The $89 toilet roll shames Delhi’s Commonwealth Games

The official mascot for the Delhi Commonwealth Games is Shera, a cuddly cartoon tiger. But, 60 days before the largest sporting event to be held in India begins, Shera is in danger of being usurped by a toilet roll.

Indians may be inured to graft, but the scale and audacity of alleged corruption linked to the Games in recent days has shocked the most hardened onlookers. Among the allegations are that the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee planned to rent treadmills for 975,000 rupees ($23,080) apiece for 45 days – critics say that it could buy them for half the price – and that it spent 3,757 rupees ($89) on a roll of toilet paper.

Anil Khanna, the treasurer of the committee, resigned yesterday amid reports that his son had been granted a contract for laying 14 synthetic tennis courts said to be of substandard quality. Elsewhere, government officials have been charged with faking fire safety certificates for 5,000 buses to be used during the event.

Concerns over spending were also highlighted by the payment of $429,000 to a British company, AMFilms, to supply transport and portable toilets last October for the start of the Queen’s Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace, despite the absence of any formal contract.

In total more than 300 complaints of corruption have been made to India’s Central Bureau of Investigation…

The Games were meant to showcase a new India, a land of modern infrastructure and giddying economic growth. The old-fashioned corruption scandal is a major embarrassment for a Government already under attack for the event’s financial and human cost.

This is one of those events when the worldwide war against corruption looks like it should take a higher priority than all the other political wars popular with our demagogues.

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