Who are the Commonwealth Games for?
As India races to get ready for the Commonwealth Games, graffiti questioning their mass appeal has appeared over the last few weeks near some of the venues hosting the October event.
The graffiti in English, a language many middle-class well-to-do Indians are proficient in, questions the Games’ focus.
“Pro-rich anti-poor CWG sucks” says one scrawl. Another is hopeful “the Games are a disaster”. “No to Games” reads one peremptory message.
It is not clear which group or individual is responsible, but the writing on the wall scripts the same theme, along one of the capital’s busiest and posh thoroughfares.
Targeting sports events is not a novelty though New Delhi has not staged a major sports event since the 1982 Asian Games.
As the capital spends around 15 billion rupees to spruce up for the games there are questions on how it tackles what many see as a rush to redress perpetual eyesores from bad driving to beggars at traffic lights.
Is digging up pavements in the Lutyens zone, probably the best looking part of New Delhi, and rebuilding them a good use of resources?
The Commonwealth Games are being seen as New Delhi’s chance to showcase itself as a global city to the 100,000 visitors the city expects to host.
China’s Beijing Olympics were enviously watched here even as the sports minister said last year that India is too poor to bid for hosting the Olympics.
He may have a point.
Though one cannot argue that no expenditure is justifiable till poverty is eliminated but it needs to be asked if the infrastructure boom in the run-up to the Games isn’t middle-class centric?
Flyovers may help the cars zip by, but affordable public transport like buses which use up less space and are less polluting haven’t seen much expenditure come their way.
Poverty and consumerism stand cheek by jowl in India’s booming economy which has also resulted in increasing inequalities.
Is the way money is being spent on the Games a further reflection of things getting skewed against the poor?
Does the graffiti draw attention to something other than itself?
(Photos: A commuter walks past the New Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot in New Delhi October 3, 2009. REUTERS/Files and Homeless children sit amid debris in a demolished slum cluster in New Delhi December 12, 2006. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan)