Onward to the medal podium

I’ve been apprehensive, frankly, about the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Every other day, you hear that the stadiums are behind schedule in terms of readiness, that the cost has escalated manifold, that the selection of athletes is a mess, and so on and on.

While searching for some other information, I happened just now to stumble on some questions raised in Parliament on these issues. Now I feel reassured.

On the readiness of stadiums. On the government’s plans to win more medals for the country. And on plans to improve performance of the Indian contingent [Don’t ask me how items two and three are different]:

To improve the performance of the Indian contingent in the Commonwealth Games, 2010, a Scheme with allocation of Rs.678.00 crores (2008-09 to 2010-11) is being implemented for providing training to the elite sportspersons in all the disciplines of the Commonwealth Games, 2010. Systematic training in India and abroad under highly qualified Indian and Foreign coaches is being given to sportspersons for Commonwealth Games. Besides, infrastructure required for training at various SAI Centres has been created and scientific, sports and medical equipments are being provided. The training to probables of Commonwealth Games, 2010 for all the disciplines is being provided at Patiala, Bangalore, Sonepat, Gandhinagar, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, Kolkatta etc. Training proposals abroad were also approved for various disciplines like Athletics, Badminton, Boxing, Cycling, Gymnastics, Hockey, Lawn Bowls, Netball, Rugby. Shooting etc at South Africa; United Kingdom; Malaysia; Indonesia; Bangkok; Belarus, Canada, Spain, Russia ; Australia; Italy, Germany etc.

(c) The Selection Committees of concerned National Sports Federations had selected the sportspersons for training on the basis of performance during the selection trials.

(d) Against allocation of total funds amounting to Rs.300.00 crores during the years 2008-09 and 2009-10, expenditure of about Rs. 291.00 crores has been incurred so far. The discipline-wise details of expenditure are given in the Annexure.

In other words, all is well. Happy now?

Begging the question

Take Out The Trash day

Take Out The Trash day

The above is the reaction of my friend and colleague Uttam Ghosh to this story:

The Indian capital will be made beggar free in the run up to next year’s Commonwealth Games, the authorities said on Tuesday while launching two mobile courts to prosecute beggars.

To begin with, citizens who spot beggars can reach the mobile courts through a control room. The courts will reach the spot and take away the beggars, Delhi Social Welfare Minister Mangat Ram Singhal said in New Delhi.

Go away and hide!

Go away and hide!

Make no mistake, this is one determined minister. “Before the 2010 Commonwealth Games,” he says, “we want to finish the problem of beggary from Delhi.” How? By depositing them elsewhere — the suburbs, jails, wherever — as Uttam pertinently suggests?

Garibi Hatao — hamare nazron se seems to be the reworked slogan of the Indian National Congress-Indira.

Elsewhere, P Chidambaram and Sheela Dixit are concerned about New Delhi’s chronic bad behavior.

Delhi’s Chief Minister, Shiela Dixit, readily agreed and said plans are afoot to teach Delhi folks to be “more caring and sharing.” She indicated that a Beijing-style program of civic education, like the one rolled out before last year’s Olympics, would be launched soon.

What fun! Delhi to go to charm school, where La Dixit will play Ms Manners. [Speaking of going to school — this story also on beggars supports my lifelong contention that studying is a waste of time and effort].

Ironically, China was concerned not so much with the behavior of its own citizens as with that of the foreign tourists — but we clearly have our priorities right. Just to be helpful, however, I’ll throw up this link to how foreigners should behave in India — the earlier the better, since some of these moves require long hours of practice. Like, so:

The acceptable way to beckon someone is to hold your hand out, palm downward, and make a scooping motion with fingers.

What baffles me is, why is all this dependent on the Games? One section of the national capital begging while the much larger section behaves like boors is not, apparently, a concern — the problem is someone else catching us at it.

It is interesting that Dixit is looking to China for examples — though clearly, not every Chinese example needs to be rigorously followed; besides, Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun, currently in political ICU, might get a fresh whiff of the oxygen of ‘issues’.

Meanwhile, to return to priorities — I’m sure P Chidambaram will want to take a cue from the Chinese, and ban terrorists for the duration of the Games.

