Monday, October 04, 2010

The Un-Common Wealth Games Begin: Incredible India, It Stinks

By Partha Banerjee
October 3, 2010

Jim Yardley writes in New York Times today: As Global Games Begin, India Hopes for Chance to Save National Pride. Wrong title, Mr. Yardley. India doesn't hope to save national pride: it's the violent, corrupt and inefficient people on top who're trying to save their national power, with help from corporate media -- Indian and international. It's shameful.

This is a quick summary of the so-called Commonwealth Games, 2010. (1) Rounding up and jailing of poor people with their children off Delhi's streets; (2) massive corruption of the ruling Congress leaders who allegedly stole millions of dollars by doling out big corporate contracts with outrageously inflated prices; (3) major failing to meet important deadlines causing international derision; (4) paying 15-20 cents or less per hour (and working them 12-14 hours a day) to the thousands of workers, and falsely promising them housing, health care, child care, education, etc.; (5) creating an oppressive and unsafe work climate where at least 40 workers have died from on-the-job injuries, etc. while working on the Games sites; (6) organizers rampantly used child labor; (7) the govt. shut down schools, colleges and govt. offices for the games with no make-up time for lost studies or work -- unprecedented in modern world history; (8) major construction debacles including the road bridge collapse in Delhi last week; (9) historic number of international athletes pulling out of the games; (10) massive arrogance of the Congress govt, International Olympic Committee and Commonwealth Games executives who took millions of dollars, yet didn't deliver.

Other than some no-name, local, grassroots groups, international human rights bodies or the United Nations did not produce any audible screams against such rights and justice violations (bizarre, because the big-name groups in particular wouldn't miss any opportunity to raise hell on other politically expedient lapses in select places across the globe.)

The entire cost that has nothing to do with welfare of the ordinary people (totaling billions of dollars) has been and will be dumped on the broken backs of the average and poor Indian citizens who couldn't care less about the Games; their lives will not change a bit after the fiasco is all over. Mr. Yardley, you might challenge the status quo the Games' sponsor corporations and their trustee governments are perpetuating. That's the real problem big media need to address.

And we're not even talking about the painful and pathetic legacy of the Commonwealth hegemony. As if two hundred years of looting a once-prosperous country and leaving a torn, bloody, violent and impoverished three pieces of land with carefully chosen cronies weren't enough.

If anything, the British Queen and her administration owe a long-overdue apology with major reparation to the one billion-plus people they tyrannized in South Asia. That would be a real good start. Everything else falls short.

***Partha Banerjee is a New York-based human rights and media activist. He teaches at Empire State College. Email:***

Comment: I was living and working in India around the time the Common Wealth Games was being touted as India's moment to shine.  From mid-2006 through early 2007 I saw public billboards and TV advertisements heralding the Games in 2010.

What was conspicuously absent was even a hint of discussion among Indians.  I can't recall any conversation over 7 months where the Games was discussed or even mentioned.  Even my doctoral students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi were silent on the Games and its prospects.

Banerjee is right to say that the Games mean nothing to the vast majority of Indians.  These Games, like the FIFA World Cup in South Africa, represent an old colonisation with a late capitalist twist.

India, like South Africa, spent many many billions to host a sporting spectacle that is far removed from its urgent developmental needs.

Instead of showing people-centered development of the sustainable kind the Games like the World Cup are hollow self-enrichment schemes for the ruling and business elite.

The average citizen, working or not, does not count in this equation.

After the Games are done and the fanfare is lost to history the poor will still be poor and perhaps even poorer for having hoped that their lives would be made better.

Like in South Africa, huge stadia will stand empty just like the promises of the leadership who will have moved on to the next enrichment scheme.

It is a scam no doubt.

Here in South Africa the development thinkers and their pundits are lamenting the loss of 'national unity' that was supposedly experienced during FIFA's rule in South Africa.

What happened?  Why are the whites and blacks back to not getting along?  Where is our South African spirit?

Well, if you recover the $3billion plus that was spent to host that FIFA induced monstrosity you may find some more South African spirit.  Otherwise, we are just left holding the crumbs and hoping against hope that things will get better somehow.

India will be doing the same in just a few weeks.

And we are not free.  Not even close.


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