Armed forces must rescue Delhi Commonwealth Games
Maj Gen Raj S Mehta
The maverick politician, Mani Shankar Aiyar fits into the classic description of a whistle blower. He has recently raised serious internal concerns about the alleged wrongdoing in the functioning of the Commonwealth Games; especially so by his bête-noire, the Chairman of the CWG Organising Committee, Suresh Kalmadi. His charges are serious since it is his party, the Congress which is in power in Delhi and the Centre. Besides, he has been Union Sports Minister who is no stranger to the reality of sordid, long gestation sports mismanagement in India. Aiyar is also a special invitee to his party’s apex decision-making body, the Congress Working Committee.
On a parallel track, most television channels have had a field day exposing incompetence and alleged financial irregularities in the working of the CWG hierarchy as well as highlighting the delayed and below standard infrastructure development. The generous monsoons have added urgency to their reports. Contrary to the surreal, blasé homilies by CWG officialdom “our work is world class/ all is well all will be well”, television cameras continue to give graphic, shocking evidence of shoddy and unfinished work. The topping on the soggy CWG cake has to be the interim report of the Central Vigilance Commission which imputes financial wrongdoing, poor quality control and lack of supervision at all levels. Matters have reached such a pitch that the Prime Minister had to step in, and has informed the Parliament that the PMO will establish a watch over the functioning of the Organising Committee to ensure the games' success.
It is easy to point out where things have gone out of kilter. Lack of a charismatic and capable leader; multiplicity of agencies answerable to no one; lack of accountability; buck passing; poor planning, (an aghast nation recently heard Suresh Kalmadi brazenly say in response to a question on slippages by his worried interlocutor, “I have no Plan B because nothing will go wrong!”) are major issues. Absence of foresight (what the French term as coup d’oeil – a sense of what is possible); endemic corruption; an embarrassing absence of systems, checks and balances; a near total void in overwatch or an Ombudsman who could have progressively blown the whistle over slippages in planning since 2003, when the games were firmly allotted, completes the dismal picture.
There is also something noticed repeatedly by keen observers, the untranslatable chalta hai (cavalier attitude) outlook that transcends most spheres of work in official India. It is endemic. Though we have created world class, truly great, near perfect monuments in our past and no one has complained of leakages and shoddy work in the centuries old Dilwara Temples or the Taj Mahal or even the Red Fort, that pride of workmanship seems to disappear when officialdom gets into the loop. Maybe this is because rank corruption breeds compromises in all parameters which underscore efficiency; vision; great planning; timely and systematic compliance; craftsmanship; accountability; great quality and great detailing; that rare ability that allows you to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s of all work you do.
One does not question the compelling core truth about whistle blowing that “Sunlight is the most powerful of disinfectants”. The nation cannot be a helpless bystander to ineptitude and sleaze that impacts on national pride and the national “feel good” attitude, without which we cannot make progress. That said, we need to accept without any qualification whatsoever that the CWG games are neither Kalmadi’s nor Aiyar’s – they are India’s. The successful conduct of the Delhi CWG should thus be a matter of extraordinary national pride across all divides of politics, opinion, gender or age. We therefore need to cast aside all our differences, subordinate personal ego’s and button down to the task at hand.
Concerned country watchers and the common man alike would have been very happy if the CWG organisers had examined why the 1982 Asian Games at one stage under similar, severe pressure of missed infrastructure completion deadlines, organisational chaos, confusion and lack of vision were successful and had drawn appropriate lessons from it. The PMO then had taken early charge and used the Armed Forces as their key delivery agent. Deliver they did, to India’s (regrettably short lived) gratitude and the world’s pleasant surprise. The time for Plan B execution (the need for which had earlier been dismissed by an over confident Mr. Kalmadi) has come once again, albeit savagely late.
The armed forces must be requested to step into the breach, along with the PMO officials who now stand detailed, and do their best to salvage the games and our national reputation thereto. It is believed that the uniformed fraternity was helping anyway, but on the fringes of the games; in some organisational areas related to protocol, ceremonies and security. This now needs to be stepped up and their total involvement solicited. Disturbingly, but not surprisingly, the emerging media coverage says that Mr. Suresh Kalmadi has expressed inability to pay the Army any compensation on grounds of inadequate funding. This amounts to serious default and must be corrected by the PMO when national pride and honour of the country are at stake. Though the armed forces live (and die, when needed) for the country’s name and its honour, it is incumbent on the government not to take their fierce and unqualified commitment for granted. There is therefore a compulsion dictated by fair play not to undermine their motivation and morale by ignoring the need to compensate them adequately as per norms established for the other agencies that are assisting in the conduct of the CWG.
Maj Gen Raj S Mehta retired from the Indian Army in 2006. Over the years, he has been a strong and vocal supporter of preservation of our ecology and environment. He has lectured frequently on the subject.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the editorial committee or the centre for land warfare studies).