A country, which till recently had food inflation of 18-20 per cent – now around 10 per cent – wastes food worth Rs 58,000 crore every year. This is because of the lack of storage and processing facilities, scarcity of cold storages and other related infrastructure. This figure was provided by the Union government last year. This year the figure may further go up as large amount of food grains were lost in recent floods in Haryana and Punjab as they were kept under the open sky. This is the story of the agriculturally two most advanced states known as the food-basket of India.
More than 30 per cent of the agriculture product from the fields is lost due to poor post-harvesting facilities and lack of cold chain infrastructure. India has merely 21.7 million tonnes cold storage facilities whereas it needs more cold storage facilities for at least 9-10 million tonnes of food grains.
This is the story of the country where 300 million (30 crore) people, that is one-fourth of the population, do not get two square meals of food daily; where thousands are forced to commit suicide and thousands others simply starve, famish or get vanished.
It is an irony that a nuclear power India cannot build a few more warehouses, cold storages and food processing units to store or make proper use of the food grains produced by farmers and farm labourers after so much hard work. It has few trucks and rail carriages to transport food grains on time, and inefficient and corrupt Public Distribution System to feed the destitute. We do not have any measure to take on rats that gobble up thousands of tonnes of food grains stocked in storehouses and nilgais (blue bulls) that eat and destroy a sizeable percentage of standing pulse crop every year.
The construction of post-harvesting facility may cost some few hundred crores, which we can easily afford. Instead we are unable to provide assistance to get them built. We, as a country, do not know what type of crime – in fact sin – are we committing by wasting our food grains.
The above figure does not take into account cooked food, fruit, milk, etc. worth another thousands of crores wasted in five-star hotels, restaurants, canteens, hostels, mess and even at homes. This notwithstanding the fact that in this age of advancement they can be stored easily in refrigerator by the affluent middle class, who indulges in this crime most.
In contrast we can spend Rs 35,000 crore on the sporting extravaganza, which keeps reminding us of our 200 years of slavery at the hands of the British Empire. As if that was not enough, we deem it as our birth right to indulge in the rampant loot of money in the name of this jamboree. The biggest tragedy is that turfs, stadiums, swimming pools and other infrastructure arrangements are being made for many such games, which are hardly played in India and several such structures, it is feared, may fall into disuse after October 14, 2010 when the CWG is over. So hundreds of crores may simply go waste.
Yet we would be told that events like Games help boost India’s image and bring in a lot of tourists as well as investment. We are expert in giving fantastic logic not knowing that jamborees like CWG are just White Elephant.
The news of chaos and corruption travelled far and wide and several international athletes have already refused to participate in it. Even the two reputed Indian shooters Gagan Narang and Samresh Jung, who brought glory in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games have threatened not to take part. These developments have only tarnished the image of the country rather than enhancing it.
Our rulers – be it of the BJP, Congress or anyone else – have not learnt from the global experience as they suffer from megalomania. It was the Vajpayee government, which in 2003 decided to host Commonwealth Games and the UPA only approved of it after coming to power.
It is a known fact that Greece has now turned into a bankrupt nation six years after holding the Olympic Games. Why talk about this poor East European nation, the much advanced Canada had to repay loan till 2006 for the Olympic Games its organised in Montreal in 1976.
It is strange that India, a nation, which hardly wins any medal or cup in any international event, barring cricket – sometimes in lawn tennis, chess, shooting and badminton because of the individual efforts – dares to spend so much amount to confirm that it too has the capability to match China, which hosted Olympics in 2008.
Ironically, when the former Union Sports Minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, on July 27 publicly denounced the holding of Commonwealth Games and wished its failure it was none else but the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the Games, Suresh Kalmadi, who dubbed his statement as anti-national. Less than a week later the world came to know as to who actually are the anti-nationals.
Those espousing for the cause of Commonwealth Games are confusing between the grandeur of the country and promoting sports. The tragedy is that the more we are organising such shows the less number of players of international repute we are producing.
In 1950s and 1960s we hardly organised any such international show yet we were almost number one in hockey, had some global status in football, still played by many bare-footed players, had Milkha Singh to project as a model. Even in cricket we were not so bad in those early years as is being made out by the media now. We beat mighty West Indies in their home turf in 1971 and also England in the same year. In early 1970s we were only second to Australia in Test cricket. Even our women’s cricket had made its mark under Shanta Rangaswamy and Diana Eduljee in those early years of 1970s. Prakash Padukone was world badminton champion about 30 years back, when we had fewer stadiums and fewer sponsors.
Herein lies the crux of the matter. Why are we declining after holding such big international events. The infrastructure built in China in 2008 can be used later as there are players in that country to play those games. Even South Africa can make use of the big football stadiums built during the recent FIFA World Cup, but what about us. The countrymen have hardly heard of many sports which will be organised in the coming CWG. Nobody will play them later.
Such misplaced grandeur is bound to be questioned. Our honourable sports minister Manohar Singh Gill equated this event to the daughter’s marriage in which every one should close the ranks and see to it that the function goes on well.
True Mr Gill, even poor people borrow money, even on interest, to make it successful – as it is the matter of family’s prestige. But when someone from the family knows that the groom to whom the bride is going to be married off is physically, mentally and character-wise unfit and not suited for the matrimonial alliance he or she has every right to alert those who matter. In that case s/he should not be branded as enemy.