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The Commonwealth Scam: Political Games

Created on 19 Aug 2022

Wraps up in 5 Min

Read by 1.1k people

Updated on 11 Sep 2022

Commonwealth Games are the heartbeat of every athlete, and Indian athletes have been raising the bar of excellence high with their incredible performance. They have brought fame and pride to the country with their accolades.

Commonwealth games are a buzz as they serve as a gateway for podium performances to Olympics. Every four years, a host country is selected for the Commonwealth Games. In 2010, India was voted the host country. India chose Suresh Kalmadi as the chairperson of the organizing committee.

This person took the competition a bit too seriously, created the biggest scam, and outperformed Harshad Mehta. A scam worth a whopping ₹70,000 crores brought disgrace to the country in every aspect. The reports justified the dialogue of Shatrughan Sinha from Kalicharan, “Aaj ke zamaane mein toh baimaani hi ek aaisa dhanda reh gaya hai ... joh poori imaandari ke saath kiya jaata hai.”

So, let’s learn about the events that took place because of the Commonwealth scam in 2010.

What was the Commonwealth scam?

“Corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion are global problems, not just challenges for developing countries” - Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

The Commonwealth scam is remembered infamously as one of the biggest scams. The Commonwealth scam involved astounding pilferage of ₹70,000 crores, Suresh Kalmadi's mastermind. The organizing committee led by Suresh Kalmadi made extraordinary plans initially, but all the promises turned out into a national embarrassment.

As grandiose and well-thought-out as the scam was, the games' set-up was menial and way below par. How? The companies that were chosen to organise the event over-quoted prices but supplied poor-quality goods. These companies were preferred against those who provided the best prices for better quality equipment. The Committee of Inquiries signalled that Kalmadi and all his aid workers were involved and arrested.

India bagged 101 medals in the Commonwealth games 2010, including 38 gold medals.

What happened in the Commonwealth scam?

The commonwealth scam was a deep well of conspiracies and corruption. Many irregularities were found according to many reports, including one by Housing and Land Rights Networks (HLRN) and investigations by the CBI. These irregularities were as follows:

1. Overall Security and Infrastructure
  • The Government of India, 2010, conveyed that they spent lots of money on enhancing the infrastructure, security, and development of 20 cities for the Commonwealth games. This expenditure was planned to make the cities attractive as tourist destinations, but the estimate was never revealed.

  • The workers appointed for the infrastructure were exploited with ruthless working hours, unjust pay cuts, and bad working conditions. An incident of a footbridge collapsing 12 days before the event happened at the site of the games. This mishap drew a lot of attention and questioned the safety of the spectators and athletes. 

  • The initial estimated sports infrastructure was marked as ₹1,900 crores, which increased to ₹11,000 crores. Compared to the amount, the construction of various venues was done poorly. The vinyl flooring at the weightlifting site was peeling off, while the false ceiling at the table tennis facility collapsed.

  • Lalit Bhanot, the Secretary General of the Organising Committee (OC), said to the athletes, “Some false ceiling has fallen, which means nothing. These things happen even at your home.”

  • In addition, the OC failed to meet the targetted deadline of 1st August for enhancing and constructing specific venues such as the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium’s swimming pools, fields, and stadium tracks. Many swimmers fell ill and complained about the water's quality. Many more issues sprung up as the games continued.

2. Complaints from the athletes
  • Per the Host City Contract, a team from abroad came to India for inspection and was surprised by the accommodation provided.

  • They found human excreta lying on the floor, dog paw marks on the bedsheet, and unhygienic washrooms.

  • All of this was published as headlines by other countries, making it an even bigger national embarrassment.

3. Other findings
  • Around 1,00,000 families were asked to evacuate from certain areas, and in addition, 30,000 families were displaced from the infrastructure area of the Commonwealth games.

  • Moreover, the committee took funds worth ₹263 crores from the ‘Schedule Caste Sub plan,’ according to the application by RTI.

What was the impact of the Commonwealth scam?

“The 2010 Commonwealth Scam would create a negative financial legacy for India” - Miloon Kothari.

The Commonwealth scam stained the country’s image considering the following aspects.

1. Social Impact
  • The Commonwealth scam reported huge exploitation of labourers as the OC violated the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. The skilled workers were paid Rs. 120-130 per day, and the unskilled were paid Rs. 80-100 for an 8-hour work with poor working conditions.

  • Around 70 workers were reported to have lost their lives on the site, and children were made to work in hazardous conditions.

  • As a part of making 20 cities tourist destinations, 4,00,000 people were displaced without any resettlement arrangements. The displaced families were forced to live in slums.

2. Economic impact
  • The country was largely criticized for spending ₹70,000 crores for a sporting event instead of investing the money for its economic and social development. 

  • Many activists criticized that hosting a major sports event in a country where most people live below the poverty line is embarrassing.

3. Political Impact
  • Suresh Kalmadi refrained from getting appointed to the IOA and was a member of the party governing the Central Government, the Indian National Congress. The appointment of Suresh Kalmadi by the Government of India was an embarrassment to the nation, further damaging India's image as a corrupt nation.

A special village, the “Game Village," was developed for the athletes participating in the Commonwealth games.

What was the aftermath of the Commonwealth scam?

The event's aftermath was disappointing, and various perpetrators were arrested. Some of the arrests and charges filed were as follows:

  • The Central Vigilance system released a report on 28th July 2010, showing the irregularities in 14 CWG projects by 71 organizations in 129 works. A whole sheet of corruptive acts like the delay of contracts, hiring employees based on criteria than their merit, no bills of actual expenditure, illegal contracts, etc., were revealed.

  • Suresh Kalmadi was charged under section 120B of the Indian Penal Code and for criminal conspiracy under the following sections 467, 420, 471, and 468 of IPC. Additional charges of section 13(2)  and section 13(1)(d) under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, were filed in the charge sheet. He was sent to Tihar jail for around 11 months but was released on bail.

  • Two firms, eight people, Former Director-General VK Verma and OOC former Secretary General Lalit Bhanot, were accused.

  • Lalit Bhanot was imprisoned along with Suresh Kalmadi in Tihar Jail for 11 months.

The Bottom Line

Corruption, money laundering, theft, scams, etc., mire a country's standing economically and socially. Well, all these issues are bickered about but not acted upon. Powerful officials brazenly misuse their power to improve their stations, while the masses are stripped of their benefits and left as bystanders.

Yes, such scams make one feel stressed, and reading about them can make one feel gloomy. At such times, it’s essential to remember the past is past, but a glorious future is waiting for you!

So the citizens must learn from the past and work on creating an effective future. It’s amazing to know the viewpoints of everyone, so do let us know your views on the Commonwealth scam 2010 in the comments.

An Article By -

Deb P Samaddar

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Deb is a keen learner and eager to learn about the finance world. He is that person who would never stop talking, but my oh my, the words he uses, are not something a normal human would in a regular conversation. While the conversations are well, interesting, the write-ups are faultless. With an increased proclivity towards tech and language, he aims to capitalise on his interests as a content writer at Finology.

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