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Commonwealth Games: Salvaging national honour

September 23, 2010 10:41 IST
A disastrous failure of the Games would not be just a failure of an incompetent India.

It would be the failure of an emerging India and the damaging of its image as a democratic nation worthy of emulation, feels B Raman.

Our hopes and wishes for a spectacular Commonwealth Games have been dashed to the ground due to alleged mismanagement by the organising committee headed by Suresh Kalmadi.

A relentless monsoon, the likes of which New Delhi has not seen before, has added to our woes.

One is helpless before the monsoon, but one was not before the alleged mismanagement of the organising committee. If one had acted in time against the organising committee --if necessary, by having it replaced -- when the initial signs of the accumulating mess appeared three months ago, one might have saved our national honour.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose responsibility it was to assert his captaincy of a sinking ship and stop it from sinking, dithered as he generally does when faced with a crisis... hoping that somehow things will turn out to be alright.

He did take some corrective steps like asking a group of senior officials enjoying his confidence to do daily monitor preparations for the Games and make sure that the mismanagement was rectified.

The group has not been able to assert itself effectively against an over-confident organising committee.

The result -- 12 days before the Games -- renowned athletes whom we were hoping to see in action in New Delhi have started deserting the Games. The sports federations of some of the member-countries are under pressure to desert the Games too, but their governments, which have considerable goodwill for India and its prime minister, have been urging them to stay on board.

A disastrous failure of the Games would not be just a failure of an incompetent India. We as a nation are not incompetent. It would be the failure of an emerging India and the damaging of its image as a democratic nation worthy of emulation due to the alleged incompetence of a small group of people who had the control of the organising committee.

The world would not want India to be seen as a bungler in the face of an authoritarian China which made a spectacular success of the Olympics of August 2008.

Thanks to the prime minister's dithering, we seem to be left with no other option but to sink or swim with Kalmadi and his organising committee.

Swim we must and swim we can, if the prime minister gives up his bureaucratic ways of dealing with a crisis, steps on to the deck and takes control of the damaged ship.

Only he can save the ship of our national honour at this late hour. No one else can.

He has to take control now without further delay.

India is not bereft of managerial wizards in government and the private sector. The prime minister should set up a committee of consequence managers chaired by him to mount an exercise for the salvage of national honour.

Specific responsibilities should be allotted to members of the committee relating to the venues of the Games, the maintenance of the Games Village, the welfare of the participants, the physical security and public relations.

The organising committee should be told to carry out its instructions.

Any attempt by the organising committee to undermine or sabotage its functioning should be ruthlessly put down.

The committee should be given all the powers and resources it needs. Young and enthusiastic officers of the police and the armed forces, who passed out last year, should be placed at the committee's disposal to have its instructions carried out.

The prime minister should hold meetings of the committee every evening to review its work and give appropriate follow-up directions.

The prime minister should make himself available for instant meetings with members of the committee.

It is too late for us to hope for a spectacular CWG, which could compare with the spectacular Beijing Olympics.

We could even now make it a decent CWG and salvage our national honour if the prime minister acts and acts decisively and makes it clear that hereafter he will be in charge till the Games are over.

The salvaging of our national honour depends on one man, the prime minister.

Will he step onto the deck?

Also Read: PM takes charge of the Commonwealth Games

B Raman