The World’s Biggest Banana Republic


Shobhan Saxena

A couple of days ago, a Scottish delegate got a shock of his life when he saw a dog shitting on a bed inside a ‘swanky’ apartment at the Commonwealth Games village in Delhi. The Scotsman clicked a photo of the dog, and now the picture is part of the evidence submitted by the Scottish delegation to the Organising Committee to prove that the multi-million dollar village is not “fit for human habitation”. In the past few days, foreign TV crews and photographers have been busy chasing and clicking photos of dogs – peeing and shitting in the apartments, running on practice tracks, jumping into swimming pools and sleeping under the police cars and other vehicles parked at Games sites and venues. The foreigners are horrified – and scared to death – by the sight of street dogs running wild in the “sanitized areas”. For them, it’s a sign that India is not ready for the Games and the infrastructure here is not “world class”.

Now, there is no doubt that India’s carefully created, and airbrushed, image of an ’emerging superpower’ and the ‘second-fastest growing economy’ in the world rots in the piles of rubbish. The myth of ‘India Shining’ (BJP’s slogan) and ‘India Rising’ (the Congress’ slogan) has been busted. We have proved to the world – and to ourselves as well – that we are a third world banana republic which is sinking into a bottomless pit.

I am not worried about the mismanagement at the Games sites. We shouldn’t have organized the Games at all. The country which in 63 years of independence hasn’t been able to provide proper living houses, clean drinking water, uninterrupted electricity, fulltime jobs, healthy food, clean air and free education to all its citizens despite spending trillions of dollars, how did you expect the same country to pull off an international sporting event without it sinking into the slime and grime of corruption and bad governance.

I am not justifying corruption, but it’s a fact that graft is part and parcel of capitalism, though the level differs from country to country. This has been proved by western politicians and Wall Street bankers in the past couple of years. In the US, the bankers and financial giants robbed the American people, mostly the middle and working-class, clean and then declared themselves bankrupt, and they were bailed out by the American government with public money. This was the world’s biggest daylight robbery. And no one, except Michael Moore, raised the red flag.

In the US, this brazen act of corruption made thousands of houses go under water and millions became jobless, but in India something more sinister and dark has been happening in the garb of the Games. In the past two years or so, the governments of this country and this city have launched a full-scale war on the poor. Millions of poor people from the country’s dustbowls have been brought here to work at the Games’ construction sites. They have been slogging day and night at the venues and living like animals under plastic sheets, sleeping on wet ground and eating filthy food. That food is just about enough to keep their body and soul together so that they can build the glass and chrome buildings and showcase India Shining to the world.

In 21st century India, the street dogs are luckier than the poor. The dogs make news for shitting on expensive beds and the poor workers go to snake-infested swamps to take a leak at night, get bitten and die and not a soul is stirred.

On one hand the government has brought these people from poverty-ravaged villages to work on its corruption-tainted buildings, and on the other hand lakhs of hard-working but poor people have been thrown out of the city so that the foreigners coming here for the Games do not see the ugly, dirty side of India. Thousands of people living in Yamuna Pushta area were plucked from their houses and dumped on a wasteland in Haryana. Beggars were packed off earlier. Now, the police are scanning the slums of Delhi and Gurgaon and people are being forced to board trains back to their villages. These people have been living and working here for years and suddenly they have been asked to leave. The government doesn’t want any filth in the city during the Games. It’s putting bamboo screens in front of the slums.

But, now the filth is out in the open. The mismanagement and corruption has been exposed by the photos of dirty, filthy and unhygienic apartments at the Games village. And guess who gets blamed for it. Not the politicians or babus or contractors but the poor workers at the site. And when 27 workers got injured on Wednesday, when the footbridge near the JL Nehru stadium collapsed, they were herded like animals into private vehicles and dumped at a sarkari hospital. No ambulance for them, no post-recovery package for them. Just Rs 50,000 in damages for broken legs, cracked heads and damaged spinal chords.

And, to hide the accident near the Nehru stadium, the area was cordoned off and cops in full riot gear were stationed so that ordinary people and media and foreigners can’t get anywhere near the site and see one more horrendous accident. Suddenly, the government has one solution for every problem across the country: post heavily-armed police and paramilitary men at the scene of a “disturbance” and give them license to shoot at will. It happens everyday in Srinagar. It’s happening everyday in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. It’s happening in the villages of West Bengal. It’s happening in the villages of UP. Now, with Ayodhya verdict round the corner, the temple town is being turned into a fortress with men in khaki swarming over it.

These are symptoms of a failed state. We are catching up with Pakistan. We make tall claims about growth, but we treat out poor worse than animals. We aspire to be world power, but we can’t even provide drinking water to all our citizens. We claim to be world’s biggest democracy, but we ‘solve’ all our social and political problems with loaded guns in hand. It’s time we accepted that we are a banana republic and we are going to the dogs.

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