In the run up to the Beijing Games, the world’s media was preoccupied with China’s ‘repressive measures’ [A very small sampling from LA Times, Guardian, US News and dozens more if you do even a cursory search]. Heck, never mind the foreign media, even the Indian press was very upset:

At the same time, Beijing has largely ignored foreign opinion on its human rights records and continued its repression of free of speech, even as it has run a successful Olympics. China’s harsh rule in Tibet has been downplayed, political dissidents locked up, beggars pushed out of Beijing, and journalists covering protests roughed-up.

From that article, more tips for Ms Dixit [And a bonus tip applicable also to this blog]:

Beijing became obsessed by image in the lead-up to the games. Anything unsightly was deemed offensive. Neighbourhood food stalls were covered up by roadside barriers showing pictures of ancient Chinese-style curved rooftops or Olympics motifs.

We will doubtless do all this and more. In fact, we already are, per this story in Open magazine [scroll down]. Here’s the WTF passage from that story on how Delhi will use bamboo screens to keep poverty out of the public gaze:

“We thought of putting up cloth, vinyl or even natural screens like bushes in front of slums. Then we thought, why not bamboo?” says Rakesh Mehta, chief secretary, Delhi. As of now, authorities are sourcing the lathi bamboo from Rajasthan, but talks are also on with the Mizoram and Assam governments.

“We are enlisting the help of National Mission on Bamboo Technology and Trade Development in order to find out whether the varieties from Mizoram would be able to survive in Delhi’s climate or not,” says KK Sharma, principal secretary, PWD Delhi.

That’s more thought and effort — and money — going into hiding poverty than ever went into alleviating it. While on which, I really really loved the ‘bushes’ idea. Take a leaf from Macbeth, do — get the slum dwellers and beggars to squat in front of the unsightly huts; Delhi turned Dunsinane. Solves two problems in one shot, by hiding the slums and their unsightly inhabitants in one shot.

The irony is that China claimed then, and India will claim tomorrow, that this is being done so the foreign visitors can see the ‘true face’ of the country — much like a woman hiding zits and other blemishes under an inch of pancake when the prospective groom comes ‘girl seeing’.

Note the fullness of the swing

Note the fullness of the swing

You will meanwhile be delighted to know that preparations for the Games are in “full swing“. Suresh Kalmadi says so [What does Randhir Singh know?]. Sheela Dixit the schoolmarm for charm says so. So how could it not be so, when Brij Mohan is working his butt off?

Talking of how well work is progressing, did you know that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has stopped work on doing up footpaths, upgrading streetlights etc because of the Games. The Comptroller and Auditor General can’t stop laughing about it. [Search the PDF for Commonwealth Games to jump to the relevant bit].

So work is happening, through commission or omission. Hence ignore, please, the alarmist idiot Commonwealth Games Federation president Michael Fennell and his SOS to the PMO; equally, ignore those panicked idiots the PMO and its calls for an ‘urgent review’. Add to the ignore list carping editorials like this one, and new minted magazines like Open that are out to make a name for rabble-rousing. While on rabble-rousing, trust those perennially rabid folk at Tehelka to add fuel to this needless fire.

As Sports Minister MS Gill so pertinently pointed out:

As you know, I took charge as sports minister last year in April [Editor’s note: But your party-led government was in office the four preceding years, no?] . There were a lot of delays, work had not started on several projects and various things needed to be tied up. But let’s not talk of the past… the fights, the blame game. The decision to hold the Games was taken by the NDA government and was duly endorsed by the UPA government. We are going to ensure that work is completed on time. That’s what I’m fighting for.

As Gill says, forget the past, forget the blame game. Take heart. Shed pessimism. And any time optimism flags, keep this image firmly in mind and you’ll be okay:

In fact, Sheila and I are holding hands and marching forward. We are two sides of the same coin.

If the image of two sides of the same coin holding hands and marching forward doesn’t inspire you with the belief that all will be well that ends, well or ill, then maybe these images below [lots more here] will:

Hard at work by night....

Hard at work by night....

”]”]….”]Hard at work by day....