Google Analytics

Showing posts with label CWG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CWG. Show all posts

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India: Dr. Manmohan Singh

“Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?”
Bob Dylan

Dear Dr. Singh,

You recently stood outside parliament and invoked an Urdu couplet saying that your “silence is better than a thousand answers; it keeps intact the honour of innumerable questions.” Perhaps, there is some honour in not responding to each and every personal accusation made against you. We understand that many of these are politically motivated and designed by the opposition to disrupt parliamentary proceedings, or to distract the public from far more important matters facing the country. However, there is a much larger issue we are dealing with today, one that goes beyond your personal integrity, and one that affects the lives of each and every one of your countrymen and the future of our children.

The fact is that this is just the latest scam in a seemingly never-ending series of scams that plagued your coalition’s tenure – under your leadership. Perhaps you should also stay silent about the Black Money scandal where an Indian businessman was caught stashing Rs.39,120 crores ($8 billion), and the Supreme Court reprimanded your government “for failing to interrogate Khan and other alleged offenders despite having sufficient material in the possession of investigators.” (source: NDTV). Stay silent about the Commonwealth Games scam where your own party man and Chairman of the Organising Committee was charged by the CBI as “the "mastermind" in fixing and inflating costs of a timing, scoring and result” (source: Times of India). Ignore the 2G spectrum scam which not only involved dirty politicians from your coalition but also bureaucrats, corporate personalities, media personalities and lobbyists. We should also forget the Telgi stamp paper scam which lasted ten years, had tentacles across 12 states, and involved police officers and other government employees. Including one police officer who is said famously to have acquired “assets worth Rs.100 crores despite earning only Rs. 9,000 a month.” (source: Mens XP). Or look the other way about the growing number of defence scams, starting with Scorpene, where it was alleged that the “Congress leadership awarded the contract to French manufacture, Thales in exchange of 4% commission.” (source: Times of India). God forbid you dignify the outgoing Army Chief’s letter about our defence procurement procedures being mired in bureaucracy and corruption with a response. Even if our forces are woefully short of ammunition, poorly equipped and we face “97 per cent obsolescence in air defence preparedness.” (source: Times of India). Facts, it seems, that had previously been submitted by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) in an earlier report highlighting “the same critical gaps in India's defence, only much more starkly.” (source: Times of India).

I suppose you want all of us to close our eyes when the International media does cover stories with the opening line; “It is sometimes said that corruption is the purpose of Indian politics.” (source: The Economist). Cover our ears and ignore companies like Dell whose senior executives are giving interviews stating that it is becoming impossible to do business in India because of power blackouts, uncertain tax rules and lack of honour among decision-makers.” New decision makers come and they don't honour the contract previously signed." We should say good riddance to companies like Germany's Fraport, the world's second-biggest airport operator, “who recently decided to shut its development office in India, becoming the latest in a growing list of companies exiting Asia's third-largest economy.” (source: Reuters). All while the rupee continues its free fall, to new and even greater lows; causing imports to skyrocket and making it harder for the average Indian to travel or study abroad. India’s last quarter economic growth rate was the slowest pace in the last three years. The agriculture sector posted modest growth of 1.7 percent and the industrial sector grew a meagre 1.9 percent. “The fall in gross fixed capital formation (GFCF), popularly known as the investment rate, to below 30 per cent of the GDP for the first time since 2004-05 does not augur well for the future.” A few weeks prior to this report being released Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch had both downgraded India’s economic outlook for 2012-13 (source: The Hindu). I could go on but perhaps my silence, even as inflation continues to rise, will speak louder for you.

It no longer matters if you dipped your hand in the cookie jar or not. I think I speak for all my countrymen when I say we still believe that you are not corrupt. However, it is not integrity that we seek from you; it is leadership, tenacity and the courage to fulfill the duties of your office. Nobody expects you to wipe out corruption, but at least let justice be delivered when corruption is exposed. Stop protecting those who have abused their office and been caught red-handed. Open your eyes and look around at the devastation your party and coalition members have caused under your nose and leadership. Turn your head in the direction of the havoc they are wreaking through unchecked corruption and unending greed. You will not have to look far to see how they continue to rape and pillage your country, our country, my country only to fill their Swiss coffers. They are selling our souls to the highest bidder, every day. Uphold the oath of your office and serve the people who put you there.

Mother India weeps and lies bleeding at your doorstep. This will be your legacy, Dr. Singh, if you continue to do nothing.

The time for silence is over. The time for words is also over. It is time for action. Save India. Lead us, or get out of the way.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Crying Games

Wall Street Journal: "Games Open on Winning Note"
Times of India: "Games Village is best ever in history of CWG - Fennel"
BBC: "Games Begin with a Spectacular Opening Ceremony"

"I am delighted in a way because rains are causing difficulties for the Commonwealth Games. Basically, I will be very unhappy, if the Games are successful…"
Mani Shankar Aiyer

At first glance I felt outrage at the words of this Indian politician and Rajya Sabha MP. How could he make such an unpatriotic statement, I thought to myself, it really is shameful, disgusting and an embarrassment to our country who is about to host the Commonwealth Games (CWG) later this year. Even though his justification for the statement and his stance has to do with the fact that he believes that the money could have been put to better use to provide basic public facilities and infrastructure for the country instead of these “circuses” as he put it. A noble thought on some level but to actively want your country to fail when hosting such a large and prestigious International event, still made me feel like it was an inexcusable sentiment. However in the days that followed and with the ever increasing media coverage of the lack of preparedness, missing paperwork, unaccounted for public funds, forged email orders and nonsensical contracts all to support the now whopping Rs, 11,000 crore budget which is a 1,328% increase over the initial estimate of Rs. 770 crore – I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Aiyer and have joined the camp that hopes that these games are a total, utter and miserable failure and the greatest embarrassment to our 64 years of Independence.

