irrelevance of thought of our policy makers which angers me.

It was heartening to see Rahul Gandhi talk about Kalawati during the trust motion in 2008. But can he imagine that how many more Kalawatis would have been added to the system ever since the inception of construction work for the Commonwealth Games?

I still remember Beena, the eight-year-old daughter of Ram Pyari, a migrant worker from Uttar Pradesh who had come to Delhi with her family to work on one of the stadia.

Beena had bone cancer and of course the family could not afford any treatment. Beena died in one of the slums which had come out as an illegitimate offspring of the Commonwealth games village.

The family wanted to take Beena’s body back home but couldn’t afford losing the provisional livelihood as the contractor wanted the work to go on a war footing: he had a deadline to meet.

Beena was buried in Delhi and Ram Pyari continued working at the stadia which is now ready as a symbol of India’s growing economic might—the ornament of the showcase which Suresh Kalmadi and his bunch of imbecile nitwits want us to appreciate.

I am sure the story of Beena and Ram Pyari is not the only one.

Many Beenas lie buried under the debris of what we think is the greatest sporting event in the country. Surely, the cost of organizing the games goes far beyond Rs 35,000 crore.

It is ironic that the logo of these games has been made to look like the Chakra (a symbol of India’s freedom) with four colors: red, blue, yellow and pink.

Each color has relevance and they represent the “trinity of values” which symbolizes the games.

Red represents a unification of humanity; yellow, a chance for the athletes to realize their destiny; blue promotes equality and pink, we are made to believe, adds an element of surprise and luxury to the Games and reflects India in all its resplendent glory.

On one of Beena’s visit to my clinic I had asked her which color does she like the best. It haunts me that she had abruptly said “pink”.

No wonder India’s “resplendent” glory could only be erected on her flesh and bones.

I am surprised why the “trinity of values” concept eludes our ruling class when it comes to prioritizing hunger, poverty and ignorance?

Why can’t the red represent an equitable distribution of resources? Why can’t blue promote social equality and social justice? And how about assigning the yellow color to opportunities and hope to fulfill the destiny of millions of common Indians who are otherwise too effete to even stretch their imagination beyond the need and fulfillment of daily bread?

It is indeed a matter of shame that we want to hold the Commonwealth Games even when we have yet to sort out more pressing issues which require an in-depth and humane allocation of funds and resources. I won’t be exaggerating if I compare this to Pokhran-II where an incumbent BJP government found it appropriate to conduct the blasts and gain instant middle-class popularity rather than mending India’s gaping economic and social wounds.

The showcase of Indian glory will also be a hallmark of core values which define our ruling political and bureaucratic setup – corruption, lop sided priorities and a determination to pose an untimely, unasked and unnecessary agenda on the common man.

I agree with Mani Shankar Aiyar that with the conclusion of Commonwealth Games on October 13, the hungry hounds will look forth to future programs of loot. Maybe Asian games or even Olympics- the final sporting spectacle, the final event for unprecedented plunder of my and your money.

In the meantime, Rahul Gandhi’s Kalawatis and my Ram Pyaris can only curse their fates. Their numbers will grow. Many more Beenas will be buried under the debris of “resplendent” glory and phony pride of India. Pinks will elude their meaning for her and for the likes of her; black will be the color of the day.

(Dr Shah Alam Khan is an orthopaedic surgeon at the nation’s premier medical college and hospital, the all Indian institute of medical sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. Visit his blog: India and Bharat)

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