SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: Switching on the telly late yesterday, at an hour when the beat policeman had perhaps blown his tenth whistle for the night, I watched with bemused disgust the morbidity of the mandarins of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) organising committee led by Suresh Kalmadi.
The television showed pictures of half-complete stadia in various stages of almost irreparable dereliction, their pylons and multiple tiers exposed in all their brutal nakedness, maimed, battered and contorted by the shameful acts of uncaring ineptitude of men who do not simply care even for a moment what it means to the pride of a nation to botch up the preparations for one of the most important sporting competitions on the world’s calendar.
Suresh Kalmadi and his band have shown to the world that ours is a nation where governmental bodies run by politicians can so easily, and without as much as a sliver of accountability, mess up anything they are assigned to achieve; one where gravediggers of the kind on show wouldn’t think twice before picking up shovels in the dead of the night to dig their own mother’s grave looking for the trinket she wore on the day of her burial.
A nation where the slightest opportunity to make money from projects funded by the exchequer is explored in all its dimensions with the never-say-die spirit of medieval bounty hunters; one where denial in the face of charges and simply shameless justification in the heat of enquiry is the usual fallout of the whole morass like the one the nation is presently faced with, courtesy the hosting of the CWG in Delhi.
A nation that does not know its priorities, a government that is so pathetically bereft of a conscience that it thinks nothing about literally blowing up a whopping, heart-stopping Rs 28,00 crore on putting together a sporting extravaganza where the medals list will eventually have so few Indian names so as to be rendered completely disproportionate to the monies invested to have these games in India.
A nation where a tragically large number of citizens live below the poverty line with a mere daily morsel of food becoming the equivalent of the finding of a precious nugget after unendingly long hours of toil in the harsh mines of their regular day to day existence; where infrastructural realities paint a scary and grim picture of urban existence with the vehicles of consciousness having veered off the track, seemingly not able to come back for ever.
Did we ever need to host these games?
Are we such a rich country and an athletic superpower that the track burning feats of our athletes shall be written in gold on the plaque of time for the rest of the world to be in awe of?
Can we simply afford to have so much money going into the making of mere play grounds, which in reality, is what grand stadiums are all about, for the enjoyment of a few in the midst of the unspeakable sufferings of many?
In a country which is surely not among the most advanced in the world and where the index of corruption displays such demeaning figures that to keep our heads high at the angle that god meant them to be is itself a conscious effort as we walk the national streets of sleaze, each day of our lives!
This is not to say that the pursuit of excellence in sport is abhorrent. The point is, a poor nation like ours which is still in the process of being built by half-baked, self-serving men and women who sit in judgment over our collective fate should prioritise when it comes to opening the ‘things to do’ list.
# How about striving towards building an excellent network of roads across the nation?
# How about augmenting public hospitals and their capabilities so that millions can benefit from decent health care?
# And how about going full steam ahead and building many more court halls across the length and breadth of the nation and appointing legal officers to improve the justice delivery time frame? And how about computerising the functioning of the courts to the maximum extent possible?
# How about making education accessible to the common boy and girl by refurbishing the existing government schools and colleges all over the country and making them centres of true learning?
# How about striving towards ensuring uninterrupted power supply to the nation, in today’s age and time when technology beckons?
Just a few obvious examples of what Rs 28,000 crore can do to the fortunes of a country like ours, a nation in urgent need of repair.
Twenty eight thousand crores for high jump and long jump? The 100 metres dash and the 1,200 metres steeple chase? And for the 400 metres baton race?
That too in the hands of men who are, by the looks of it, genetically predisposed towards money laundering, cheating and account fudging?
And that too when the average Indian athlete, with genuine respects to those who try, is as good, especially at the international level, as a cowering mouse in the presence of a madly hissing cobra!
This cannot be anything but the devil’s idea from the labyrinths of hell to ruin a nation’s future.