Even before all this financial impropriety started to come to light, the continued reports of lack of preparedness and standards of the facilities managed to scare the Queen away, who for the first time in forty-four years will be missing the opening of the CWG, due to a “heavy workload.” In addition a number of Britain’s top athletes have also decided to skip the games in order to focus on the 2012 Olympics in London. Should we take personal affront to this or perhaps they have just been following the same media reports I have been reading on Delhi’s readiness for the games. Perhaps, the report about the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Complex that was inaugurated on 18th July but a week later was spotted with water seeping along its walls and a leaking roof after some heavy drizzle. And these incidents were followed by an Indian athlete getting injured while training in the Olympic-sized pool. Or maybe it was the one about yet another completed venue that sprung a leak. This time it was the cycling velodrome at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, where the roof also apparently started leaking after some rain showers. However, a senior official did confirm that the leak was “not serious and repaired promptly.” But can he keep up I wonder as the next report covered the “extensive leakage” at the Yamuna Sports Complex when rainwater accumulated in the false ceiling causing the ceiling to collapse. Incidentally, this games complex had been officially inaugurated on 29th June. Although, I can tell you that games officials confirmed there was no damage to the wooden flooring – hallelujah! Then there are the other venues like the Karni Shooting range which look like construction war zones with ‘kuccha’ tracks, piles of brick and loose stone lying around, blotches of paint in some places, massive holes in the ground and no approach roads but claiming they will be ready and fully functioning even though there are less than 70 days to the start of the games. Then again if they are anything like the stadia already inaugurated then arguably this too will be completed and ready for use ahead of schedule. Oh did I mention that the original budget for this range also crept up from the original estimated Rs. 16 crore to Rs. 149 crore. Keep in mind that according to International guidelines all CWG projects were meant to be completed by May 2009 with the following year meant to be used for trial runs and making needed adjustments.

If all this is not enough to scare the Queen and every athlete, now we have new reports surfacing everyday about the depth and breadth of corruption and financial impropriety on a hitherto unimaginable scale, even for India. The Central Vigilance Commission is now investigating 16 projects and this number is expected to rise much further as reports continue to surface of favoritism in selection, bidders being allowed to tamper with figures post-auction, use of sub-standard material, rigging of bids, gold plating and go-ahead of projects which were not even required. In random concrete samples used to test for strength, the CVC technical teams found that large numbers failed to meet the basic 28 day strength requirement. When tested at an independent laboratory they found that the cement content was much less than the prescribed or claimed amount used by the contractors. Mind you these samples were also tested and passed by the Government Civic agency in charge. In other words they fabricated these reports and findings. One of my favourite findings by the media has to do with treadmills that have been hired for the duration of the games, which not only shows the ridiculous depths our politician greed will sink them to but also their brazenness. Harrods of London sells state-of-the-art machines for £10,000 or Rs. 7 lakh. But our CWG games organizing committee in all its corrupt wisdom has decided to hire treadmills for 45 days, which means they will just rent and return them, for Rs, 9,75,000 or £13,301 a piece! If you are still reeling from the shock then consider that Mr. Suresh Kalmadi (Chairman of CWG Panel) and his committee are also hiring chairs, no doubt to sit and watch the people on these treadmills, for Rs, 8,378 apiece. After which you can cool off with a cold drink of water from one of the refrigerators they have hired for Rs. 42,202 apiece.(Times of India article:

China’s Olympic bid and hosting was treated by the nation as her entry onto the world stage. An announcement that China was ready to be a global superpower. One that has the infrastructure and ability to organize, manage, host and deliver on such a massive scale for such a prestigious world event. Granted China is a totalitarian regime and getting things done there is much simpler and easier than in a democracy. Basically, the Chinese government decided what it needed to do to successfully stage the games, and went ahead and did it. Even if it meant driving people from their homes or shutting down private businesses for the lead up to and duration of the Olympics. One can cut India some slack here as with democracies one has to deal with environmental groups, citizens protests and the slow pace of government bureaucracy. But let’s then consider South Africa hosting the recent Football World Cup. By all accounts the progress and lead up was frenzied, with major delays and budget overruns. FIFA officials wondered for a long time if the nation would ever be ready or if the rampant crime and institutionalized corruption would lead to a disappointing World Cup. For the sake of national pride, South Africans managed to pull together, put aside their many differences and deliver despite corrupt government officials and institutions. I read that the local criminal gangs even agreed to an unwritten amnesty for the duration of the games. Not only did South Africa deliver but they surpassed every expectation, winning over even their harshest critics, who left showering praise on the state-of-the-art facilities, the impeccable organization, the lack of serious crime and the warm reception. They did their nation and their continent proud and they did it against all the odds as a nascent 16 year old democracy.

Today is Independence Day, our 64th year as a free nation. Don’t get me wrong. I love my country, and perhaps it is this patriotic fervor that brings me to agree with Mr. Shankar Aiyer; albeit with a heavy heart and a sense of shame. All the eyes of the world are upon us, to see if too India can deliver an event of this magnitude and prestige. From India’s perspective the stakes are also high, as we try to get serious recognition on the world stage as a regional and global power. Failure will no doubt leave us the spectacle and laughing stock of the world. But failure will perhaps, just perhaps also be the bitter pill we all need to swallow to awaken our national spirit and finally stir our sense of patriotic duty.