My maid has not come to work for the past several days. The reason? Her husband and daughter are in the hospital with dengue. I got word from her this evening that they have been discharged. Whew!
You walk out on the roads after a generous application of the mosquito repellent cream, afraid of getting bitten but still hapless to prevent any other airborne virus from attacking you and laying you low. Hospitals don’t have beds; you can imagine the plight of the poor who can’t even afford the cost of a good hospital and have to settle for the ones that might not even be able to cope with the outbreak.
The statistics are grim: they state that the incidence of dengue is 120 times more than at the same time last year. A report says that out of the nearly 70,000 areas identified as mosquito breeding ground hospitals are leading, with AIIMS and Apollo, at the top!
The city is a mass of stagnant water. Unfinished construction and pot-holed roads are breeding millions of disease carrying mosquitoes that are waiting to taste our blood. The other day India’s health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad vowed that he would ensure a dengue free Delhi in two weeks. Wow! If he were that capable, what was he doing all these months when thousands were affected and dying? Did he have to wait for the Commonwealth Games to descend upon the city to clean it up?
And when thousands of crores are being spent on beautifying the city’s façade and widening of the roads to impress the international community, why couldn’t he have spent a fraction of it to see that the stagnant pools of mosquito farms were sprayed and disinfected? Today this is being taken up on a war footing – why was it not done before the mosquito breeding season began – before the CWG were due? Is the life of Indians so cheap that we are galvanized into action only when foreigners’ lives have to be protected?
Wipro Chairman Aziz Premji pleaded for more playgrounds and basic sports facilities to develop the sports culture in India instead of splurging on a sporting extravaganza like the CWG. Understandably his comments have attracted a lot of criticism from the organizers. When the Supreme Court itself is pulled up by our PM for advising the free distribution of the rotting food grains to BPL families, what can Premji expect for his plea?
We need primary health care and civic cleanliness. We need more public toilets and the garbage collection needs to be tightened up. Open drains need to be covered to prevent mosquitoes from breeding. All the money going into the construction of ‘villages’ for the athletes should have gone in building dwellings for the slum dwellers so that they could live in sanitary conditions. Who cares to impress the world when we know we are sitting on a garbage dump, which we are trying to camouflage to appear beautiful?
And guess what? We are going to have thousands of athletes and sportspersons in our wonderful city in a few weeks. Already the CEO of the CWG has issued dengue warning to 71 countries. Wonder how many would decide to stay away! Two of our cyclists have already fallen prey to the deadly mosquito. Participating countries are clamouring to know what is being done on this front.
Are we so rich that that we can throw away thousands of crores , so that the world goes back thinking, ‘Wow! That’s a rich country! I wiped my ass on a $90 toilet roll!!’ We are literally going to push undercover our daily wage earners – the rikshaw-wallahs, vegetable vendors and such so that we ‘look’ like a developed country. And what about their livelihood? Who is going to feed them if they don’t go on their daily rounds of work?
Who cares, as long as the organizers and their cronies line their Swiss bank accounts at the cost of these poor sods? These games are reportedly the costliest mega sporting event ever oranised – and this includes the Olympic Games! How about that?
Like Premji said, ‘How can we forget that for Rs 28,000 crore we could have established primary schools and health centers in tens of thousands of villages? Can we ignore this splurge the next time a malnourished child looks at us in the eye?’
Let us forget the socio-economic aspect for a moment. What about the preparations? This is not an event that can be put together at the last moment after taking it easy for seven years. Fears of incomplete venues and poor construction causing injuries are rampant.
The doping scandal is another thing that is adding to the nation’s woes. More and more disciplines are falling prey to the doping tests. At this rate, we might not get any medals at all. Again, who cares? We have ‘proved’ to the international community that we are capable of hosting a sporting event of this magnitude, haven’t we?
And as for the medals, it is not new for us to come back empty- handed from competitions and sporting events, are we? Only this time we will remain empty- handed in our own country. We have gone beyond being shameless in this department, so it hardly matters, does it?
I know there are all those who are breathlessly waiting for the magnificent show to take place so that they can feel proud of their country. But I, for one would only feel proud the day the powers that be take a good look at the invisible people who make this wonderful country tick and do something to make their lives worth living – instead of hiding them away from the eyes of the world as if they are a shame!
At the end of the entire extravagant exercise can we honestly say, ‘Mera Bharat Mahan?’