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THE MISSING RAGE

The Commonwealth Games is symptomatic of the deeper decay, decadence, and debilitation of our moral and ethical standards. It is not just about Suresh Kalmadi. It is about much more.

By Sanjay Jha

At the peak of the IPL scam in May earlier this year I was frequently asked by many;” Just why don’t you guys leave Lalit Modi alone ?  If he is made money, so what ? At least he has given us a great summer entertainment .You guys are just party-poopers”. They would then proceed to book their tables at Wasabi, Taj Mahal hotel.

I often replied thus: “ What about franchise bid rigging, blatant conflict of interest, offshore kickback deals, private profiteering in vendor contracts, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax violations, betting, match-fixing, slush money……..”

My monologue would be rudely interrupted: “ Oh come on, there are so may who are corrupt. I am sure he is not the only one. Catch the big fish in the sea”.

As the 2010  Commonwealth Games scam unfolds, Suresh Kalmadi’s demeanor manifests that it is his birthright to indulge in some frivolous expenditures of a few double digit crores . There is an imperceptible but oppressive presence nonetheless of casual nonchalance;  what’s the big deal if there have been some surreptitious crooked contracts? After all, the now-celebrated Organising Committee has only a measly Rs 2400 crores allocated compared to the overall still-ballooning budget outlay of Rs 40,000 crores ? Such a dismal,  low percentage; is it even worth the salt calling for such incisive  investigation?

Kalmadi’s mind-set is a personification of what affects India ; it is the magnitude of corruption that matters nowadays, not the act itself. Thus, our new-found tolerance for “minor” shenanigans. In the age of A Raja and Reddy Brothers when we are tossing Rs 60,000 crores as effortlessly as fried noodles in a Chinese oven , Kalmadi and ilk believe their criticism is grossly exaggerated. In their opinion, a few crores is as insignificant as used toilet paper which needs to be disdainfully dispatched. Hence his palpable outrage for this endless questioning. I thought Kalmadi looked genuinely sympathetically at his inquisitors as he unleashed a damage-control exercise.

I also feel we Indians are yet to emerge out of the personality trap, the hero-worshipping paradigm? Despite boasting of our new managerial-entrepreneurial culture, there is this preposterous perception that the Commonwealth Games cannot be held in the absence of Kalmadi& Co. It is utter rubbish! India is not short on available talent and since when did we believe that self-promoting over-rated characters are indispensable? The CWG scam reflects why Kalmadi fought against his own party-man , the Sports Minister MS Gill when the latter was correctly limiting tenures of politicians heading sports federations.


In a cricket –obsessed country, the CWG provides a global platform for our athletes and  sportspeople to display their talent, grab limelight, and achieve national and world-wide glory. Besides, they could get better jobs and even commercial endorsements. Kalmadi has done,  at least temporarily,  an incalculable damage to their morale. He owes them a huge moral responsibility for the unpalatable mess that he has created. .

While the whole world appeared to be somewhat markedly stunned by Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s failed Pune IPL franchise bid, one conspicuous fact was surprisingly missed  by the otherwise discerning media sleuths,  or was it conveniently overlooked? . Just why and how is Pawar holding equity stocks in a real estate company? While it may be a genuine investment, politicians in land deals are legendary sources of corruption in our country. One should read Raghuram Rajan’s  excellent assessment on the same. Incidentally,  Pawar is far from an isolated case. In fact, he is in distinguished company.

The government of India should keep out of mega global commercial events such as CWG as they are beyond its mental grasp , logistical capabilities and  professional expertise. These need to be outsourced to experienced international sports and event  management firms on strict performance-based fee structures. The only role that the OC should have played was of effective facilitation, and overall coordination with multiple agencies.

In the early days of the CWG scam, a noteworthy development went unnoticed. An 82 year old woman was elected to head Indian hockey. We sure are a sporting nation, folks.

A sporting country reflects its national character, its confidence, spirit , self-belief and zest for success and life. In India, instead of preparing for victory speeches we do dry-runs of rationalizing our failure. The CWG is symptomatic of the deeper decay, decadence, and debilitation of our moral and ethical standards.  It is not just about Mr Kalmadi. It is about much more.

Amitabh Bachchan was our Angry Young Man of the 1970s, rebelling against corrupt cops, shady bootleggers, unscrupulous factory-owners and sundry extortionists. I watched his Zanjeer and Deewaar several times. The modern –day avatar is too busy choosing  between the IPhone or Blackberry. Or Bangkok and  Bali. As long as the shopping festival is open, and a multiplex is around he is “ essentially” satisfied.  Has middle-class India lost its moral fiber amidst the glittering charades of towering malls?

During our post-grad days in the mid-1980s TV actress Priya Tendulkar shone incandescent in an DD-serial, and  as Rajni charmed Sunday households with her audacious challenges to gas dealers, employment exchange officers , postmen, builders, politicians, doctors  and bad bosses. But today Rajni does not exist; maybe some things have genuinely improved or has it? I see no anger, no sense of revulsion, or a desire to protest anymore. We just do not seem to care.The rage is missing.

