Saturday, September 18, 2010

CWG: Kalmadi Kaleidoscope

Deccan Herald: Saturday 18 September 2010
CWG scam: A mirror to official sloth, corruption and opacity by Rajdeep Sardesai

Mani Shankar Aiyar has probably not read Dale Carnegie’s best-seller, ‘How to win friends and influence people’. A few years ago, in a St Stephen’s alumni book, former external affairs minister Natwar Singh wrote, "I am what I am because of the college." Prompt came Aiyar’s rejoinder: "Why blame the college!"

Politics though is not a college campus. The ready wit and pungent sarcasm which might earn applause in a debating society is deemed as offensive in the real world. Lost in the process is the bank of knowledge that often informs Aiyar’s writings and speeches. Which is why when he chose last week to express the hope that the Commonwealth Games would collapse with the rains, there was instant anger at what was deemed as an ‘anti-national’ remark, especially coming from an MP who is still a member of the ruling party and was sports minister not too long ago.

Ironically, a few days later, the tables have rather dramatically turned. Aiyar is now a chuckling soothsayer, Suresh Kalmadi is seen as a bumbling villain. As a slew of corruption allegations hit the Games, there is almost a self-congratulatory note among the Commonwealth nay-sayers for whom the event is a waste of tax-payers’ money.
That with less than 60 days to go for India’s biggest sports competition, there is still a fierce debate over the necessity for it to be held in the first place only confirms our status as the world’s premier squabbling democracy. Could anyone imagine a similar debate in China ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics?

Unfortunately, the debate itself has been wrongly posited as ‘national pride’ versus ‘national shame.’ Tying up the successful organisation of a sports event to ‘nationalism’ has a distinct Soviet-style ring to it. Cold war Soviet Union could see staging the Moscow Olympics in 1980 as symbolic of their ‘superior’ ideological system. Communist China perhaps viewed the Beijing Olympics as a ‘coming of age’ party.

Even South Africa, a republic which is still less than two decades old, could view the soccer World Cup as an opportunity to parade its credentials as a ‘rainbow nation’.

The Commonwealth debate needs to be shorn of the ‘Games as nationalism’ tag. A high-pitched battle between those who see every stadium leak as a disgrace and those who believe that a beautified national capital will be a source of pride will serve little purpose. Instead, we need to focus on what is really the root of the present controversy: a prevailing culture which is rooted in sloth, corruption and opacity. The Commonwealth Games are not the problem; they are only a symptom of the wider crisis that confronts new India.

Unrealistic expectation
In the euphoria of over 8 per cent growth, we sometimes forget that we are still ranked a lowly 84th in the transparency international corruption index. When a society is steeped in corruption, it would be unrealistic to expect that a Rs 40,000 crore event will be above it all, especially when its organisational set-up is a hydra-headed monster led by an army of babus and multiple authorities.

Moreover, the belief that the end of the licence-permit raj would usher in transparent procedures has long since been proven bogus. Instead, it has only bred a form of crony capitalism that revolves around handing out largesse to friends and relatives. Sports has been a particular sufferer in this regard.

Every sports federation is run like a mini-empire by warlords and their henchmen, with virtually no checks and balances. Kalmadi has been heading the athletics federation for more than 20 years, the Indian Olympic association for 14 years. In the process, Olympic sport in this country has become Kalmadi’s playground, an event like the Commonwealth Games providing the perfect stage for him to distribute patronage to the chosen few.

But why single out Kalmadi? What is the accountability of the government of India whose senior bureaucrats are on various Commonwealth committees? The prime minister appointed a core group of ministers to supervise the games, should they not take some responsibility? The CVC report is a damning indictment of every civic authority in the urban development ministry and Delhi government, should they not be also brought under the scanner?

In a sense, the parallels between the Commonwealth Games and that other sporting circus, the IPL, are uncanny. In the IPL, the sleaze showed up the frailties of corporate India which tried to run the event like a private members club. In the Commonwealth Games, it’s the soft underbelly of the Indian state which is being exposed.

In the IPL, a single individual, Lalit Modi has been held responsible for the corruption even as the other board and governing council members appear to have got away. In the Commonwealth Games too, the focus seems to be on Kalmadi when it should be on every government department that has benefited from the bonanza. Maybe, that’s why its called the Commonwealth games: the wealth has been commonly shared!
(The writer is editor-in-chief, IBN 18 network)
CWG scam: A mirror to official sloth, corruption and opacity by Rajdeep Sardesai

Military World Games
MWG were hosted by Indian armed forces under the aegis of International Military Sports Council (CISM) in Hyderabad and Mumbai from October 14-21. Of the 6,000 athletes who participated in the Games from more than 100 countries in 17 disciplines, 25% were Olympic medal winners. The Andhra Pradesh government, the army’s Pune-based Southern Command and the Mumbai-based Western Naval Command were also in charge of the event.

CAG pointed out that the ministry of defence (MoD) had sanctioned Rs50 crore by March 2007 to Services Sports Control Board (SSCB), which sought Rs19 crore more. This money was made available by defence public sector units on the direction of the department of defence production. As per rules, projects exceeding an outlay of Rs100 crore need cabinet approval, but in this case sanctions for Rs138 crore were granted at the ministry level.

The Andhra government was paid in advance with no formal agreement and could not provide bills or details of services provided. CAG observes that Rs4.76 crore received on account of charges realised from extra CISM contingents was diverted to non-public funds between September 2007 and June 2008.

MWG estimated cost Rs 138 crores Vs CWG Games anticipated cost Rs 40,000 crores: Degree of corruption in 2 years escalates four hundredfold!
Commonwealth Games corruption has a rival

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