To qualify as an Indian, it is essential that you love cricket, it is important that you gossip, it is vital to fall in love with pelvic thrusting actors and cajoling actresses on the celluloid screen and it is quintessential that you make money the quick (and sometimes the wrong) way. The saga of Indian Premier League (IPL), the beleaguered cricket league of India, is no exception to these general rules of Indianness. The vulgar display of money, power and beauty is there for all to see. From selfish business tycoons to iconic players, all adorn the masala called IPL. It is surely entertainment at its best. The kind of recipe which made a friend’s eighty-five year old grandma vouch for a team (it’s a different matter that she can’t make out why the two brothers, called “mid off” and “mid on” play for every team!)’. IPL is fun as long as it confines itself to the cricketing field. Last week the game spilled over, flooding our fragile democratic institutions and drowning a lot in its wake.
To believe that all what happened in the last couple of weeks is the result of an ego clash between Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor would be rather stupid and naïve. In fact are we being made to believe that a shrewd businessman and a newly crowned politician do have an ego? Doesn’t make sense to me. In all its three years of existence, IPL was not about cricket. It was about money. About a lot of money! The unprecedented value of the IPL was too much to be resisted by all - politicians, administrators, business moguls, cine stars. Everyone wanted a piece of this rich pie. But are we really interested in the Tharoors, Pawars, Ambanis and Modis? Corruption in the IPL does not really worry me. From the day of its conception the IPL was not a sanctum sanctorum. “Brand IPL” as it is tried to be labeled by those who believe in the politics and power of “brands” was a hot bed of vested interests. It was an outlet for black money. Yes, they also played cricket to keep the likes of us think that the league represented a sport so close to a billion Indian hearts.
The financial aspects of IPL are not only murky but an eye opener for those who thought that India was a poor nation with more than forty percent population living below the poverty line. The total value of IPL, which even Mr Modi cannot predict with surety, is expected to be around 70000 crores. This unaccounted money is available to the richest people of India. No doubt the rich got richer in the IPL. Compare this to a cumulative expenditure of mere Rs. 27.59 crores in the prestigious National Rural Guarantee Scheme of the Government of India for the state of Orissa in 2008-09. The Orissa example is even more glaring as this is the state where hunger deaths are reported on a regular basis. Some may argue and correctly so, that it is foolhardiness to compare a government scheme with a privately owned sporting event which is meant for entertainment. Sure, but this is the best way to show how India entertains and Bharat survives under one roof. The contrast of IPL money and the lack of it in governmental schemes shows the divergence of thought and responsibility which goes in making India a nation of such huge contradictions. It is this thought process which gives birth to Maoists, Naxals and other elements of state defiance. With the muck and shame of IPL written large on the faces of corporate and political class of India, words of our Hon. Home Minister, Shri P Chidambaram sound so hollow, “we shall counter the Maoists with force. They are the gravest internal security threat to our country”. How can we even expect to believe a word of what he says? Maoists, Naxals, Naga Militia. Are any of these a bigger threat to the nation than the financial scamsters of IPL? Shouldn’t the equation be set right now? May be one Maoist for every thug involved in the IPL? How about “neutralising” the threat of Lalit Modi and his brigade before “neutralising” the alleged mastermind of the Dantewada massacre, Ramanna Paparao?
IPL even described socialism in its own new way. According to a report released just before the end of IPL2 (2009) by the equity research firm IIFL, Rajasthan Royals, the team representing Jaipur would have made the highest profit of Rs 35.1 crore in the group matches of the second edition of the tournament even when their performance was below par compared to their champion status of 2008. Knight Riders, which finished at the bottom in the league table in South Africa, nevertheless ended up with the third highest profit of Rs 25.8 crore in IPL 2. King’s XI representing Punjab, which also did not make it to the semis, just beat Kolkata to second spot with a profit of Rs 26.1 crore. How interesting is that! Teams doing poorly in terms of cricket will not necessarily fare poor in their financial gains. It looks as if Lalit Modi and his gang of franchises have defined what could be called as “IPL Socialism”.
The IPL also represents a loot of public funds, my and your money, which doesn’t even get noticed. Each day & night match of the IPL played under flood lights, consumes electricity enough to run 500 average Indian homes for a month. The provision of subsidised electricity doesn’t make things any different. It is believed that the average electricity bill for a single day and night cricket match of the IPL is more than 15000 US Dollars. For those interested in numbers, this is the government’s expenditure on health for ten adult Indians if they live up to an age of 70 years (at the rate of 21 dollars PPP). Water, a deficient resource in cities like Mumbai and Delhi is used to keep the fields green during the IPL. This, in a country which is now at the top of the childhood malnutrition charts of the globe with lack of clean water being the primary cause of a large number of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality.
The money and its earthy use in the IPL is a matter of shame for each Indian. We all love cricket but surely not in a way in which Lalit Modi packed it for us. The very fact that a large part of our society is still deprived of basic daily needs including food should always weigh heavily on our conscience. Why are we as civil society becoming oblivious to the needs of the common Indian? How can we even accept an Agriculture Minister presiding over the functions of the IPL when hundreds of farmers are committing suicide day in and day out? How are we justified in condemning the Maoists when the Indian society gives them an IPL every now and then? If the law of the land does not permit theft, how can it allow this unprecedented day light robbery? The vulgarity of IPL stands defiant. If Mr. Lalit Modi and his band of filchers cannot feel for the poor they should at least respect poverty.