Can flaws in India Commonwealth Games spark reform?
Many Indians hope the missteps leading up to the India Commonwealth Games, which begin in Delhi Sunday, will add momentum to efforts to reform governance.
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The chief medical officer for the Games, Bharat Inder Singh, says his committee decided to focus more on getting specialists in injuries that are likely to come up in a given sport. Dr. Chandran counters that such doctors will be slower since they don’t know the patterns of injury in each sport.Skip to next paragraph
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Dr. Singh says he gave up a lucrative private practice for the chance to serve his nation. He acknowledges that private help was turned back because the Delhi government was “very firm” in keeping control over medical services for the Games. Delhi rejected an offer from an Indian-American medical team to work for free. “I suppose there was a lot of pride involved in it,” he says.
A clash between young and old
Chauhan’s situation reflects the clash between a younger India’s belief in meritocracy and the rigid hierarchies of the government. But even the eldest Indians say the Games are an indictment of the country’s governance.
“India is a strong country with a weak government,” says U.V. Joshi, an elderly retired civil servant from the state of Maharashtra. “The administrative system which worked nicely under the British has gone awry now. It has to be repaired if India is to progress.”
He’s old enough to remember the political leaders who won independence for India.
“They were self-effacing, self-sacrificing leaders. But immediately after that, they became hungry for self-propagation. And now, with globalization and commercialization this has gone beyond tolerable limits,” he says. “It’s a crisis of character.”
Indeed, 162 of the 543 members of Parliament have criminal records. It’s enough to make some Indians – who constantly look over at China’s ability to churn out massive public projects – to question democracy.
But for Anil Bairwal, the national coordinator for the Association for Democratic Reforms, the blame for bad politicians lies not in India’s democracy, but the total lack of democracy within its political parties.
“The [electoral] law needs to change, but the lawbreakers are the lawmakers and they don’t want to change the law,” says Mr. Bairwal.
A opportunity for reforms?
Some Indians see momentum for reform given the painful exposure of the problem.
“It makes a lot of people in the country question this soft underbelly [of corruption] and to say, ‘Hey, we are doing so well in every other sphere, why should we not fix this?’” says Harish Bijoor, a brand and business strategy consultant in Bangalore.
The long-term solution, he says, is for more captains of industry, scientists, sportsmen, and other leaders across Indian life to go into politics. At the moment, the grandchildren of those who led India’s freedom struggle dominate the political class.
Most Indians still hold out hope that the Games, which run from Sunday through Oct. 14, will come together at the last moment.
“In the end, we will make it,” says Mr. Joshi, the retired civil servant. But he also worries a bit about that: “If we succeed, we will clap our backs and we’ll neglect the corruption aspect.”