(Common)Wealth Games

While the Commonwealth games are still two months away, we are increasingly hearing sordid tales of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials making money in the guise of getting Delhi ready for the games. Here are a few examples that made me particularly sad:

  • Instead of buying treadmills, the games committee has decided to lease them for the duration of the games. The organizers claim that the cost to lease a treadmill for 45 days is a ridiculous Rs. 10 lakh. Investigation by media outlets have later revealed that you can buy (not lease) these same treadmills for around Rs. 4 lakh! (link)
  • Contracts have been brazenly awarded to the people who run the IOA. See this for example where the contract to prepare the tennis courts has been awarded to a company which is headed by the IOA treasurer’s son.
  • All preparations are hugely behind schedule. Many people attribute it to official apathy or incompetence. The truth is much more sinister. The IOA guys know that given a choice between (a) pumping money and getting Delhi ready at the last minute at all costs and (b) immense loss of national prestige by a lackluster event; the Indian/Delhi government will clearly choose (a). Hence, the IOA has deliberately delayed the preparations and now it is basically holding the Indian government hostage. “If you want us to be ready, we need Rs. xxx. And make it fast please!”.
  • Mr. Suresh Kalmadi has been the head of the IOA for the past fourteen years. I wonder what credentials does he have which allow him to remain the head of such a critical body for such a long time? His resume doesn’t list any sports background. The results he has delivered (as evidenced by our performances in international sports competitions) have been mediocre at best, and if you take out two or three brilliant individual performers, they are downright appalling. So why does he get to be the head of the IOA?

I am sure we will hear many more stories like this in the days to come. And it will be followed by the usual. After the games, a committee will be seated to investigate the conduct of the officials organizing the games. After six years of painstaking effort, all of it on taxpayer’s money, the committee will produce a 600 page report. Suresh Kalmadi by that time will be standing for his seventh re-election to the post of the IOA President. And India will be preparing for Olympics 2020 with the same wealth games being played in the background. I hope I am wrong.


Indian Census and Caste Statistics

I find it weird that no Census in independent India has ever collected any statistics about castes (scheduled castes and tribes aside). Given that so many of our policies and so much of our national resource allocation depends on caste, why does our Government shy away from collecting that data?

The original decision to not collect such data was, I think, to de-emphasize caste distinctions. While the intent might have been good, in reality much of our politics and national discourse is caste based and there are many benefits of accurate data regarding castes.

In fact the Mandal commission estimated the percentage of OBCs to be 52%. A much later survey conducted by the NSS (National Sample Survey) estimated the number to be 36%. Who is right? The cynic in me says the politicians want the public to remain in the dark since caste is one of the main tools they use to rule our country!

When this question about collecting caste data was put to C. Chandramoulli, the Census Commissioner, his reply was:

In Independent India, there has never been a Census where details related to castes were given. We don’t have that mandate from the government. There is no change in policy. We will only come out with total scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population in various areas. Details about caste will not be spelt out.

So we shall continue to live in ignorance!