In India corruption is now deemed a function of size with a unanimous agreement on “ Yes, we are all corrupt, but he is a bigger racketeer  than me, blah blah.” Thus, the small-time crook actually begins to have a self-righteous belief that he is only an unfortunate pawn if caught stealing ? Seriously, can you really blame the poorly paid traffic constable for pocketing a measly 50 bucks when he gets a daily installment of Kalmadi & Co’s accumulating reserves? In matters of corruption, there is no such thing as the theory of relativity, no niggling nebulous grey areas. In public life, the margin of error is and should be zero. Like Lalit Modi , Kalmadi does not deserve any sympathy whatsoever.

The state of decomposition runs deeper and this is why PM Manmohan Singh needs to not just smell the coffee, but even take a sip of the caffeine. If even the men who are supposed to defend our national boundaries like the Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh are accused of financial impropriety by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, we have a grave crisis beating the drums outside our door on four legs . And facts do not cease to exist because we ignore them.

The annual rate of growth of corruption has exceeded the rate of inflation by a whopping margin. Despite lowering personal and corporate tax rates, why has India’s parallel economy held fort at a staggering 40% of GDP? Is it because  corruption has seeped to such unfathomable depths that it is now in our DNA , our infallible pillar of daily existence? A Raja, Reddy Brothers, Lalit Modi, Amit Shah, Madhusudan Koda, Suresh Kalmadi, Ramalingam Raju,  VK Singh   — it is an impressive list covering a diversified occupational base. India needs to worry.

We are the cynosure of global capital and  perceived as a political heavyweight,  a future G-3 member and UN Security Council player.  But reputation matters.  Another  BRIC country , Brazil , will be holding a mammoth and difficult World Cup football event in  2014.  India needs to move on determined to make a difference. Sorry Mani Shankar Aiyer, but despite the CWG shame, maybe we should still bid for the Asian Games in 2019. I think we should. Even a country after all is entitled to redemption.

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5 Comments on THE MISSING RAGE

  1. Mr. Sanjay I guess you have hit the nail on the head. It is the missing revulsion to corruption that is the root cause of this decay and it makes me hang my head in shame as a middle class Indian. I loved a simple hoarding I saw in Singapore – ‘Low crime does not mean no crime!’ How true and something that we as a nation miss as a point, while we happily bribe our way through minor traffic offenses!

  2. Just one question Sanjay: How can voting for Congress help in this situation? Should we not be looking outside for true “redemption”?

    Jai Hind, Jai Bharat!
    Shantanu

  3. well put. I was amazed to see this article on Sushma Swaraj http://www.headlinerwatch.com/10930/sushma-tears-opposition-pieces.htm

  4. When India’s former Union Sport’s Minister Mani Shankar Iyer hoped that the 2010 Commonwealth Games will fail miserably (as its

    flop would be a fitting statement on the state of corruption in India) the CWG Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalamadi

    accused him of being anti-nationalist.

    Sanjay Jha, author of the political blog ‘HamaraCongress.com’ stated, “The Commonwealth Games is symptomatic of the deeper

    decay, decadence, and debilitation of our moral and ethical standards.” That too would be accused (by the rush of politicians

    trying to forge the 2010 Games into a resounding success) as being unpatriotic.

    What really is the issue here? Why the uninhibited denials? It’s important to note at the forefront that there is no country on

    earth that doesn’t have its pride wounded when under the negative scrutiny of the International eye. No country that doesn’t

    turn rampant trying to salvage the situation through clever deflective advertising.

    Indians at the moment are torn about this issue, particularly because the government body flailing to save face has sold the

    idea to its citizens that this is a fundamental case of nationalist pride; that we must regain respect for India by collectively

    ensuring the success of the CWG event.

    Crisply voicing the dismay of several Indians, the successful Indian writer Chetan Bhagat implored, “The CWG is an amazing

    opportunity because all Indians have been robbed at the same time… do not watch these Games. Do not go to the venues. Do not

    watch them on TV. You cannot become a cheerleader to an exercise in cheating. The Indian people have been exploited enough, but

    to expect us to smile through it is a bit much.”

    But there is a polarity. Many more Indians are concerned about what the world would think of them if they admit they have a

    problem. The idea of nationalistic pride seems to have struck a core concern, and snapping them out of it is not going to be

    easy. Many Indians are ready to circulate the idea of boycotting the Commonwealth Games, but I suspect – the majority may not

    be.

    As Indians, we also face the subtle undercurrent of racial discrimination that, merely 60 years after our independence, the need

    to prove ourselves as equals still exists. I can understand that. I can understand that perhaps much of International scrutiny

    is certainly not objective, seeking more to pity our state of things than to be constructive. For that very reason I can

    understand why Indians would want to overlook their colossal opportunity to resolve an internal conflict between citizen and

    government. When world media is being accusational rather than productive, I can understand why the marketing campaign of the

    government asking Indians to stick together just might work. We are forgetting to fight the government at the key moment when

    its armour has fallen just because we are also being attacked from outside.

