Senior Congress leader and former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar has slammed the current United Progressive Alliance government under Dr Manmohan Singh for the huge amount of 'wasteful expenditure' being incurred on the Commonwealth games, saying that if a part of this money had been spent on the Bhopal Gas victims it would have brought the affected 'some relief'.
"Holding the 10-day, Rs 20,000-crore jamboree reflects a misplaced sense of pride and distortion of national priorities. If not on development of a chronically poor nation, the money could have been well spent on bringing basic sports to every mohalla and panchayat,” former Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Sports Mani Shankar Aiyar says in an article.
The outspoken Aiyar, who was recently nominated to the Rajya Sabha, has in a signed article taken on the government over the Commonwealth Games and questioned the UPA's policies on this issue.
Aiyar said the original promise was to hold the games within Rs 150 crore and this money was to be recovered from endorsements and ticket sales. Expressing shock, he said the expenditure has already touched Rs 20,000 crore and his fears were that the expenditure would eventually exceed Rs 60, 000 crore. Aiyar said that the Bhopal gas victims could have benefited if some part of this money could have been diverted for their welfare and rehabilitation.
Aiyar, who was also the panchayati raj minister said that when Rs 600 crores was given for the Gram Nyayalas (rural courts) after a lot of haggling, both the planning commission and the finance ministry reminding him that India was a 'poor country.' He said that the same planning commission and finance ministry were not giving out money for the games and no questions were being asked in the process. Aiyar said that originally it was decided to hold the games in Bawana in north-east Delhi dominated by villages to ensure the growth and development of that region. So how were the games shifted to the posh areas of Delhi, which is already developed.
Giving the example of East Manchester where the Commonwealth Games were held in London, he said the most backward area was chosen to benefit the poor and the unemployed. As a consequence of this, Walmart set up its biggest store employing 18000 boys and girls while Microsoft's European headquarters was located there because of the Commonwealth Games.
Aiyar said that if the games had been held in Dantewada and if 20,000 crores had been invested there, the Maoists would have lost their raison d'etre.
Hitting out at both the Delhi state and central governments, Aiyar said that the effort appeared to be to impress foreigners at the cost of the poor and the needy, with beggars having been removed from Delhi's streets because they left a bad impression on foreigners, but this, he says will not drive away poverty.
Aiyar has been a constant and consistent critic of the kind of wasteful expenditure that the Indian government is spending on a one time gaming extravaganza which will neither promote sports in the country, nor create any sporting infrastructure nor benefit the country in any form, except to spend money like water, for a cause which has no meaning.
In India, as Aiyar foresees, the only good that will come out of the Commonwealth Games will be a decision to never again bid for such an event until every Indian child gets a minimum to eat and is assured a basic education and a playground with trained coaches to discover the sportsperson in himself/ herself.
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