May Birmingham spur the nation on

With a population of nearly 140 crore, India cannot afford to remain at the bottom of the pile. It must be in the top 10

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, August 10, 2022, 01:39 AM IST
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To reach the fourth position in the medals tally at the Commonwealth Games that concluded in Birmingham on August 8 cannot be seen as a great achievement for a country of India's size. And yet, this was India's best performance at the Games in almost a century. In other words, Indians have much to celebrate as they welcome the athletes home. In the overall medals tally since the Games began in 1930, India with 564 medals, including 203 gold, is in fourth position. From this perspective, the country has found its level in the comity of Commonwealth nations.

But statistics can be misleading, so it is best to analyse them. India won its most medals, 101, in 2010 when it hosted the Games in New Delhi. That was the only time the country’s tally entered three figures, with the home advantage. Of those 101 medals, 30 came in shooting, eight in archery, seven in Greco-Roman wrestling and four in tennis. None of those events was included in Birmingham. If these medals are excluded from the 2010 tally, the 61 medals India won at Birmingham would be the highest ever. The 26 gold medals India won at the Gold Coast, Australia, in 2018 would also slip below the 22 it won this year if a similar exclusion were to be made. In short, Birmingham witnessed India's best performance ever at the Commonwealth Games.

What is notable is the strides Indian athletes have made. The country has come a long way since Anju Bobby George won India’s first medal at the World Athletics Championship. Today, we have in Neeraj Chopra an Olympic gold medallist and World silver medallist. Our athletes have the potential to make an impact in the years to come. Ultimately, however, what matters is how India performs at the Olympics. With a population of nearly 140 crore, India cannot afford to remain at the bottom of the pile. It must be in the top 10. That is possible only if we learn our lessons from events like the Commonwealth Games. Otherwise, we can just celebrate our little achievement in Birmingham.

Metro costs raise tough questions

It is almost a routine in India for public projects to overshoot time and budgetary outlays. When a project gets completed on time or within the allocated budget, hosannas are sung to the team that executed it. So the report in this paper on Monday that the cost of the Metro 3 project in Mumbai connecting SEEPZ with Colaba via the Bandra-Kurla Complex is set to rise by a huge 44%, or more than Rs10,000 crore, would not have come as a surprise to anyone. Yet, the cost overrun raises crucial questions.

The Metro 3 project has been mired in controversy since inception, mainly over the location of its car shed in the Aarey Colony. However, even those opposed to the car shed have been at pains to emphasise that they are not opposed to the project itself. That, too, is no surprise, given an atmosphere in which raising basic questions about mammoth public projects can get one branded anti-development or worse.

A metro for Bombay, as the city was then called, was first recommended by an international consulting firm back in the early 1960s, along with a slew of other projects like the trans-harbour link, based on a projection of future needs. That future is here already, and the projects are only being executed now, more than half a century later, when the city centre has moved north steadily but inexorably, and continues to do so.

The reasons proffered for the increase in costs raise their own red flags. If the blame is now being laid on the city’s basalt rock base and lack of space, or the need to set up ramps for traffic while tunnelling work proceeds underneath, the logical citizen must surely wonder about the viability, feasibility, geological and cost-benefit studies carried out before such work begins.

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