Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Corrupt Eating Away Taxpayer Money: Common Wealth Games

India has a reputation of being corrupt from the standpoint of doing business. On one side, government ministers and bureaucracy wants to maintian a tight control, as much as possible, on business houses. They exert this control through myriad of inspections to uphold rule of law. However, everyone knows that one can get by, paying appropriate bribe even with murder. Since Indian economoy opened up in early 1990's, a lot money has flown in into India, compared to socialist era of Indian economy. With more money inflow, with more emerging business oppurtunities, the scope and magnitude of corruption has also gone up. According to transparency international, India ranks number 94 among 176 countries.  Not a feat that one should be proud of.


Most often we blame government and its complex rules and regulations for corruption in India. We blame politicians and bureucrats for exploiting the loop holes in our system. May be to a great extent this is true. However, we forget our politicians and bureaucrats come from our society. If we are corrupt that reflects on the people that we elect and people we choose to become administrators.

Question is as a society why are we so corrupt? Is it because for generations we have not seen money enjoyed good life, that is why we are susceptible to inducement? Is it our insecurity that steady flow of money that we see now, may vanish soon. So why no make hay while sun shines! May be that is why our leaders and administrators deliberately do not fix the rule of the game so that one can do business without having to pay bribe? Finally, may be as a society we are corrupt, and this reflects in our action.

Let us look at Mr. Suresh Kalmadi. What was his incentive to be corrupt? He had everything going for him. Entrusted with overseeing Common Wealth Games (CWG) in Delhi, he had enormous clout and access to corridors of power. It was believed that bringing games to Delhi would boost investment on cities infrasttructure, besides people will have access to watching world class players live. Although, CWG went without any major event, the preparations to CWG was a mess. Firstly, the whole preparation of venues and housing were seriously delayed. Cost of every infrastructure build was inflated close to ten times. Whereas building a brandnew stadium from the scratch costed around 60 - 80 crore, the same for CWG costed around 800 crore. Roads were not ready on time, one foot over bridge collapsed, several countries threatened to pullout of the games, many contingents put up their sports people in private hotels. To top this all there was stench of corruption. There was rumor mill that kept churning out that people were making money and Kalmadi being the final signatory he had to share the blame.


A Ringmaster's Reckoning | The Caravan - A Journal of Politics and ...

It is not known if rumors were true or not, however, in an article written by Anil Verghese for Caravan Magazine, secretary to Mr. Kalmadi, Sri Rajaraman  was quoted as saying,

"--- such delays are just part of doing business with the Indian government. “I guess the government had good reason to delay the construction, the release of funds and all that,” he says. “There is no other way to explain this. If we had completed construction by 2006, or, say 2008, 10 percent share the sarkari officers get is say x. Today it is 2 x, maybe. So my 10 percent has grown. So the longer I delay as a babu or a minister, the better it is for me. See the point?”

Then Rajaraman landed the final blow, “Are you telling me that the prime minister is not getting a cut out of all the big deals, or the Congress party? Or when the BJP was in power, it was not taking a cut? It’s become a norm in our country. It’s legal. All contracts are written now with a ten percent agent commission. It’s not illegal anymore…so the longer I delay, the better for me.”
Inspite of lot of mud slinging, nothing really stuck to Kalmadi. Except awarding on contract to a fradulent company in UK. Kalmadi had his signature on the paper. Although he tried to pass the blame on Indian High Commission in UK, he was not successful, CBI raided Kalmadi's residence. Nothing was recovered. Rumor has it, that Kalmadi had shifted his ill gotten wealth overnight. Kalmadi spent some time in jail. He is continuing as a congress member of parilament. 



Is Kalmadi a victim of the system or a shrewd manipulator of the same? Is it possible if Kalmadi had not managed government officials and politicians, CWG would have been in a bigger mess, because people in power would not release money on time. On Kalmadi, knowing the vulnerability and greed of the people in power, played them well such that  everyone made enough. A sceptic would say only those who did not get a share of the pie are cribbing.

At the end of the day, national glory is for naive common people who still get tear in their eyes at sound of national anthem being played and sight of national flag being hoisted.

Unless with change our system, bring in accountability and audit at every step where public money is being spent, nothing is likely to be changed. For big people it will remain a game of big money and big profit.


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