Thursday, June 24, 2010

CWG: A 10 day CIRCUS???

With all the government machinery and its PR dept. already in frenzy over the fast approaching CWG 2010; the possible change these games will bring about is slowly dawning upon social thinkers and analysts. While the CWG organising committee is busy patting it’s back for rescuing the games ,after CWG chief had to go public in pulling IOA ,and the govt. trying to hush up social activists on some of its autocratic decisions ; it seems like the future of the gigantic sports infrastructure built is nothing more than a white elephant. On a personal level as I try to look around I find more negatives than plus points for the Games. Ever since India made an official bid, the Games have been embroiled in controversy one way or the other.Utmost amount of politics have been on display on road to preparation and there are reasonable doubts which make one asks as to what impact does these Games have on a person in Central India earning less than Rs 100?


In 1951 when Delhi proudly hosted the Asiad Games the aim was that it would provide a fillip to guide the country which surely it did to quite an extent due to the stark contrast of then socio-economic features as compared to today. Similarly 1982 Asiad Games also changed Delhi into a “changed and modern city of the world”- the bid document claims. In 1982, as part of preparation for the games seven new flyovers and two new hotels were built which amount to nothing when we look at CWG’s preparation. This time 26 new flyovers, extended metro connectivity to almost throughout the national capital as well its adjoining areas has been aimed to provide. And these are not the only ones; road beautification, building of stadia and sports facilities for the Games have too been designed specially for the Games. This surely comes with a mammoth monetary price. Since India won the bid in 2003, there have been momentous escalations in the budget for the Games. While at the time of bidding Rs 1899cr were projected, they have climbed up to the official figure of Rs 20000cr or if Rs 60000cr (the wildest prediction made so far). And who cares if this is the taxpayers’ money that is being put to injudicious use!! I may sound like a cynic who is totally distraught with the state of affairs, but, I am honestly really appalled to see that no one is entitled to give any explanation as to why the initial prediction went so horribly wrong. In fact to be precise the then Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee was taken into confidence about the bid with the assurance that the Games will not require more than a loan of Rs150 cr. And on the day of the bidding Mr. Vajpayee promptly asked the Indian delegation to announce an “incentive” of $100,000 to every Commonwealth country for- “training their participants”. Quite ridiculous isn’t it? Here we see our own players asking for funds so that they can train abroad and the national Hockey team goes on strike for non-payment and to host a 10 day extravaganza we dole out incentives to the outside world. It is quite surprising then as to why does the govt. cite lack of funds when asked to provide for free education for all children between 14-18 years when it can arrange for humongous sums at just a phone call.


If we look at the case of Beijing after the hugely successful Olympics we will find our worse fears coming true. The huge Olympics village was expected to solve to some extent the housing problem in Beijing while also bringing down the soaring housing prices. But it hasn’t been able to achieve so. The same is the case with Sydney which hosted the first Olympics of the millennium. The Sydney Olympic village, which earned lots of praise for its aesthetically suited architecture, now lies abandoned as it is 25km outside the heart of Sydney with practically no public transport access to it. The Sydney Olympic Park has found dismal number of footfalls after the Olympics and is not turning out as a great turner of revenue as estimated. The net result – the taxpayers were in a way robbed of their money for building such mammoth concrete structures which serve no purpose now. Similar problems engulf the former host cities like Atlanta,Montreal and Bangkok (hosted 1998 Asian Games). But Barcelona stands out as the lone benefactor of hosting such a mega event. In 1992 to stage the Olympics the organisers carefully planned and successfully executed a model that allowed the city to harness the facilities built for the Games. The 1992 Olympics was a decentralized affair with many nearby cities hosting events along with Barcelona which provided other less-developed regions an opportunity to gain benefits. Moreover, the then Games village greatly solved the housing problem in Barcelona and the stadium built for the Games now is the home of Spanish LaLiga club RCD Espaniol team. Thus, the facilities are being put to proper use even today long after the use.


