Oral Statement Delivered by Henri Tiphagne on behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) at the 36th Regular Session of the UNHRC Joint Press Release of FIDH International Federation for Human Rights and its member organizations Peoples Watch and Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) - "India: Government fails to address key human rights concerns during UN review" Statement delivered by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), People's Watch, the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN, and Human Rights Defenders' Alert-India at the 36th Regular Session of the UNHRC Oral Statement Delivered by Lara Jesani on behalf of Minority Rights Group at the 36th Regular Session of the UNHRC Peoples Watch appeals to the police and citizens not to disturb Irom Sharmila in Kodaikanal. Defending in Numbers Silencing the Voices of Asia 2015-2016. The Commission has asked the Union Home Ministry to report on the alleged "attack on the rights of human rights defenders". Strict legal restrictions on foreign funding hit Indias NGOs Largest confederation of US labor unions awards Maina Kiai its 2016 award for human rights AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL INDIA & HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH JOINT STATEMENT: India: Foreign Funding Law Used to Harass 25 Groups PRESS RELEASE: Peoples Watch condemns the Chennai city police for the death of Mukesh from Kannagi Nagar PRESS RELEASE: Peoples Watch condemns unlawful arrests of peaceful protesters in Karur 13.10.16 PRESS RELEASE: People's Watch Condems Srikanth Balaji police and prison torture at Manali, Chennai Tamil Press Release-People's Watch Condems attack on Srikanth Balaji at Manali, Chennai People's Watch-Press release-People's Watch call for withdrawal of the recommendations of the Madras High Court to the Advocates Act Felicitation to Mr. Henri Tiphage at Madurai on 04.06.16 at Madurai organised by Citizens for Human Rights Movement (CHRM) and IPRO A felicitation to Mr. Henri Tiphagne on the receipt of Amnesty International Award 2016 organised by HRCPS at Pondicherry on 28.05.2016 A felicitation to Mr. Henri Tiphagne on the receipt of Amnesty International Award 2016 organised by Mr. Nizamuddin, Mr. Balki, Mr. R.Babu, Mr. Arulselvam and Activists from Cuddalore on 28.05.2016 A felicitation to Mr. Henri Tiphagne on the receipt of Amnesty International Award 2016 organised by Vaanmuhil, Citizens for Human Rights Movement Tirunelveli on 22.03.2016 AP-Encounter-Letter to AP Govt. officials with interim report seeking their response AP Encounter High Level Fact Finding - Interim Report 21.04.2015 Human Rights Defenders Alert India - NHRC - Tamilnadu - Gross Violation of 'Right to Association' of HR organizations/ HRDs in TN - Plea Requesting NHRC Intervention Resource Material - Training on Human Rights to Professional College Students NCPCR's Guidelines for Eliminating Corporal Punishment in schools

‘Games’ We Don’t Need to Play

The most expensive Commonwealth Games in history being hosted in one of the poorest countries of the world? And yet our honourable Ministers and organizing officials see nothing ironic or immoral in the fact, defending instead the gross expenditure of thousands of crores of rupees on this 12-day mega sports event that is deeply entrenched in scandal and subterfuge Miloon Kothari and Shivani Chaudhry Delhi

The colossal financial and governance fiasco surrounding New Delhi's upcoming Commonwealth Games (CWG) continues to unfold on a daily basis, scandalizing and disturbing even the most blasé of us. The process leading up to the Games has alarmed not just Indians but the entire world. While the organizers repeatedly harp on the 'positive' side of the Games and want us to believe in their non-existent goodness, the mass of the disastrous mega iceberg that is the CWG, is still largely concealed. And as the date for this unaffordable mega sporting extravaganza draws closer and we're urged to support it for the sake of 'national pride,' the shameful events and deeply disturbing violations inherent in the process make it impossible for us to do so. 

The most expensive Commonwealth Games in history being hosted in one of the poorest countries of the world? And yet our honourable Ministers and organizing officials see nothing ironic or immoral in the fact, defending instead the gross expenditure of thousands of crores of rupees on this 12-day mega sports event that is deeply entrenched in scandal and subterfuge. 
Apart from unaccounted escalating costs, the preparations for the CWG have been marred by mismanagement, corruption, embezzlement of funds, grave human rights violations, and every conceivable and inconceivable form of deceit and indulgence in illegality and unconstitutionality by public officials and authorities. 

Even India's decision in 2003 to host the CWG was an undemocratic and non-participatory one in which the people of Delhi had no say. It was not discussed in Parliament; the Cabinet approved the decision ex-post facto after India won the bid in 2003. Worse still, India's 'bribe' of US$ 7.2 million offering to train athletes of all Commonwealth countries, when we have insufficient funds to train and equip our own sportspersons, is apparently what clinched the bid in India's favour.  

