India Insight

Commonwealth Games besieged – now diseased?

Plagued by endless corruption accusations, vast overspending claims and huge construction delays, you would be forgiven for thinking none of Delhi’s inhabitants were overjoyed about the city’s upcoming Commonwealth Games.

But you’d be mistaken, at least according to India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

On Sunday, he said that the construction sites for the Games, which kick off in just over 40 days, were providing perfect conditions for the city’s mosquitoes, and laying the blame for the city’s record-breaking dengue outbreak squarely with the organising committee.

Labourers work at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, one of the venues for the New Delhi Commonwealth Games. April 5, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Adnan Abidi/Files

“Dengue and water is strongly related. Delhi is already dug up because of the Games and it is also raining heavily. Since water remains accumulated in many places, it becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which are contributing to diseases,” Azad told reporters.

Throwing salt in the organisers’ wounds was his thinly-veiled accusation that had the work been completed on schedule, and the construction completed before the monsoon weather arrived, this year’s outbreak of the deadly virus could have been avoided.

No criticism please, we’re Indian

Suddenly, it is not cool to be against the scandal-plagued Commonwealth Games.

A commuter walks past the Commonwealth Games 2010 mascot in New Delhi October 3, 2009. REUTERS/Parth SanyalThe CWG was meant to be Delhi’s big coming-out party, India’s assertion that it is a global powerhouse capable of doing what China did with the Beijing Summer Olympics two years ago.

Instead, the Games, scheduled for October, are turning out to be a costly embarrassment, with daily revelations of corruption, fraud and political wrongdoing that has triggered big headlines and much hand wringing by outraged citizens, sportsmen and even politicians.

But suddenly, being against the CWG is almost unpatriotic.

In an “emotional appeal” with a visual of the Indian tricolour published in all leading newspapers on the weekend, industrialist Subrata Roy flayed the “recent continuous and negative media coverage” that has left organisers and volunteers feeling “totally demoralised and dejected”.

In Kashmir, India now struggles with “children of conflict”

Kashmir has been seething since early June. Life across the Muslim-majority valley has been completely disrupted by curfews and protest strikes since some of the biggest anti-India demonstrations in two years erupted a month ago.

A Kashmiri Muslim man crosses a deserted road marked with graffiti during a curfew in Srinagar July 16, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/FilesSeventeen people, mostly teenage protesters, have been killed by security forces in near daily pro-freedom demonstrations fuelling anger across the disputed Himalayan region.

India blames Pakistan-based militants for the ongoing Kashmir protests but Kashmiris say the protests are spontaneous.

Reactions from the common man

Opposition parties held a one-day general strike to protest a fuel price hike by the government. Reuters finds out its impact in New Delhi and whether Delhiites support the strike.

Fuel price hike: Reactions from the common man

The government raises petrol prices by 3.5 rupees/litre and decides to make them market-determined. Diesel gets costlier by 2 rupees/litre and cooking gas by 35 rupees a cylinder.

Reuters spoke to people in the streets of New Delhi to get their reaction.

PANKAJ (senior manufacturing analyst, GM motors)

ANUBHAV SRIVASTAVA (member, RTI foundation) 

DISHITA (freelancer at an ad agency)

GAURAV (a student)

(Flip cam videos by Rohan Dua)

Europe-bound passengers stranded at Delhi airport

Europe-bound passengers were still stranded at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport on Tuesday, five days after European airports were cut off from the rest of the world by a huge volcanic ash cloud. Some of the affected travellers spoke to Reuters at the airport about their desperate efforts to get home.

Polish tourist Joanna was travelling from Sri Lanka to Poland.

Paolo Ficara, an Italian, has returned to India after a visit to Nepal and Bhutan.

Tomasso Berreti, also an Italian, was supposed to fly back to Italy three days ago.

Who are the Commonwealth Games for?

INDIA-COMMONWEALTH/GAMESAs 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.

Afghan endgame and fears of rise in Kashmir violence

The Indian army says rebel violence will escalate in Kashmir in summer as hundreds of militants are waiting in the Pakistani part of Kashmir to infiltrate into the Indian side and step up attacks.

Seized bullets are displayed by the Indian army during a news conference after a gun battle with militants, in Srinagar March 28, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliEven an internal assessment of the Home Ministry says the summer of 2010 will be as bloodier as or even worse than the mid-nineties.

In Kashmir, violence involving Muslim rebels and Indian troops was on the decline since India and Pakistan, who dispute the region, began a peace process in 2004.

Separatists make contact with China to ‘discuss’ Kashmir

The chief of Kashmir’s moderate separatist alliance recently met a Chinese delegation in Geneva, the first such contact by Kashmiri separatists with Chinese officials since a simmering discontent against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

Mirwaiz Umar FarooqMirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference, met the Chinese Director Foreign Affairs, Ying Gang, in Geneva on the sidelines of the 13th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council and discussed Beijing’s possible role in the resolution of the dispute.

“It was a good gesture as the government of China had earlier avoided meeting us,” Farooq said.

from Tales from the Trail:

Is Holbrooke’s “bulldozer” style working?

Dubbed the "bulldozer" for his tough guy tactics in Balkan negotiations, U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has been making waves in South Asia recently.

holbrookeU.S. embassies in New Delhi and Kabul have been scrambling over the past week to deal with local fallout from statements made by Washington's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Statements that often go by unnoticed in Washington are parsed word for word in a region where there are deeply-held suspicions over U.S. intentions.

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