The CWG events have been planned around the most prosperous part of Delhi in the heart of the city, taking away the chance from the less urban areas to develop them. This is contrary to the approach made by other cities which use the hosting as leverage for development of poverty-stricken areas with employment and other add on facilities. It is no doubt that the aim is to hide the not-so-good image of India from the visitors in 2010. This explains as to why 30,000 families were dislocated from the slums on the banks of Yamuna to make way for migrant labourers’ families and for the Games village, which mean nothing to the families evicted. Hardly a thought has been spared for those removed forcibly and it has been quite insensitive on the part of the govt. to remove the residents of the slum just to project an image of India which is hollow, which falsely states that the sky touching skyscrapers is the norm of India. It hides the highly undeveloped, poverty stricken areas in the Naxal affected regions and the ‘ostracized’ north-eastern areas.


I surely don’t want the country to be projected as undeveloped or poor, to highlight the negatives of the country with focus on poverty-tourism. But definitely I want the limited resources of the country to be used in a judicious manner aiming to uplift those sections of the society lagging behind in the present scenario. It’s beyond my rational what purpose does it solve to host an extravaganza that just adds some “sheen” to the country’s name whilst its own citizens are forced to carry out violent movements over the apathy of govt. towards to their problems. What sense does it makes to spend Rs 30,000cr in 10 days when we have 836million people living off on less than Rs20 a day. (Source: Arjun Sengupta Committee report). Honestly we need to ask ourselves that is it justified to ask the students to vacate the hostels in order to cater to hospitality requirements, disrupting their learning and forcing them to spend huge amounts to lodge somewhere. The media’s role is quite pathetic too. They would go gung-ho when the Games approach near, ignoring the problems they have caused, quite similar to the way they ignored Bhopal tragedy victims for 26years. Its quite interesting to compare the mindset of people in Delhi and outside. Maybe due to it we can see as to how much the Games mean to the nation as a whole. In general, a typical Delhiite is happy as his nearby surroundings get better due to the vast amount spend on its beautification and his property rates soar at an all time high! At the same time, a person from Bihar is least affected by Delhi turning into one of the swankiest cities in the world as long as it doesn’t aid to his living. Why should he care about it after all; when all this doesn’t help him fulfil his “middle-class dreams”, provide better education to his children and help him improve his standard of living. He is not part of the jamboree, will predictably take a peep into his TV set when the media is hit by Comet Games. Surely he won’t be all alone; there would be billions of such Indians. Maybe many oblivious of the event itself and truly in their right so as the Games don’t aid them to achieve their ambitions. I wish good luck to the city for the peaceful conduct of the Games while many dark clouds surround the city horizon but I would be glad if this turns out to be a one-off experience in the history of the country. And in future such humongous amounts are wisely spent; maybe to build a state of the art stadium like Anfield and better football training facilities which might propel India to the next FIFA World Cup.!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Blog Search: The Source for Blogs


The recent CJM verdict on the Bhopal Case on this seventh of June has disappointed many of us. The conviction of the eight accused along with their immediate bail has been termed as too harsh a verdict. We are seeing a lot of criticisms of the judicial process, the system, the government from all quarters. The media, the organizations working for the victims of that disaster and intellectuals have unanimously cried foul over the decision made by the Hon’ble court. Even more, the common man has taken this an opportunity to point out his old belief that the rich, the mighty can get away from anything stands vindicated. It is really one of those unfortunate cases when the system has failed. I feel that it is not the judicial system that needs to take the flak; it is the investigating agency and the governments from then to today that require a dressing down.

Let’s just go through the major events of this case that highlight the hypocrisy shown by responsible authorities and see that what it is that buried justice.


Mr. B.R Lal who was the investigating officer for this case claims that he was under pressure to let the prime accused Warren Anderson go scot free. The author of this blog saw the investigator taking part in a news debate on TIMES NOW the day verdict was out, only to know the next day the investigator has revealed to another news channel that “he was under pressure”! The ‘lucky’ news channel was broadcasting this news as exclusive. Don’t know what happened in those 24 hours that made the investigator who was defending the system the previous day to go back and claim he was under pressure.

More interesting is that Mr. Lal was not even in the CBI in 1984 when the case was handed over to the CBI and charges were framed.


