Yes, dengue is spreading and CWG projects are far behind schedule. But words like 'final deadline' and 'failure' are just too negative-- We need to use softer words like 'target" and 'adjustment!'
Mrs. Batti and I went for a long walk down Aurobindo Marg this weekend, near a section of the Metro line connecting CP and Gurgaon. I'll be happy to see the Metro reach South Delhi, but I was surprised to hear that the new line would open this Friday itself. Let's hope things look a lot better underground than they do above--traffic is flowing on the main road, but many businesses are separated from their would-be customers by construction barriers and mud. And there is standing water all over the place--the kind of places mosquitoes just love to make babies in. I didn't have my camera, but the photo to the right was the view from the AIIMS flyover this morning.
Yes, it is not hard to see why there is a rising discontent in Delhi. I'm hearing it from the least likely people. People who put up with the corruption and the wasted money and the widespread violations of CWG workers' rights ("that's just the way things are in Delhi."). Maybe it's the embarrassment of it all. Maybe it's the fact that those mosquitoes that are breeding in Commonwealth Games related construction sites are not just biting poor people; they are biting rich people as well, and everyone has a dengue story or two to tell this year.
News of this discontent has apparently reached our CM. As the August 31 'final' deadline passed, and it became clear that many CWG stadiums were not finished, who can really blame her for looking for excuses? She started by blaming government agencies and the rain for the mess we are in in. Here were her exact words, according to press reports:
"Some of the agencies were very ambitious, over ambitious. On top of that we have rains which has never happened like this in Delhi. That has slowed down work."
Hmm. As the CWG's most visible cheerleader for the past few years, it can't be easy to explain such huge problems away at this late date. But I think the CM can do better than this. I know there's been a lot of rain in the last few weeks. But it just doesn't work to blame the rain at this time of the year--we have this thing called the monsoon in Delhi, and most children are taught in schools that the monsoon means the rainy season, which is also why this is not traditionally the season when we try to get big construction projects done. Might as well blame the sun for going down and limiting our natural light at night.
As for the "over ambitious" agencies, well that sounds a bit odd coming from "Smt. World Class City", who has told us everything is going to be just fine for as long as anyone can remember, and who was boasting that Delhi would be "pollution free by 2010" as recently as three years ago. No, sorry, the "over ambitious" line just won't fly.
But not to worry, I have a solution to the CM's PR problems. All this talk of 'final deadlines' was a bad idea in the first place. From now on, let's not use the word 'final' at all--who wants to set ourselves up for more failure? And let's use the word target instead of deadline--it's much less negative sounding. In any case, if we miss the new mid-September target, we've still got plenty of time--after all the Games don't open until October 3!
And even October 3 is not really a final deadline; it's just a worthy goal. If we can't make that goal, we'll simply have to make an adjustment to the program. Just think of it as jagaad, a work-around solution. We're good at that kind of thing; it's nothing to worry about--in fact we should think of it as a source of local pride. Actually, there could be real political payoffs for the CM if she spins things right. Say, for example, that Nehru Stadium isn't ready and we have to move lawn bowling to a local school yard or the Shahpur Jat maidan--that's not a failure, that's just taking the Games to the common man!
Or in the worst case scenario--no let's not be so negative....in a different kind of scenario---we could do what I suggested back on April 1: cancel the Games and hold a Commonwealth Science Olympiad instead. That, my friends, is what they call thinking out of the stadium--sorry, I mean thinking outside of the box. Given our performance in the last Olympics, it's a safe bet that we'd come away with more medals in a Science Olympiad format than we would in the more traditional Commonwealth Games format.
The CM has made much of how these Games will be so Green. Think of the savings in greenhouse gases we would see if most of the athletes and officials just stayed home! Come to think of it, we could go a step further and make it a Virtual Commonwealth Science Olympiad. That way, nobody at all would be required to come to Delhi, and we could all just sit back and relax as we boasted about how bright our future scientists are.
If you want serious analysis, check out our CWG page.
And if you want more than a change in slogans, take a look at ACORN International's Commonwealth Games Campaign or help fight the evictions at Delhi University.