03 August, 2021

Appu And Shera

The CWG worker is as much a slave today as his Asiad parents were

Illustration by Sorit
Appu And Shera

In the good old days, there were the Asian Games under Indira Gandhi. Inaugurated by the Empress on her own birthday, November 19, 1982, they seem like a fairy tale now. No leaking roofs weeks before the show; no front-page shockers about crores paid to shady firms; everything going like clockwork under Her Majesty’s eagle eye. Definitely no portly, shifty-eyed Suresh Kalmadi.

At that time, there was no Organising Committee. Under Indira, the organisers had to be the Union of India itself, the Delhi administration and Delhi Development Authority. The Union of India then meant Indira Gandhi. Two years into her triumphant comeback after the humiliating post-Emergency defeat, the prime minister was at her peak, way too removed from the squalor that marked the lives of those building the games venues.

As expected, these were labourers brought from the country’s starvation sites—Orissa, Rajasthan, Bihar, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh—with the promise of high wages. But in a spectacle that cost the country Rs 700...

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