Maximum authority, limited liability and zero accountability

Ever since the alleged improprieties in awarding of certain contracts for CWG 2010 was triggered in July, the avalanche of further embarrassing accounts in other aspects of the preparation has only gained momentum even though we are now into the eleventh hour. Indian government lobbied for the privilege of hosting the Games quite actively and successfully. India was chosen as the host nation as early as 2003 but development activities did not begin until 2008; after a full 5 years of passion wilting slumber. Even Kumbhakarna woke up every 6 months to take stock of situation. 5 years is a long time to squander every ounce of intent with which the patronage of other Commonwealth nations were sought. The public has shown very little enthusiasm in playing host to the games. Majority of the citizens of Delhi, from all cross-sections of the society, have been enduring the preparations rather than enjoying the prospects. An event of this magnitude should have galvanized the locals in ensuring that their sporting spirit be granted better facilities to exercise. Instead, the stereo typically opaque manner of execution that is so effective in alienating the public from all matters of governance was staged in it’s full glory.

The political steeplechase that is the Commonwealth Games Delhi
The political steeplechase that is the Commonwealth Games Delhi

It is not my intention to parrot all the deficiencies that have been highlighted with ever increasing exuberance by the media as well as the member nations. We have passed the point where the volume of controversies will create more impact. The national psyche has be been scarred irreparably. The autocratic sub-culture that thrives within our democratic carapace was spotlighted best by the manner in which contracts were awarded without adhering to even the basic regulations of the process for sealed tenders. Unadulterated apathy towards even the basic and universally accepted methods of estimating both time and cost is underscored by the actual expense to date which now stands north of Rs. 70,000 crores. The initial estimate was under Rs. 2000 crore – an obscene deviation of almost 4000%. Opinions and sentiments of the actual stars and star-makers of the show – the sportsperson and the spectators – were never even considered. If it were, then the facilities would have be ready well in advance for at least 1 round of national games to be held so that anticipation of a better competition involving world class athletes could have been cranked up.

Public reaction to each incriminating skeleton tumbling out of the corrupt, inefficient and remorseless cupboard of the Olympic Committee of India headed by a seasoned politician and elected representative to the Indian Parliament, Suresh Kalmadi, has been one of a mute and unavoidable victim. Firstly, and perhaps in a relatively insignificant measure, they were victims of the scale and outrageous manner in which their hard earned rupees were looted from the treasury. More importantly however, it’s the blatant betrayal of every single ethic of the working class person who directly contributed Rs. 1,08,000 crores to the public coffers by means of income tax in the past financial year. In order to realize the full worth of this ethic, one just has to watch the daily trials and tribulations that the working class endures just to be productive enough to support all the aspirations of the rest of the society. The buccaneering spirit with which this trust was pillaged was not entirely unexpected. Our elected representatives as well as the unelected administrators have many a times taken this public trust for a personal joyride. These damning facts, evidences and allegations are merely a public vindication of a subconscious suspicion borne out of past experiences. So no matter how ugly this seems and no matter how cynical this may sound, what we have so far is just business as usual. What is truly ugly is how the perpetrators have been allowed to continue with their blundering ways with almost absolute immunity against dereliction of their duties.

Our prime minister Shri. Manmohan Singh, our chosen representative and the person who is ultimately accountable for all matters of national disgrace, awoke from his deep slumber to face the realities disconcertingly late. If an event of this magnitude can be bungled so magnificently in his own front yard of New Delhi than what faith can one place in his capabilities to lead the people in distant regions? If his personal bias to policy-centric style of governance blinded him from the goings on right under his nose it is his impotency at taking the culprits to task that is even more disturbing. It was mildly encouraging to read the news about how Shri. Singh, while meeting the newly formed Group of Ministers who are now responsible for the successful execution of this event, supplied a curt riposte to M.S. Gill’s (Union Minister of Sports) request to present a slideshow. Stating that the time for presentations was over and the time for action is due, he managed to infuse some hope among the disillusioned public that there is someone high up who understand the meaning of accountability. However, in an inexplicable turn of events, the Prime Ministers Office issued a press statement contradicting that news story stating that the Prime Minister did not pull up any Minister during their meeting and further added that he had requested them to work expeditiously towards completing the pending tasks. The Prime Minister, summoning all his timidity yet again, chose to self castrate the authority granted to his office by the wisdom of the designers of the parliamentary system of democracy.

This controversy has succeeded in full measure at revealing that we are all passengers of a captain-less Titanic.

Sharad Pawar as the Union Minister of Agriculture has failed in controlling the rise of prices of essential commodities. His failure to distribute surplus food rotting in Government warehouses through the Public Distribution System was chastised by the Supreme Court. Shri. Manmohan Singh, instead of appealing to Sharad Pawar to rectify his obvious error in judgement chose to defend him instead. Our Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, has floundered in his handling of the Kashmir issue, the Maoist uprising as well as the anti national activities in the north-eastern states of Assam and Mizoram. Mamata Banerjee as the Minister of Railways has shown interest in the recent spate of rail accidents only when it was surrounded by whispers of sabotage by her regional opponents, the Communist party. No promises of punishing those responsible. A. Raja, the Union Minister of Communications and Information Technology, is under the CBI as well as the Supreme Court scanner for alleged improprieties in the auction of the 2G Spectrum estimated to the tune of Rs. 70,000 crores. Yet, he continues in his office.

With such routine, systemic and criminal lapses in fulfilling one’s duties and without any authority to hold them accountable, only a prayer seems to be the final straw of hope.

28th September, 2010. Mumbai.

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