Even as Indian athletes scripted history by winning the highest ever medals including a gold, Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram made a strange suggestion. While the entire country is busy celebrating the victory of our heroes and congratulating them, the Congress leader chose to use this happy occasion to criticise the important infrastructure projects in the country.
In an attempt to sound serious about preparing for the next Olympics in 2024, P Chidambaram said that the sports bodies much start working now. However, for the funding of the sports activities, he suggested that the money allocated to various projects like Central Vista, Bullet Train and other ‘vanity projects’ should be diverted to sports.
P Chidambaram said that these projects ‘can wait or suffer a cut of 25 per cent’, implying that the entire amount allocated to them, or at least 25%, should be diverted to sports. He also said that the government should pay for taking part in international competitions.
This is a very strange comment coming from a former union finance minister, as he is speaking the language of ordinary trolls. As a finance minister, he should be aware that there are budgetary allocations under various heads, and a government of a large country like India can’t stop one sector to fund another.
Just like paying billions will not produce 260 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine in a day, spending billions only will also not result in more medals. Success in international sports is achieved after long preparations, and the money is only a part of it. Surely the government can increase the budgetary allocation for sports, but this does not mean the govt will have to deduct the amount from other activities like infrastructure development. It may not sound right on this day, but actually, infrastructure development can be considered a higher priority sector than sports.
Moreover, fund in some of the projects by Chidambaram is locked, which can’t be diverted. The Mumbai Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor project is being financed by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at a very low-interest rate, and the loan is meant for the rail project only. A former union finance minister is expected to know that amount received for financing a rail project can’t be diverted to another sector like sports.
It is also amusing that a senior politician of the country considers infrastructure development projects as ‘vanity projects’. The Congress party has been criticising the central vista project as unnecessary, but its own government had said that a new and bigger parliament house is immediately needed, as the existing parliament house is not in good shape, and it can’t accommodate the increased number of MPs which is due very soon. Similarly, the central secretariate project is also aimed at saving money for the govt, as around ₹1,000 crore is being paid annually as rentals for various govt offices housed in private properties in Delhi.
Courts have junked several petitions opposing the Central Vista project, that would not stop the Congress leaders to continue opposing it on baseless grounds.