Tuesday, July 17, 2007

who needs decent roads and a working sewer when we can have F1 and the commonwealth games?

The mixed up priorities of Delhi's government (and India's, for that matter) never cease to amaze me. We don't have a decent road -- ok, maybe the drive up to the parliament house or something. Half the city gets polluted water out of the taps (or no water, or no taps). Three-quarters of the buildings are illegal or falling down or both. There's no sewer system deserving the name, so everybody's shit goes straight into the river untreated (and much of it right back into the drinking water, I suppose). The garbage pickup is a joke, so half the streets look like part of some municipal dump and the drains are clogged by refuse every year (the good citizens who throw their rubbish on the ground deserve as much blame as the MCD, by the way). But these problems hardly see even a tiny spark of action--certainly not any results. Nope, instead Delhi goes off and bids for the Commonwealth Games. And WINS! Wins? Did the selection committee SEE the airport progress report? Then, high on that dubious success, the next step is a natural -- go after a Formula One race. The Delhi Grand Prix. It sounds good, doesn't it?

Just for a laugh, go down and check out the sports facilities at Nehru stadium or some of the various "modernities" constructed for the Asian Games a decade or so back. I don't know that they've boosted tourism or improved India's sportsmen or created valuable infrastructure. They look like a bunch of neglected, badly constructed junk to my jaundiced eye. Then, if you want to stop laughing, take a gander at one of Delhi's countless slums or (worse) jhuggi clusters. Maybe you think your tax money would be put to good use just obliterating these people, humanely as possible, of course, and bulldozing their houses so India can build some stadium or glass skyscraper. I don't. But even if I did, I'd at least insist that the stadium or skyscraper in question be designed by a competent architect, built with decent materials, and, what the heck, I'd even like it hooked up to a functioning sewage system. See, rich folks like clean water and stink-free air, too.

Here's something you can do. Don't vote. You're right. All the politicians are the same. But don't just continue with your present apathetic, I-can't-be-bothered lack of participation. This time, don't vote as part of a general boycott. I humbly submit that the first issue should be as follows: Nobody votes until every neighborhood has a functioning sewer and drinking water system. If the politicians don't listen when you DO voice your opinion, maybe they'll start when the capital of India's fabulous democracy sees voter turnout fall below 10 percent.


Unknown said...

more to the fancy list - tallest tower of the world in noida, mumbai to be shanghai, eGovernance, laptops for ministers, Wi-fying of Noida toll bridge, biggest mall of the world in gurgaon...it's about time a Michael Moore like person made a movie on this contrasting lifestyle

Anonymous said...

I can't agree with you more! The real estate prices (both rental and sales) in Bombay are higher than Manhattan, London and Paris, but the infrastructure and the building that you may be looking at doesn't even come close. Why pay the same amount when you can't step out of your house and take a walk - no side walks, garbage (and er... crap) where sidewalks do exist... plus even if your neib doesn't have these issues, you'll be eating fumes on your lovely stroll...

Anonymous said...

amen to that. the direction in which national urban renewal funds OUGHT to be directed are overseen for heaven-alone-knows what. neither does money go into making aesthetic stadia (plural for stadium?) nor is it used to better our infrastructure. 'tis a shame for crying out loud!

Anonymous said...


And if commonwealth games don't happen, all this problems will be solved?

Much of Delhi's infrastructure, crumbling as it is, owes itself to the 1982 Asiad games. Most of the infrastructure which would be created for Commonwealth games: stadia, roads, flyovers would not disappear but continue to be used for long time.

Cities don't develop in vacuums. By your argument, should India try to attract industries or give up its development process till it can ''fix'' all the problems?

Btw, if the government markets the games well, it can actually return a profit as it has happened elsewhere.

Dev said...

I wonder would boycotting change the statistics that much. We middle class people traditionally do not vote. Considering only 3% of the population pays taxes this really is too insignificant a minority to consider for having a say in what the government does with the tax money don’t you think.


Jason Overdorf said...

(1) Yes, I guess I am saying that a city like Delhi should build a working sewer before it increases the burden by building a thousand new highrises, hotels, etc. Just as if I was building a house, I'd say build the foundation first, not start with the roof and then hoist it up on jacks while you put in the foundation, basement and lower floors. I'm not saying NO development, but certainly I am saying that the concentration of resources and attention is ass backward.

(2) I'm somewhat facetious in suggesting a boycott. If it was accomplished only by readers of this blog, I think it would have a net effect of zero. However, I do think it's an interesting idea, if someone were to take it up as the impetus for a mass movement. When I was in Bihar, a community of laborers were picketing one of the constituencies and shouting "No development, no vote," and I believe they received much more attention than they would have done if they'd chosen one candidate or the other.

An even better protest, of course, would be for everybody to refuse to pay taxes, whether that meant going to jail or not. But I'm afraid that's even less likely to happen.