As revealed now that it was a telephone call from a highly influential person to the then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Arjun Singh that prompted the state govt. to let go free Warren Anderson, the prime accused in the case. The result of which “accused number one” never ever returned to India to face the charges though he promised to return soon on his bail on 7th December, 1984.

This also raises serious doubts over what exactly we have achieved from the highly warm Indo-Us relations. We can’t get the accused extradited from a country we tout as our well-wisher, very good friend. Indian demand for extradition which was made by the then NDA govt. was rejected by the US govt. stating that it didn’t meet required conditions for extradition! This is what the might of our so-called ‘powerful’ clout in the Washington circles is, that we can’t bring the man responsible for homicide of 25000 people to book while there in US Mr. Obama wants to “kick ass the BP” for spilling oil that has so far only spoiled marine life and caused eco damage?


In 1992, in the Washington Post a proclamation for Warren Anderson’s appearance was published as directed by the Indian Court which had declared Warren Anderson (accused number one), UCC( USA) (accused number 10), Union Carbide Eastern (Hongkong) (accused number 11) as absconders for non-appearance in the criminal case against them here in India. The CJM had declared that if the accused didn’t appear their properties were liable to be attached. But, acceding to UCIL’s request, the CJM postponed attachment of UCC’s properties in India. However, CBI and NGOs filed petitions in the same month before CJM for attachment of shares and properties of UCC in India. The CJM thus attached the shares and properties of UCC in India only to be stayed by Madhya Pradesh High Court in response to a revision petition filed by UCIL against the order of CJM, Bhopal. In Feb1994, the Supreme Court of India allowed UCC to sell off its shares in UCIL and finally it disappeared. Furthermore during 1991-1996 the charges against the accused were diluted from criminal to a level of traffic accident which made them only amounting to a conviction of at the most 2 years. It is here where the case was lost.


The case has shown the CBI wanting in its ability to prosecute the Indian and the foreign accused. The CBI failed to present evidence when it was available. UCC(USA) and Warren Anderson were aware in 1973 that the technology being used in Bhopal was “untested” and sub-standard to the design being used in the company’s plant in West Virginia. There was enough evidence that the design of the Bhopal plant was different and inferior in terms of safety when compared to the plant owned by Union Carbide in Institute, West Virginia, USA and the executives knew about the hazardous design of the plant.

CBI also failed to produce the three absconding foreign accused in court and they couldn’t prevent UCIL from disappearing and never visited the plant in West Virginia to compare the design differences. The sale of shares of UCC(USA) in UCIL in 1994 loosened the grip of Indian Court against the absconders and didn’t appeal against the dilution of charges.


In 1985 the Indian govt. had filed for a compensation of $3.3billion in an American court which transferred all Bhopal litigations to India. Later Union Carbide and the Indian govt. reached an out-of-court settlement with the UCC giving $470million for compensation which then amounted to 75000 for dead and 25000 for injured. So far only part of the compensation has been given out which is 12000 per victim. It is hard to understand why the Indian govt showed the victims number as 1 lakh only to be later acknowledged by the Supreme Court as 5.73lakh.


The way media kept quiet on this issue for over 26 years and now all of a sudden seem to have been so concerned about this seems little too dramatic. The media was watching all the developments on this case, the failure of the CBI, the disappearing of UCIL, terse response of the US over extradition and it could have raised questions about it to the govt. But it didn’t. We have seen the govt. taking prompt action in the Jessica Lal case, BMW hit and run case just because media highlighted the failures during the trial but in this case the media took no interest until the verdict. Seems like media too is hand in glove with the guilty.


I don’t think we should raise questions over the judiciary’s ability. It is rightfully known as the “Last Pillar of Hope for the Common Man”. Though I agree that the speed of judiciary is slow but it works in a fair manner. Now in this case the judiciary decided over the facts that were put in front of it. Remember it doesn’t go out and collects evidences. It is the job of investigating agencies. We know that the design was hazardous it was up to the CBI to go and show proof of that and collect enough legally acceptable points that could have stopped the disappearing of UCIL. It is very clear that there has been interference with the agencies work by the ruling govt and influential people. It is necessary that we allow the investigating agencies to work autonomously, with the govt. aiding it and not checking it; so that the judicial system can work properly and there are no more cases of justice being buried.