Can Delhi hold Commonwealth Games ?
Two days of rain in a span of about a month have thoroughly exposed the lack of infra structure in the capital as also raised serious doubts on whether Delhi was prepared to hold Commonwealth Games next year.
The showers demonstrated that the city had a non-functional drainage system, an erratic traffic controlling mechanism and there was no attempt by the authorities to fix responsibility and take action so that things could move smoothly thereafter.
The tall claims of Delhi being a world-class capital have fallen by the wayside. It is not necessary that it may rain when the Games are on but we must be prepared for any eventuality. A colleague while talking about the crisis commented that at one time it used to fun when it rained. But now…it is disaster. How true.
It is not rain, alone which needs to be tackled. We have to ask ourselves a question whether our hospitals were equipped to deal with any kind of emergency that could arise and was our police force trained enough to take all kinds of measures. The bureaucracy, which boasts of efficiency, has to also own up things upfront instead of trying to take advantage of multiplicity of authority and consequently passing the blame on other agencies.
Other than the obvious kind of preparedness we also need to have the right attitude to hold the event. Commonwealth Games should certainly not be treated as an occasion when in the name of developing sub standard infra structure huge corruption takes place. It should be used to transform the city for the better like what happened after the Asiad in 1982. .
I was appalled when I raised this topic with a senior bureaucrat connected with a civic agency. His reply was shocking. He said “such events are like the great Indian wedding. Like in the wedding, preparations continue till the very end and finally the baraat arrives and things pass off peacefully. So will these Games you will see”. Equating the Games with the great Indian wedding was something I have not been able to come to terms with myself. The bureaucrat’s experience of weddings is not what should be thrust upon the people of this country.
The Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit appeared very angry when life came to a standstill last week. She asked reporters what could anyone do if it poured like it did on that day. The helplessness was in a way admission of failure on part of the authorities. It was a typical bureaucratic type of answer and it did not surprise me because it is the bureaucrats who are running this government.
If she would not know than who would know. She has taken credit for a lot of things in the city. She should also be prepared to take the flak. Elected people always have a better relation with reality and the bureaucrats in the garb of anonymity want to eat their cake and have it too. Dikshit should know this by now.
As an Indian I am interested that the Games should be held in a successful manner. I do not wish our country in general and our Delhi in particular to be embarrassed internationally. There are many able men who are associated with the preparations but if the Games are to be held their energies need to be channelised more effectively.
There has to be someone with some authority who has to monitor the progress very closely and ensure that crores of rupees being spent on creating an infrastructure do not go waste. There should be no room for allegations that crores were siphoned off by corrupt elements and the real work suffered. Such things can happen but should not happen in this case as the prestige of the country is involved.
The drainage problem which came to fore for instance showed total lack of imagination. In Lutyen’s Delhi not many years ago there used to be no water logging. There were open storm water drains on the edge of every road and they would take in a lot of water.
These open drains were closed and instead pipes of specifications lower than those required to carry such volumes of water were put a few meters into the ground. These pipes regularly get choked and if they are cleaned up, the volumes of water are much more than their capacity. It is a simple common sense problem.
Equally appalling is that even on National Highway 8, there have been complaints of water logging. The stretch between the domestic airport and Raddison Hotel had water accumulated on the Expressway itself. Wonder why the slope principle was not adhered to.
Even at the beginning of the expressway near Subroto Park, there is huge accumulation of water since there is no outlet for storm water. Every underpass has similar water logging. Many places where new sewer pipes have been laid, water logging is pronounced. An experts committee to bring the guilty to book must review the quality of workmanship and the material used.
Each time it rains, the police come under fire. We have to ensure that the traffic signals function. Though it is not possible for the poor policemen to be present everywhere, the officials of the civic agencies entrusted with the task of dealing with such problems should be out in full strength.
How many times have we seen MCD, NDMC or DDA officials on roads to defuse this kind of crisis? Some labourers who try to ease things at great risk to their lives are the only ones visible. There should be a standard rule. If such a crisis takes place every IAS/IPS/PCS officer should be out in the open and try to fget things fixed. They owe this much to the people.
For many of us who were born and grew up in this city, the picture of a bus submerged under the Minto Bridge during monsoons remains etched in memory. While the picture remains the same, its location has shifted to the underpass on the Africa Avenue and now to the one leading to Dwarka. World class engineering feats.
Such feats also remind me of the new NDMC building where the lift chutes were made in an asymmetric manner that till this day the lifts have not been installed. But I gather those who were responsible got away and are no longer in government employment.
This is the kind of things we have to guard against. A leaking airport is the last thing one would want to see in any part of the country leave alone the National Capital. The Centre must take things in their hand and put some dynamic person in in charge to oversee the progress of various projects.
During Asiad, three dynamic go-getters—H.K.L.Bhagat, H.K.L.Kapoor and Jagmohan executed things under the watchful eyes of Rajiv Gandhi. Similar kind of urgency is needed if the National prestige is to be saved. If we hold the Commonwealth Games, there should be no occasion on account of our preparedness ( or lack of it), which should embarrass us.