By Abhirup Bhunia:
Patriotism and national-pride are terms, often grandiose but hollow. Nonetheless, these are expressions that can be misrepresented, misconstrued. When it is inadvertent, it’s called ignorance; when it is deliberate, it’s called subterfuge. These are remarks applicable to two third world nations, — or emerging economies, as they are dubbed to avoid sounding unpleasant — South Africa and India. South Africa, one of the poorest countries one can call to mind, was exceedingly successful in hosting the FIFA World Cup. The grounds were immaculate and stadiums flawlessly fortified; airports were embellished and inns refurbished. And not to mention the overall appearance of the nation that changed dramatically enough to flummox the eye of an ordinary South African. On top, the South Africa World Cup gave prominence to Vuvuzela (so much so that it stands to be included in the English dictionary) and Paul the Octopus (so much so that the craze for prediction has reached an all-time high). But all these did not do much for an average South African, except for angering him.
The impoverished nation might have demonstrated determination and national pride but, there are those who allege — at the cost of the common man. Self-styled bigheads will put forward a simplistic flowchart of how the hosting of the Cup has, for that matter, set the stage for a financial upsurge. But economists, true to their nature of being bluntly pragmatic, have adopted a cynical view.
Enhanced consumer spending, lacs of tourists, private sponsorship, infrastructure, roads, rail networks, communications, and transport — all these sound good when in festive mood. Not when one counts the budgetary allocation that might have gone into the hosting of world’s biggest and most extravagant sporting event. It is like a poor man believing that burning his pockets to feed on an overly generous feast would make him a stronger and happier man, something that will help him work better and earn more in future.
The World Cup has made the S.A. President and the elite South Africans proud men, but the common man has witnessed no alleviation of his myriad socio-economic problems. However, the final whistle has been blown and no amount of analysis can undo what is believed to be one of the most unpredictable world cups of all times. Enter India. (Addendum: David Cameron’s visit to India has nothing to do with this.) The land of a billion people, India, is set to host the Commonwealth games this October.
A whopping 5.5 billion USD (rough estimate) has been injected into the CWG funds to ensure the nation’s pride is intact. Roads are being renovated, special superior-class buses being rolled up, stadiums being given the finishing touches, villas being built, and of course, the much hyped Terminal three of the Delhi airport which opened up recently, is still being projected as the magical gateway to the ‘new India’.
The T3 itself came with a total expenditure of 2.8 billion USD roughly. Senior politician, Mani Shankar Aiyar, belonging to the Indian National Congress party, lately commented that the CWG was sheer wastage of money. “Thousands of crores are being spent on circuses like these while the common children are being deprived of basic facilities to play,” he said, much to the anger of the organizers. In comes corruption. Allegations of misappropriation intended at the organizers are flying thick, something which can infuriate the taxpayer.
Indians can still bear the burden of having to indirectly fund the Games, of which they know little of (considering India’s unconditional and biased craze for cricket) but siphoning off money is something Indians will prefer death to. A nation, where millions go hungry and farmers commit suicide weighed down by bankruptcy, can hardly be proud of an event that is typified by sumptuousness and profligacy.
As Aiyar said, “Those who are patronizing the Games can only be evil.” And some temporary, mostly menial, jobs that too in harsh violation of human rights coming with measly wages, is just too little to be significant. So the dilemma of the poor — newly prosperous nations — will continue to hover around. The emerging economies, no matter how well-heeled a future they might be looking at, will take time figuring out their priorities. Till then, it appears as if they will be torn apart between starkly differing identities.
The author is Special correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him @abhirup1