    But then, I ask myself, what does it mean to be truly patriotic? To be a Nationalist?

    Is it to cover our tracks, throw curtains over our problems, and entertain the fantasy that we are living in a mansion while we

    squander in a junkyard? Is it to support each other even in our injustice? Is it to support our oppressors?

    Or is the very meaning of patriotism hinged on the liberty of the citizen? A liberty that is lost too often under the rotting

    stench of corruption that surrounds us.

    At this point it seems a petty squabble to try to save face globally, whilst the pressing issue (for the last decades) has been

    addressing the corruption of our government. Admitting our problems to ourselves and resolving them ourselves – that sounds like

    patriotism. That sounds like the attitude that leads to a country’s emancipation.

    Every country has its problems, has its corruption, its decay, its denials, its discriminations – and the patriotic among them

    will have to fight to change that eventually. This is our own fight, and we cannot deny it.

    So, I am with Chetan Bhagat, Mani Shankar Iyer, Sanjay Jha and the thousands of others who understand the meaning of being a

    nationalist. For any real sense of justice, we must boycott the 2010 Commonwealth Games. There is no better opportunity than

    this to make a change.

    And I ask the International communities to lend a constructive voice to help this situation which is reflective of a global

    disease (even if the differences are only relative). I ask the world communities to also boycott the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

    The effects will echo in time and will be a blow at corruption worldwide!

    Dearly,
    An Indian Nationalist.

  5. First attempt had some formatting error, I am reposting:

    When India’s former Union Sport’s Minister Mani Shankar Iyer hoped that the 2010 Commonwealth Games will fail miserably (as its flop would be a fitting statement on the state of corruption in India) the CWG Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalamadi
    accused him of being anti-nationalist.

    Sanjay Jha, author of the political blog ‘HamaraCongress.com’ stated, “The Commonwealth Games is symptomatic of the deeper decay, decadence, and debilitation of our moral and ethical standards.” That too would be accused (by the rush of politicians trying to forge the 2010 Games into a resounding success) as being unpatriotic.

    What really is the issue here? Why the uninhibited denials? It’s important to note at the forefront that there is no country on earth that doesn’t have its pride wounded when under the negative scrutiny of the International eye. No country that doesn’t turn rampant trying to salvage the situation through clever deflective advertising.

    Indians at the moment are torn about this issue, particularly because the government body flailing to save face has sold the idea to its citizens that this is a fundamental case of nationalist pride; that we must regain respect for India by collectively ensuring the success of the CWG event.

    Crisply voicing the dismay of several Indians, the successful Indian writer Chetan Bhagat implored, “The CWG is an amazing pportunity because all Indians have been robbed at the same time… do not watch these Games. Do not go to the venues. Do not watch them on TV. You cannot become a cheerleader to an exercise in cheating. The Indian people have been exploited enough, but to expect us to smile through it is a bit much.”

    But there is a polarity. Many more Indians are concerned about what the world would think of them if they admit they have a problem. The idea of nationalistic pride seems to have struck a core concern, and snapping them out of it is not going to be easy. Many Indians are ready to circulate the idea of boycotting the Commonwealth Games, but I suspect – the majority may not be.

    As Indians, we also face the subtle undercurrent of racial discrimination that, merely 60 years after our independence, the need to prove ourselves as equals still exists. I can understand that. I can understand that perhaps much of International scrutiny is certainly not objective, seeking more to pity our state of things than to be constructive. For that very reason I can understand why Indians would want to overlook their colossal opportunity to resolve an internal conflict between citizen and government. When world media is being accusational rather than productive, I can understand why the marketing campaign of the government asking Indians to stick together just might work. We are forgetting to fight the government at the key moment when its armour has fallen just because we are also being attacked from outside.

    But then, I ask myself, what does it mean to be truly patriotic? To be a Nationalist?

    Is it to cover our tracks, throw curtains over our problems, and entertain the fantasy that we are living in a mansion while we squander in a junkyard? Is it to support each other even in our injustice? Is it to support our oppressors?

    Or is the very meaning of patriotism hinged on the liberty of the citizen? A liberty that is lost too often under the rotting stench of corruption that surrounds us.

    At this point it seems a petty squabble to try to save face globally, whilst the pressing issue (for the last decades) has been addressing the corruption of our government. Admitting our problems to ourselves and resolving them ourselves – that sounds like patriotism. That sounds like the attitude that leads to a country’s emancipation.

    Every country has its problems, has its corruption, its decay, its denials, its discriminations – and the patriotic among them will have to fight to change that eventually. This is our own fight, and we cannot deny it.

    So, I am with Chetan Bhagat, Mani Shankar Iyer, Sanjay Jha and the thousands of others who understand the meaning of being a nationalist. For any real sense of justice, we must boycott the 2010 Commonwealth Games. There is no better opportunity than this to make a change.

    And I ask the International communities to lend a constructive voice to help this situation which is reflective of a global disease (even if the differences are only relative). I ask the world communities to also boycott the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The effects will echo in time and will be a blow at corruption worldwide!

    Dearly,
    An Indian Nationalist.

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