Once upon a time India decided that it must announce to the world that it was officially a super power. Little did India know that its attempt to show its economic might would end up with top level bureaucrats planning to hide the slums of Delhi from foreign visitors with the help of bamboo screens. It is common knowledge that the Commonwealth Games held in 2010 spawned a maze of corrupt deals, most of them involving inflated contracts. Instead of selecting companies who offered the best prices, equipment and services were hired from firms who over-quoted. India spent at least $4.6 billion -- compared with its December 2003 estimate of $500 million -- upgrading stadiums, refurbishing roads and building power and water utilities. It spent another $2.7 billion on a new airport terminal to welcome athletes participating in the 12-day event starting October 3. Often, companies who offered better deals were disqualified for inexplicable reasons. Less than 10 days before athletes were to move into the village built especially for them near the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi, foreign crews were invited to tour the apartments that would house delegates. It was an unforgettable open house. There were dog paw marks on bed sheets. Human waste was lying on bathroom floors, left behind by construction workers. International headlines reported on every humiliating detail.
With the Games skidding into <g data-gr-id="36">catastrophic</g> turf, the Commonwealth Games Federation - publicly stated its unhappiness with the preparation. In October 2009, federation head Michael Fennel announced an independent technical review panel to monitor Delhi’s progress. Despite the many embarrassments in the run-up the Games, the opening ceremony was hailed as spectacular. <g data-gr-id="35">Organisers</g> spent $220 on mirrors costing $98 retail, $61 on soap dispensers costing $1.97, and $250,190 on high-altitude simulators costing $11,830, according to news reports prior to the games. Today was the first step in bringing those corrupt officials who made money by skimming off the top to justice. A Delhi court on Wednesday awarded four-year jail terms to four MCD officials convicted in the Commonwealth Games (CWG) street lighting scam. Those awarded the jail terms by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge Brijesh Garg are Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s then superintending engineer D.K. Sugan, executive engineer O.P. Mahala, accountant Raju V. and tender clerk Gurcharan Singh. Corruption produces bad decisions; concern over corruption produces indecision.
A scam like CWG does not function as Suresh Kalmadi may suggest, as an unseemly but expedient market solution to inert bureaucracy, greasing the seized-up wheels of industry. It has put grit in those wheels. The CWG scam was a prime example of this brand of crony capitalism, and it was the Aam Aadmi Party’s promise that the perpetrators would be brought to the book. With the arrest of four officials in the street lighting scam, AAP has kept its word. While the Games are done and dusted the corruption charges will haunt Delhi’s power circles for a while yet. When former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar infamously said he would be “getting the hell out of Delhi” for the Games, last year, he sounded needlessly grumpy. Today, many might well be wishing they had followed suit. At least those four small fish who have been sentenced to jail certainly would.