The social media reports about the unhygienic conditions and poor quality of food provided to the athletes in the ongoing 5th Meghalaya Games 2024 in Tura reminded us of the last edition of the game where sportspersons were made to sleep and eat on the floor of the toilets of JN Complex, Shillong. Is this how we nurture our future sportspersons? Being an avid sports lover myself, I am not against sporting events, but I have the following questions:
- First Cherry Blossom festival of 17-19 November 2023 where the government spent Rs 9 crore for three-day events and now Rs 23 crore for six-day events that comes to Rs 38,333,333.33 per day. With the quantum of money involved, the 3000 odd athletes could have been provided with world-class nutritious food, accommodation, transportation, etc. The Chief Minister, Sports Minister, the Organising Committee and the Meghalaya Olympic Association must own up the responsibility for the poor treatment of our sportspersons. But the larger question is-can a State like ours holding number two position among all the states in poverty index effort these kinds of expenditures? This money could have been used in completing pending developmental projects, better roads, electrification, housing for poor, etc in rural Meghalaya or street lightings, entrepreneurship promotion and employment generation, coaching centers for Civil Services, IFS, CUET centres etc across the State.
- What happened to medal winners of the previous Meghalaya Games? Did the State government provide them with financial support and better training facilities so that they can have podium finishes in National Games or international events such as Commonwealth, Asian or Olympics games? With much lesser than Rs 23 crore, the State could have developed world class training facilities in selected sporting events. I hope promising sportspersons did not end up merely displaying their medals and certificates in the showcases in absence of follow up training programmes. It is no point to host gala sports events with public money in absence of nurturing and training facilities to these talented boys and girls so that they can get name and fame nationally and internationally.
I am aghast to see that these kinds of avoidable expenditures by the State government hardly invite any public outcry these days except few in social media. The silence of the coalition partners in the MDA government is understandable but what about the Opposition and pressure groups and the public in general? We are mute spectators to the Meghalaya government’s apathy.
There is no urgency on the part of the State government to build an alternative bridge over Umiam Lake in spite of huge delays in commuting through the under-repair dam/bridge which has long passed its warranty period and the government is busy merry making all the time. We resemble the Bihar of 20 years back. We are last or second last in development or poverty but first in merry making using public money without any hesitation.
What has happened to us as a society and community; we are slowly turning ourselves into stones and rocks. It is not surprising that this State government is proactive on spending huge sums of public money in quick short-term events of three or six days instead of investing in long term projects for public good for which you need to have clear-cut roadmaps. I won’t be surprised at all if it turns out to be a waste and mismanagement of public money through official channels. Who are the real beneficiaries of these events is not a million dollar question anymore.
Prof. Lakhon Kma