Tainted Kalmadi on CWG podium would be a national disgrace

Until a few months back we were humming a song that shoved the nation into a temporary memory lapse. Remember: “Bhaiya all ij well…”.

Aamir Khan’s lullaby did a great disservice to India. As the nation fell into slumber, the organisers of  the CWG – Corruption and Wealth Games – stole our money.

Certainly Bhaiya, all waj not well.

But last week India’s sports minister MS Gill was still in the ‘all-ij-well’ mode. Putting all the corruption and inefficiencies aside he assured the parliament “… if a baraat is coming we will welcome them with fanfare. Have faith in India. India will get there.”

Luckily, the media has been very kind to Mr Gill and nobody has been directly blaming him, though as sports minister it was his responsibility to monitor the efficient organisation of the  games.

There was also a group of ministers led by the urban development minister S Jaipal Reddy, to supervise the games. Yet things had gone from bad to worse and a classic drama of corruption, inefficiency, apathy and chaos has begun to unfold. Nothing moved except money from one pocket to the other.  

An event that was initially planned for Rs 767 crores might end up spending more than Rs 35,000 crores. Some estimates suggest even a higher figure of up to Rs 50,000 crores.

One has to ask why this money was being released with no questions asked and no strings attached. And why the present government of Manmohan Singh so generously continued to sanction the insatiable demand for funds.

Every time the Organising Committee came up for more money, the GOI should have asked where the money had gone so far. On every stage accountability should have been fixed. The nation is entitled to know whether the GOI raised any alarm or gave any warnings to those who were misusing the taxpayer’s money.

Similarly, Chief Minister Shiela Dixit’s government has been responsible for local infrastructure projects, whose cost had multiplied manifold. Again how could public money be so liberally sanctioned and carelessly squandered?

As corporate sponsors are unwilling to stake their reputation for a corrupt organising committee, even the sponsorship deals are a sham and a blatant misuse of taxpayer’s money. Some of the major sponsors are either government departments like the Indian Railways or public sector bodies such as NTPC, Air India and Central Bank. The NTPC has given the organising committee a grant of Rs 100 crores and the Air India and Central Bank have given Rs 50 crores each. How could a loss making Air India and NTPC afford to be so charitable at the taxpayer’s cost?

More than 45 construction workers have been killed due to complete disregard for health and safety at work. They were poor labourers from poverty-stricken parts of India. No record of the dead is available and no compensation has been paid to the families of the dead. Govt figures suggest that Rs 390 crores were set aside to provide for the welfare of these workers. They are living in pathetic conditions, with no clean water and absolutely no sanitation. Human rights groups were raising concern for years, so far not enough has been done for these poorest participants of the CWG.

When allegations of corruption came uncomfortably close to Mr Kalmadi, the Chairman of Organising Committee, he managed to sack three of his close aides – OC Joint Director-General T.S. Darbari and Deputy Director-General Sanjay Mahendroo and the treasurer Anil Khanna. They were simply made scapegoats.   

Now Kalmadi’s supporters, including some of the media barons and national editors, have come up with another powerful argument. It is unpatriotic to ask uncomfortable questions about the games. Don’t disturb Kalmadi till October 14 and then “hang” him if you want said Vinod Mehta in a television discussion on NDTV. He even made a remark that corruption is a global phenomenon.

It would indeed be a shame if India was represented on global stage by a man who has presided over one of the biggest corruption scandals in independent India.

The honourable course for the Manmohan Singh government would be to immediately sack Mr Kalmadi and find a person who has some integrity and respect of the nation. A tainted Mr Kalmadi has lost all credibility and he should not be allowed to represent India on such a prestigious occasion.

Besides all extravagance must stop now. Save every penny. The money spent on the CWG does not belong to  the billionaires like the Sahara owner Subrato Roy, who came out with a national advertising campaign asking people to support the games. No! the poor and hardworking citizens of India cannot afford the vanity projects like the helium balloon costing Rs 40 crores. No! the taxpayer must not pay Rs 5.5 crores to AR Rahman. The Oscar-winning Jay ho boy,  awash  with money from his hugely successful London and New York concerts, must perform free for the sake of the national honour and also for the sake of the poor taxpayer.

There must be no room for any further criminal profligacy. And those who have benefited from such abuse of public funds must be severely punished.

If our coffers are so overflowing with money, let’s not give it to Mr Kalmadi and his cohorts. Create 10,000 extra seats in our engineering colleges, specially earmarked for the angry youth of J&K and those Maoist-infested tribal areas of Jharkahand, Orrisa and Chatisgarh.

Yes we want games – games with zero extravagance; games with simplicity and dignity.

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