Jag Venugopal's Blog

September 23, 2010

An imminent superpower hosts the Commonwealth games

Filed under: India — Jag @ 1:06 am

I read in the Times of India that a “US Report” considers India to be the world’s third most powerful country. Yes, that’s right fellow desis, we’re one big powerful nation, ranking right up there with the US and China. We’ve long since surpassed the geriatric democracies of Western Europe. Our former colonial masters are now a mere footnote in history. And, Japan and Korea are countries that write in funny script and eat noodles all the time.

But wait a minute, are we talking about the same country that is attempting to “host” the Commonwealth games? You know those games where the Athlete’s village had apartments with excrement in them when they were handed over to the “guests”? The same country that could not get a single venue ready and cleaned up before the games? The same country in whose capital there are pools of standing water and garbage days prior to the start of the games? The same country where a footbridge and a roof collapsed two days before the games? The same country where the stink of corruption from the Commonwealth Games organizers reaches much further than the fetid odor of slums which cover a good half of many major cities? The same country in whose capital dengue fever is running rampant? The same country that could not ensure sufficient security, and allowed two terrorists to shoot foreign tourists and escape so close to the games?

No, we cannot compare ourselves to China. We’re not even in the same league. We make a big deal of our democracy versus their dictatorship. Its the same democracy that allows two robber-baron ministers to have free run of all the iron ore reserves in Karnataka, and for another minister who thrashed a fellow-driver because said driver had the temerity to overtake his “official” car.

Folks, as someone settled in the US, I will surely appear to be an Uncle Tom, preaching to the poor cousins back home. But I think that if you well and truly love someone, you have a duty to speak the truth (and doesn’t our national motto say as much?). The truth is that India is so far from being a power of any sort. Each time we proclaim our exalted status, we make a laughingstock of ourselves before the world. A proud civilization with a history of 5,000 years goes into raptures whenever any non-entity in the west mouths some platitude or other about our supposed greatness. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We know who we are. We know where we stand. And we’re nowhere ready to sup at the table of the high and mighty.

I’ll offer a simple manifesto for India. One that won’t take it to great power status any time soon but one which will delight its citizens. For the next decade, let the country focus on the luxuries of life such as a sufficient supply of clean water, clean air, electricity being available 24×7, education for our children, adequate public transportation, and garbage-free roads in our cities. Let our democracy be true — without a fifth of MP’s having criminal convictions. Let our police forces protect the people, rather than being the private army of whoever happens to be in power. Let our public services  actually serve the public — without the need for bribes, influence and grovelling before the smallest of civil servants. Let us have a polity where people don’t vote for whoever belongs to their caste, based on the logic of “he might be a scoundrel, but he’s our scoundrel”, but actually value competence and honesty. Let us hold our elected officials accountable, and stop the plunder of natural resources that they acquiesce in. Let’s get rid of slums — not by token slum demolitions but by actually coming up with sufficient affordable housing for our poor.

A clean country with a well-educated populace can do a lot more for us in the eyes of the rest of the world than any misplaced megalomania.   Let’s leave superpower ambitions to our larger eastern neighbor.

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