While the attention of the media and Parliament has largely been centred on the issue of corruption, financial scandals, and lack of preparedness, the more severe and long-lasting impacts of the Games on India, especially on its marginalised populations, have mostly been ignored. CWG preparations have led to serious human rights violations, especially of construction workers who are denied minimum wages and decent working and living conditions, of the homeless and 'beggars' who are being criminalized and routinely arrested, detained and forced out of the city, of women and children who are being trafficked to meet the sex needs of visitors, of street vendors who are being denied their livelihoods in order to 'clean' Delhi's streets, and of slum dwellers who are being evicted to build parking lots, stadiums and roads for the Games. Is this the kind of social legacy that a mega event claimed at creating 'national prestige' is meant to leave behind? A more divided, inequitable, segregated and unethical city? State impunity and callousness have become chronic, as even orders of the High Court of Delhi calling for improved wages and working conditions for construction labour, are also blatantly violated.

In the wake of the CWG, two types of assaults on people's rights are apparent - the direct violation of their fundamental rights and the more insidious yet devastating usurpation of development funds allocated for the city's most marginalised. As confirmed by the Delhi government through a response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Housing and Land Rights Network, Rs. 744 crore (US$ 160 million) have been diverted from the welfare of Scheduled Castes to CWG projects to meet costs such as provision of water for the Games Village and the cultural segment of the Queen's Baton Relay. The Queen's baton isn't just tainted with the AM Films scandal, but has funds meant for Delhi's poorest on it. The only glimmer of hope in this murky financial catastrophe is the admission in the Parliament by Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram to the diversion of funds and his commitment that the money will be returned for the welfare of Dalits in Delhi. But this in itself is not enough. A detailed audit into the diversion should be undertaken by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and investigations should be carried out by agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation. Those officials who took the decision to divert and embezzle public money must be prosecuted. It is unpardonable that thousands of Dalits in Delhi have been denied development funds for the last four years due to this illegal diversion of funds to the Games. 

The CWG process has exposed the absence of a single authority to oversee and monitor decision-making and financial management. Apart from creating a deep information quagmire and transparency black hole, the failure of any single individual or agency to assume responsibility for the Games has resulted in a glaring lack of accountability from all government departments. Each agency involved in the Games and each official responsible for making and executing decisions is culpable and answerable to the people of India for the dereliction of public duty and the disgrace they have brought upon the country. 

Concerned citizens questioning misappropriation of funds and human rights violations are labeled by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit as 'unpatriotic' and by Suresh Kalmadi as 'anti-national.' What gives them the authority to decide who is patriotic and unpatriotic? Does non-transparency, public deception, brazen corruption, financial mismanagement and deceit on the part of democratically elected and accountable officials count as 'patriotic' behaviour? 

In these circumstances, the critical question before the country is what the Games are going to cost India. Even though it seems unlikely, if we manage somehow (perhaps with the help of God as Minister Gill would have us believe) to pull off the event, the damage done to the social and urban fabric of the city will be long lasting - growing homelessness, greater speculation in land and property (making large parts of the city inaccessible for the poor and the middle-class), higher taxes for Delhi residents, compromised social sector budgets, irreversible environmental damage, and a long-term debt for the city, as economic returns are definitely not going to meet the outrageous costs. With sponsorships not even meeting a quarter of the Organising Committee's (OC) expectations, ticket sales below target, and growing international concerns over preparedness of venues and questions of health, safety and security in Delhi, far from being profitable, it is unlikely that the Games will even be 'revenue neutral' as the organizers would have us believe. 

Who is going to pay for the Games deficit and for how long? The poor have already paid with their homes, their livelihoods, their health, their lives, and their dignity. Delhi University students have been evicted from hostels and are being forced to pay exorbitant rents to opportunistic property owners. The middle class of Delhi has already been hit by increased taxes and higher prices. The cost of living in Delhi is only going to rise, and every sector of society, across the board, is going to have to pay for our government's flagrancy, ineptitude, shortsightedness and mismanagement. 

The history of mega sports events was unfortunately not taken into account by the overly naïve and optimistic OC and Delhi Chief Minister. When it took Montreal 30 years to pay off the debt that the 1976 Olympics imposed on the country, and when occupancy for the Beijing Olympics was around only 50% of projected targets, what made Mr. Kalmadi think that India could reverse trends and gain US$ 4.5 billion from the Games over the course of four years? Even cautionary advice of the Ministry of Finance (in 2003) and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (in 2009) went unheeded.

The Games are going to result in a long-lasting and severe negative financial and social legacy for Delhi, the effects of which are already visible. The physical landscape of Delhi has been irreversibly mutilated with a complete lack of adherence to planning norms, environmental safeguards and aesthetics. Apart from the inconvenience imposed by the Games, restrictions on movement in the city and increased traffic nightmares due to CWG dedicated lanes, forced repatriation of migrant workers, mandatory closure of schools, colleges and markets, residents are also facing an onslaught on civil liberties and a clampdown against democratic protest and dissent in Delhi. 

As the CWG debate rages across the nation and as more and more macabre skeletons tumble out of the manifold corruption closets, let our government officials not forget the constituencies they represent when they defend the Games, let them not forget that the overwhelming majority of India is not benefitting from the CWG, not even from a purely sports perspective. Large expensive stadiums concentrated in Delhi do not build national sporting culture. The absence of a sustainable social legacy plan for the Games and the lack of adequate investment in sports around the country, only corroborates the fact that improving the status of sports in India is not on the mind of the organizers or government agencies that mindlessly promote the Games. 

