By Youvraj Bagade
Now it’s almost a month that Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010 hosted by Delhi concluded (14th Oct) after 12 days of competition. Games witnessed participation of 6000 athletes from 71 nations competing in 17 sports. Earlier in 2003 Delhi had fought stiff competition from Canada, Ontario, Hamilton to host the event promising higher amount to participating countries along with other free largesse. Indian bourgeoisie was determined to use this as opportunity to showcase country’s development and growth. Looking back it’s clear that CWG truly showcased India’s growth and development but only in a caricatured manner.
Games Ridden with Corruption
Mega projects like hosting CWG games offers a huge opportunity to make big bucks and corrupt ruling classes leave no stone unturned to make max out of it.
Financial regularities were widely observed across all projects executed under CWG umbrella and issuing of tenders was equally dubious. In one such project work was actually allotted to a bidder quoting highest price jumping off all procedural norms while in another instance contractor that won the bid after quoting lower price was allowed to change the figures later. Sleaze and perfidy of politicians could not take more vulgar form as deals on overlays. Even the most expensive treadmill would cost 10,000 GBP at the most expensive malls in London but that didn’t deter Organizing Committee to pay Rs. 975,000 (around 14,000 GBP) for the machine. And if you are not shocked enough, then this is the amount not to buy the treadmill but only to hire it and that too just for 45 days. Similarly murky were dealings of chair, refrigerator and so on. Often such dealings ‘transcend’ political and even national boundaries. One of the firms that supplied overlays was owned by nephew of a BJP (opposition party) leader and another supplier Nussli is a Switzerland based firm. In another such transaction huge amount of funds totalling around 450,000 GBP were transferred to an obscure event management firm in UK.
Obviously issue of corruption acquired centre stage, as it often does in run up to the event. Intellectuals and column writers severely criticized politicians and bureaucrats involved. However often their analysis indicts them as immoral and fallen individuals bringing disgrace to the country. Not mentioned is how corruption is product of underlying social and economic structure of the society. In fact widespread corruption is prevalent not just in India but a common phenomenon characterizing colonial countries. Absence of bourgeois revolution implies corruption has not acquired pure ‘corporate’ form as in advanced countries. Instead co-existence of bourgeois, petty bourgeois and feudal interests found its expression in rampant corrupt practices followed at every step of life.
Be it contractor treacherously changing prices after allotment of work in CWG or a senior bureaucrat being gifted a luxurious flat for ‘facilitating’ a land deal in Mumbai or a minister openly taking bribe for clearing a file, if one looks at them closely these are absolutely ‘crude and rustic’ forms of corruption when compared with ‘sophisticated and legitimized’ forms in advanced countries. However later form of corruption is no more monopoly of imperialist nations alone. In India too there is large scale legitimization of corrupt practices to quench profit thirst of the economic interests. Deregulation of petroleum prices that directly results in windfall profits to private petroleum companies like Reliance, Essar is its recent example. While big industrial houses effectively use Parliament, Union Government and even judiciary to skew policies in their favor weaker sections of bourgeoisie along with petty bourgeois and feudal elements often have to rely more on lame malpractices linked to crony capitalism and nepotism.
It might be apt here to mention that involvement of international businesses in corruption in neo-colonial countries is not new though in their home countries they speak high of corporate morals. Be it mining deals in Africa or Oil exploration rights in South America international businesses have often resorted to corruption (in addition to other instruments of imperialism like military might) to push forward their commercial interests.
On the blood and flesh of working class
Bourgeoisie and mainstream media often make lofty claims about employment provided by organizing such events. Multiple projects related to CWG employed 415,000 workers. Impressive! However a closer look at nature and conditions of employment would reveal appalling truth behind figures.
Majority of labor in this mega project was employed by construction contractors. This industry employs around 8.5 million workers, one of the most vulnerable segments of unorganized sector in India – workers that build beautiful bungalows, apartments and stadiums but themselves are condemned to live in slums and migrate from a place to place all their lives. Reeling under a perpetual threat to life and working for uncertain hours, they have only contractual and temporary relationship to their employer. Speaking of social security would be a cruel joke; having enough food to feed their children makes them content. Given India’s social fabric this unorganized labour is mostly drawn from backward castes that are compelled to migrate from a site to another in order to make their living.
CWG truly ‘showcased’ the horrendous condition of country’s unorganized labor. Workers were made to work day and night at work places that were extremely unclean, unhygienic and unsafe. No safety appliances confirming to national standards were used or issued by private contractors in order to boost their profits. Under such work conditions accidents took place frequently resulting in death or permanent disability. A panel appointed by Delhi High Court discovered 43 workers killed building venues for CWG projects.
Equally scandalous were wages paid to these labors. Unskilled workers were paid around Rs. 90 while skilled ones around Rs. 120. Both these figures are significantly lower than Rs. 152, minimum wage for 8 hours stipulated by Delhi state government. Considering that workers worked for 14-16 hours a day they were in effect paid only around 1/3 of their due wages.
And all this under the very nose of Union Government, Parliament and Labor ministry. While opposition stormed parliament over charges of corruption trying to corner Congress party in power at centre as well as Delhi we never heard them protesting against death of so many workers or at their sub-human work conditions.
