An "Open Letter" from Suresh Kalmadi!
My fellow citizens, Over the last few weeks, I have read and watched a series of reports about corruption in the organizing of Commonwealth Games. It has pained me no end. Some of those things I have tried to explain but what has shocked me is the demand for my exit. Each day there is a new disclosure and the chorus begins again. Therefore, I decided to confront the question head on.
Yes, corruption has taken place in holding of the games. Trails of quite a few scandals lead right up to my door. So, I will not deny it. But what is so surprising about it? What did I do that had not been done before? To see the outpourings of outrage everywhere, it would appear Indians are seeing corruption happen for the first time. Come on, let us shed that garb of innocence.
Please come with me to the collectorate of any of our nearly 450 districts. Each one presided over by an IAS officer, the best and the brightest among us. Here you find people in their thousands waiting for such commonplace things as domicile and caste certificates. There are contractors waiting for permits to mine materials such as boulders and gravel. My contractor friend tells me it takes 18 approvals to get one permit. Please try to get just one of them without giving a bribe or using a big name. The same goes for each certificate.
I could take you to the secretariat of each of our 30-odd states. Or to ministries in New Delhi where even bigger deals are made. The story will be repeated on a progressively larger scale. Let us travel to any of the RTO offices. I dare you to have a vehicle registered or transferred, or just pay your tax without going through a tout or paying someone. Why, most of us have driving licences. I ask each one of you to keep your hand on your heart and ask whether you got it by honestly appearing for a test or gave a small fee to someone to get it for you.
I also want you to remember the last time you were booked for jumping a traffic signal or wrongly parking your car. Did you quietly pay your fine or tried to settle the matter with the cop for a lower amount? Please get me a birth certificate from your local municipal office in a straightforward manner. I could say the same about courts but for the risk of being hauled up for contempt. I shall still suggest that you spend a day in the court complex of any district and check out the exemplary honesty and integrity with which everybody from peons to lawyers to judges work there. Let us then go to a PWD or an irrigation department office of your choice and try to find a road or a dam built with complete honesty. I could go on. But you get the drift, right?
Somebody has thrown a CAG report on my face. Poor CAG has been writing such reports by the dozens about every department of every government at every level. I am yet to discover their utility other than providing particularly untalented reporters a means to live another day. The toilet paper in my bathroom finds better use than those reports. It is the same with CVC.
And, ah, the media… How can I forget my friends there? Please ask them about the increasingly blurred line between advertising and commercials so that readers do not know what is paid for and what is not. What editorial integrity do we see when interviews and features on movies appear sweetly timed with their release? We had the scandal of paid political news during elections. I am yet to see an editor or an owner hauled over the coals for that or being asked to demit office.
No, my compatriots, it is not corruption in CWG that bothers you. If that were the case, you would have lynched every district collector and every RTO in the country by now. You have long made peace with corruption. You have become part of it when you could. It is brazenness and scale of my corruption that concerns you. That is the novelty element. If my team had kept itself limited to taking 10 or 20 per cent cut, you would be looking the other way. The media would find it boring to report that. What shocks you is that I paid Rs 9 lakh for hiring a treadmill that could be had for Rs 45,000. If I had done the deal at Rs 50,000 you would be OK with it. You do not mind people crossing the line. You mind them crossing it too openly. But you forget, friends, that once you allow crossing of lines you cannot set the rules for it. Also, I have only raised the bar here. Citius, Altius, Fortius. Isn't that what having games is all about? Give me credit for at least that (though I'd prefer cash!).
(The Olympic Games Motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius - Higher, Stronger, Further).
With all sincerity