Let us also not hesitate to name and hold accountable those who are responsible for this national mess. It is not only Mr. Kalmadi but also the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) Chairperson, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Commissioner, Chief Minister Sheila Dixit; Minister of Social Welfare, Delhi, Finance Minister of Delhi, and others. As Chairperson of the Planning Commission, the Prime Minister himself is answerable for the diversion of funds from the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan or Special Component Plan (SCP). Investigations by the Central Vigilance Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, and relevant Parliamentary Committees should be carried out into the issue of diversion of funds from the SCP and other social sector budgets such as health, education, food and housing. The government needs to provide full public disclosure as to where this astronomical sum of money is coming from, the exact purposes it is being spent on, and how the economic deficit is going to be recovered.

Let our government representatives reflect on what true 'national prestige' really means and let them remember their commitments to the people of India. 

Do spiraling scandals, rampant corruption, appropriation of public funds, colossal cost overruns, diversion of social sector budgets, shoddy infrastructure, embarrassing delays, deaths of construction workers, exploitation of the poor, and gross violation of human rights to adequate housing, work, health, security of the person and home, food, water, freedom of residence and assembly, make a 'world class city' and a 'world class' mega event? Do building multi-million dollar stadiums while exploiting construction workers and building parking lots and roads at the cost of housing, jobs, and health of the city's poor build national credibility? Given India's grim socio-economic reality, further exacerbated by the Games, does hosting such an exorbitant mega event contribute in any manner to shaping 'national pride' and international prestige? 

The entire Commonwealth Games process has revealed a complete failure of governance at all levels. The Delhi government's rhetoric that the Games will benefit all Delhiites has proven to be hollow and contradictory to reality. The Government of India's commitments to its people have been dishonoured. The Organising Committee's tall promises to the international and national sports community have been broken. In light of the national shame and scandal that the Commonwealth Games have come to symbolise, how could anyone with a conscience, let alone a patriotic bone in their bodies, support this sham of sinful extravagance, human rights violations, and governance failure in the name of 'national pride'? 

The recent injury to 27 workers incurred due to the collapse of a footbridge, is disgracefully dismissed by our senior officials, including the Delhi Chief Minister, as "minor glitches." The disrespect for the lives of Delhi's poor and working classes is apparent in every dimension of the CWG. Street vendors, cart-pullers, balloon sellers, and others who engage in informal sector work that is largely street-based, have been prohibited from carrying out their livelihoods until the Games are over. Unable to earn their daily wage and thus unable to buy food, thousands in Delhi are being pushed into starvation by the government's anti-poor and hostile policies. While unhygienic conditions at the Games Village and India's demonstrated unpreparedness, are shameful and alarming, it is tragic that everyone seems more concerned about dog paw marks on mattresses than about the flagrant denial of human rights to Delhi's poor. 

As human rights activists and concerned Indians, we call upon the national and international community, including athletes, to boycott the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Such a boycott should be seen not as an anti-Indian stand (we believe in the honour of this country and its people) but as a moral and ethical stand against public deceit, against human rights violations and exploitation of the poor, against corruption and sanctioned depletion of the public exchequer, against criminal misappropriation of welfare funds, and against unethical, undemocratic and failed governance. The boycott would also signify solidarity with Delhi's poor and marginalised groups who have greatly suffered and borne the worst brunt of the Commonwealth Games preparations. 

We hope that participating athletes in Delhi will find creative ways to protest the rampant human rights violations and corruption of the CWG. Countries and athletes should not continue to be swayed by India's clout and power as an 'emerging economy.' The upholding of human rights, particularly of the most vulnerable of Delhi, must always take precedence over other considerations around false notions of political expediency or 'national pride.' 

When one in three Indians lives below the poverty line and the world's largest number of malnourished children live in India, when 50% of Delhi lives in informal settlements and slums and the majority do not have access to basic services, how can anyone condone expenditure of Rs. 70 crore (US$ 15 million) on a balloon, Rs. 960 crore (US$ 200 million) on renovation of one stadium, and Rs. 5 crore (around US$ 1 million) on paving one kilometre of one street in Delhi? 

Rs. 70,000 - 80,000 crore (US$ 15 - 17 billion) on a one-time sporting event in Delhi? How many schools, hospitals, houses, colleges, toilets, water taps, roads, electrical connections, food subsidy programmes, sports training facilities and playgrounds across India could have been provided with this money?

The question before the nation is: can India really afford the Games, and can it afford to go forward with hosting the Games? We do not think so.

Let the 2010 Commonwealth Games be remembered as one of the shameful chapters in India's history. And let those countries and athletes who boycott them on moral grounds be remembered for their courage and ability to take a stand against injustice. 

Miloon Kothari is former Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council and currently Executive Director, Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN). Shivani Chaudhry is Associate Director of HLRN.  HLRN's report: "The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?" is available at: www.hic-sarp.org.
The writers' views are their own.

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