Disarticulation of funds
This has been the most expensive CWG games in history with total budget of around $ 6 bn including infrastructure projects. This is 4 times higher than previous one hosted at Melbourne for $1.4 bn. While for giant corporates it may be a routine figure for million of Indians it is not. This is huge sum of money that could have been spent on building thousands of schools providing accessible and free education to children that are compelled to toil along with their parents. It may have been just enough to make medical services available to thousands dying from curable diseases in ‘shining’ India.
Even if one keeps aside this issue of prioritization and considers allocating the funds for development of sports, was the money spent furthered the cause? Or was the money spent on sports at all? Jaypal Reddy, Urban Development Minster confessed in Parliament that of Rs. 165 billion given to Delhi Government only Rs. 6.7 billion has been spent directly on games. Rest has been spent on infrastructure development not directly related to games. So just 4% of the total sum spent on games! And by the way what is this infrastructure development? A significant amount has been spent on road scrapping, widening, building flyovers and bridges. All that abets indiscriminate growth of private vehicles posing very serious (if not disastrous) challenges to sustainable development of the city and living standards of its inhabitants. However it perfectly fits into Indian bourgeoisie’s plans to boost GDP growth. Who cares for sustainability and living standards? Truly, contractors both Indian as well as foreign along with steel, cement companies have reaped astounding amount of profits from infrastructure projects.
What about 4% money spent on games? At least that should have created new sporting facilities. As a matter of fact most of the money was spent on renovating stadia constructed earlier! Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main complex for the event itself had been built for 1982 Asiad games and merely renovated this time though after spending a whooping sum of Rs. 10 bn. Same is the case of Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium. Thus whatever amount spent on games under CWG has hardly improved abysmal state of sports infrastructure in the country. So inept is this bourgeois state that even this infrastructure may be abandoned to gather dust after the event. In Pune a similar sports village constructed earlier for national games and later used for Commonwealth Youth Games 2008 has turned itself into white elephant.
Argument is not against allocation of funds for development of sports. Sports is quite an important aspect of social life especially for youths to sharpen and demonstrate their physical as well as psychological capabilities. However under capitalism that has been reduced a mega event, commercial harvest for bourgeoisie but at the cost of development of sports. IPL (Indian Premier League) may be its most grotesque manifestation where players are auctioned openly for crores of rupees. At international level too games like soccer have transformed themselves into entertainment industry.
Bourgeoisie and media controlled by it grabbed the opportunity to whip up jingoism across the nation. Holding games successfully was a matter of national pride and prestige, announced the leaders. Anyone not agreeing was a traitor, anti-national element. As games approached and filthy conditions at games village threatened the very commencement of games, media severely criticized Organizing Committee and government. However this criticism was not against trampling of workers rights nor was it against their gross exploitation but stemmed more from fear of shoddy hosting of the event tarnishing India’s global image. It was just nervous that games could turn into ‘national shame’. So occupied was the media with national pride and shame that it hardly found any space to report horrifying working conditions of workers or their deaths. Perhaps it didn’t consider them as fellow ‘citizens’ of nation they were referring to. After all slaves can not have citizenship and their death hardly means anything. In fact it becomes ‘too trivial’ when ‘few’ lives are lost while bringing glory to the nation. So reckless was bourgeoisie that it was not even ashamed to divert funds worth Rs. 7.45 bn earmarked for welfare schemes of Scheduled caste and tribes (SC/ST). It was yet another ‘small price’ paid in the honor of national glory.
In final medal tally India shot to second place claiming 101 medals and bourgeoisie shocked by initial guff up found a great solace in it. While we welcome achievements of sports persons, it may be far fetched to perceive it as a sustainable trend. General state of sports infrastructure and facilities continues to be abysmal. In urban areas various sports clubs, fitness gyms are springing up and at times it may create an impression that sports culture is slowly permeating through society. However as with other sphere of life class bias asserts itself harshly in sports as well. Let us take a small example. Swimming pool is the basic infrastructural requirement for swimming and related sports. In Pune there may have been 100 odd swimming pools constructed over past decade. Some of them have state-of-art facilities along with availability of experienced coaches. But all of them are enclosed within fortified enclaves of luxury townships duly guarded by security guards to ensure no ‘outsiders’ intrude into. For vast majority there are hardly any public swimming pools built. Same is the story with other sports facilities as well. Few municipalities have even found space amounting to few acres for golf clubs while children in surrounding areas play cricket in narrow lanes of their settlements.
Though bourgeoisie is putting brave face citing India’s medal tally and grand opening ceremony, it has miserably failed in achieving lofty goals it set when bidding for CWG. Games were to demonstrate that one day India would bid to host Olympics instead the world witnessed it struggling to host even CWG. As Wall Street Journal pointed in an article dated 15th Oct 2010 “India exceeded the world’s low expectations for the CWG after a chaotic run-up to the athletic event but the organizers fell far short of their goals of showcasing the nation’s economic progress and burnishing its global image”.
We obviously disagree with this ‘imperialist’ analysis. To be honest the games did ‘showcase’ nation’s economic progress. It thoroughly showcased how this growth is built on the exploitation of its working masses. It did demonstrate how economic ‘progress’ has made its media more ‘progressive’ to ignore deaths of workers. It very well showcased its children laboring over construction sites. And it did showcase how amidst all this its bourgeoisie could indulge in gala celebrations with dazzling light- shows lightening skies.