India’s preparations for the Commonwealth Games have become an international embarrassment. Earlier this month the Central Vigilance Commission examined several construction projects relating to the games and found them wanting, a judgment confirmed by the recent collapse of a bridge that injured 27 people. It even looked for a while as if the games could be cancelled. There are also many stories of corruption. The National Campaign on Dalit (ex-untouchable) Human Rights alleges that $150 million was siphoned away from schemes for assisting low castes in Delhi to be spent on the games. According to the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, construction workers have not been provided with safety equipment and are being paid less than the minimum wage. Some reports say that as many as 49 people have died building stadiums and facilities for the games.
It emerged recently that tens of millions of dollars meant for the poor in Delhi are being siphoned off to pay for the Commonwealth Games. At the same time, the city authorities are forcibly destroying the homes of squatters to make way for the games. It's a depressingly familiar story. Rajiv Gandhi famously said that of every hundred rupees ear-marked by the state for the alleviation of poverty in rural India, about six rupees actually arrive in the hands of a poor person – the rest is embezzled by intermediaries. Forced evictions, too, have a long history in metropolitan India.