Had Commonwealth Games (CWG) been a financial product, its valuation for the New Delhi 2010 surely would be the highest. That’s the summary of the two events that took most of the prime-time on Indian televisions on 21st September. One of these two events pertaining to India happened to be a top BBC news-story.

This event was on the preparedness (or unpreparedness) of New Delhi in hosting the forthcoming Commonwealth Games (CWG).

The other one was on Sensex and Nifty, two of the barometers of Indian equity markets, touching mile-stones since 2008 at 20,000 & 6000 respectively. Indian stock market happens to be at a kissing distance from their all time highs, and is the most expensive amongst major economies.

Most Indians view these two events as two different and extreme pictures of present day Indian dichotomy. The myth goes like this: the former epitomizes the failure of governance in India, the market signifies the success of Indian entrepreneurship.

It may be worthwhile to quote Kennedy in this context:

‘The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie: deliberate, continued, and dishonest; but the myth: persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.’

My problem in accepting the great success of Indian entrepreneurship comes from two sides. One is universal that states money is the root cause of all the evil (or something like ‘money is the bitch who never sleeps’ in the context of post-2008 Wall St. as presented by Hollywood). The 2nd one is more India specific.

And this one is: ‘I am suspicious of most successful businessman in a country of stupid governance’ where their success is mostly proportional to their illegal, unethical or immoral ways to deprive the nation her legitimate dues. A stupid government makes the job easy.

Therefore both the events are as similar or as different as two sides of the same coin.

The concerns of the delegates on the preparedness of Commonwealth Games made Indians realize how unaccountable our nation has become. This is a nation where the Prime Minister passes the buck to the state governments, state governments do the same on center (recent example of Kashmir where the state government, which happens to be an ally of the ruling center, even didn’t spare the Army), judiciary refuses to entertain legitimate concerns stating policy-intervention or in the excuse of intervening in the executive domain of the democracy, etc.

Mark Tully beautifully described it as ‘No full stop in India’ as we have seen this from our border disputes with our neighbors to Bofors to Bhopal to Ayodhya to Caste Census to Maoists-problem to hundreds more, depending on our awareness of national and regional issues.

Indians are used to it. Majority of us know we are on our own, more so the two-third majority and poor lot. It also explains why we trust more in God.

Unfortunately, the organizers of the CWG have also started praying to God now than believing in their capabilities, as a team, in hosting a professional game.

However we can’t expect that the civilized society and its athlete-members from many of the participating nations understand this unique dynamism about India.

So I was not surprised by the media hype on unpreparedness of New Delhi for the Commonwealth Games. I would have been more surprised had New Delhi got ready in hosting the CWG in a professional manner.

As a nation we need to understand that the unpreparedness of New Delhi for the CWG is not something ‘Business-as-unusual’ for India. Unfortunately it is a ‘Business-as-usual’ for India. We come across these inefficiencies everyday in our governance, and thereby our expectations have been re-calibrated to the so called ‘Indian standard’ (or ‘Indian Government standard’).

We need to learn from the CWG unpreparedness by not fixing persons alone, but by improving the systems. That does not mean the corrupts need to go unpunished. That only means the rot is much deeper than the superficial persons alone.

I happen to be more concerned about the plight of the laborers who have been probably working day-and-night now to finish the unfinished work, in the most difficult circumstances, than by the overall unpreparedness. Media talked about those laborers sleeping on athletes’ beds or using those toilets (or even urinating in the open). That barely explains the facilities they get or the working conditions they face or wages they receive. None of the media ever bothered to focus on that.

In the media debate, the plight of the laborers is not a concern. We are not ashamed by the plight of our laborers or the poor. The apparent concern of the media is the ‘dignity of the nation’. I don’t understand this dignity which we Indians see to be compromised everyday in our matter of life – with or without a CWG.

We need to move away from the logic that the nation feels ashamed for the time being because a few invited delegates have found the unpreparedness of our games village, to a level of permamnet national concern regarding our planning, execution and managerial capabilities in building the nation in an equitable manner.

Seven years back we were able to sell New Delhi as the host of the CWG beating Canada. We are able to sell India, but we have not been able to build India or New Delhi.

And here comes the 2nd event where we again see that we have been able to sell India to a minority group of FIIs who can take our stocks higher or lower at a fractional flow of global liquidity. Unfortunately, this has not translated in building real India or impacting real India. A look at China makes the comparison complete.

When Obama has been debating on tax-cuts for the majority and not for a few rich minority, successive Indian governments have given tax benefits to Indian stock market participants who are not only an exclusive minority in India, but who also happen to be much richer than the salaried tax-payer.

Where are the numbers that justify tax concessions for equity investors in India? We have never seen any debate on it as it favors the people who sell India, without ever trying to build India.

We need to realize the simple thing that selling a nation of 1.2 billion is easy, but building a nation of same 1.2 billion is a formidable task. The seller apparently tries to make some quick money in the process, without owning the asset of the billions. A look at how private firms acquire land and then how FIIs invest in those firms to make quick money highlights the case of selling real India in the stock markets.

The people without the money power rely on government and get the same standard of inefficiencies as evident through the failures of the CWG.

Building the nation must start with a strong leadership and accountability.The CWG can be good learning point and therefore a right investment for India only if the future leadership of India learn to figure out the real India from the various fake versions of it.

Question is: Would next generation of Indian leadership probe deep into both the events and come to an original and logical conclusion than be brainwashed by vested interests?

I happen to be an optimist as I believe things can’t get any worse than this.

The more I have been seeing the actions of Rahul Gandhi and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi lately, I have been liking them. One of my colleague explains it as ‘western values’ when it comes to Mrs. Gandhi. Earlier I was one with the opinion that an Indian can only be India’s PM. I am and was against dynastic succession. That view has changed now as I don’t see much light of hope anywhere else in the Indian political space.

The CWG is bound to be a grand success for India, only if Rahul and a few like him who can lead India in coming days, learn from both the events – the CWG and the rising markets simultaneously, and take the right lessons to figure out real India and her real concerns.

The identity of India lies in not having proper streets across most parts of the nation whereas it has been having an advanced sophisticated Dalal Street without any entry barriers since long. New Delhi is yet to realize the futility of having a Wall St. without having real main streets that can meaningfully overcome exit barriers to its majority of the underprivileged lot. The real fate and identity of India is linked with the progress of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the UN as India happens to lag behind the most, and thereby even pull the whole world back in most of these parameters.

However the absolute silence in Indian media on the ongoing UN MDG meetings  or the absence of any senior and relevant representative from India in these policy-discussions speak volume about real India and her misplaced prioroties. Indian policy-makers happen to be always busy in attending meetings organized by lobby-groups of industry associations to take the GDP and market higher by short-selling India.

Building real India to achieve the MDGs, like building New Delhi for the CWG, have little relevance in that list of priorities. 

I invite you to visit my blog, Wondering Man (or take a look at my book, Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d at Google Books). You are also invited to join me on Twitter.

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