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India's Commonwealth Games Fiasco, Shaky Foundations of a Cheap Labour Economy

Politics / India Sep 25, 2010 - 12:11 PM GMT

By: Finian_Cunningham

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleAs the Commonwealth Games open in Delhi, India, the controversy over sub-standard accommodation and facilities for the participating nations continues to rage.

Several weeks ago, visiting country delegates voiced concern over the shambolic state of the newly built facilities. Now, as the games open, the event promises to turn into an embarrassing fiasco for the Indian government, with glaring publicity on what is still being widely reported as filthy and shoddy conditions. Media reports say that cleaners and labourers are “working through the night” in order to salvage conditions at the so-called Games Village, where more than 7,000 athletes from over 70 countries are scheduled to stay for the 12-day sporting tournament.


Racists may sneer over the debacle, claiming that the problems of sanitation and crumby construction are part and parcel of the Indian subcontinent.

But in truth what the Commonwealth Games fiasco demonstrates is the shaky foundations and unsustainable nature of the Indian economy. As with China, India is hailed as the new global economic colossus. Defying the slowdown in the world economy, India like China has been growing at 8 per cent or more. With a population of one billion each (nearly a third of the planet’s total), these Asian giants are said to be the new centre of gravity for the world economy.

However, just like the spurious ‘Commonwealth’ name of the games – a hangover from the British empire – the accolades attributed to India’s (and China’s) economy are more illusion than fact.

The central fact is that India’s economy, as with China’s, is premised on the super exploitation of cheap labour. Yes, on the short-term this raw-tooth capitalism will manifest in salivating profits for developers and investors and seemingly bristling economic indicators, such as Gross Domestic Product. But in the long run, for the vast majority of workers on a pittance wage, their poverty can only become more intensified and widespread. With millions of unemployed desperate for subsistence, workers can be, and are, dispensed like cannon fodder.

This is not a painful, slow path to social progress as some may suggest for India or China, but rather it is a giant relentless race to the bottom in which the poverty of the masses is used as a battering ram to wreck whatever better wages and conditions workers in other parts of the world may have.

If we accept that human labour is ultimately the source of all value, then it is to be expected that construction, and economies generally, that are built on the backs of people living in slave-like conditions will ultimately reflect those conditions, proving eventually to be unsustainable and futile.

Take the neighbouring Gulf countries, for example, where millions of expatriate workers from the Indian subcontinent have traditionally migrated. The entire construction industry in the Gulf is based on cheap labour from South Asia. Workers typically earn less than $6 a day and out of that paltry amount they send remittances to their families back in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The emirate of Dubai is the classic paradox. When its buildings are newly opened they are routinely hailed as icons of glamour. But architects and engineers on many projects across the Gulf verify that such outward appearance is but a cosmetic effect, conjured with shiny cladding. Closer inspection of Gulf construction sites reveals the ugly nature of the building quality and the miserable conditions of the labourers. Facades are invariably roughly finished with uneven concrete and the shuttering for laying floors and pillars is made from old pieces of recycled timber tacked together with hammer and nail. Health and safety standards are derisory.

Typically when these buildings come into operation there are then a host of ongoing maintenance problems, from poor plumbing and electrical work, to inadequate utilities such as faulty elevators.

This is the false economy of an economy based on unrelenting cheap labour. Things may appear to get done and no doubt some players get rich in the process. But, in the end, the abiding upshot of such an economy is an accumulation of poverty for the masses and an array of products that are worth less than what they are marketed for because ultimately they are made by human hands that are ground down in abject poverty.

So when we hear about the shoddy and filthy buildings at the Commonwealth (sic) Games, don’t expect this to be a one-off mishap due to some peculiarity of Indian cowboy builders. It is rather more a specific example of what we can generally expect from a world economy that is rapidly descending into capitalist super exploitation.

Finian Cunningham is a journalist and musician www.myspace.com/finiancunninghammusic

Finian Cunningham is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Finian Cunningham

© Copyright Finian Cunningham, Global Research, 2010

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.


© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

Indian
26 Sep 10, 10:17
Are you questioning the country?

Hello Finian,

Looking at the level of corruption India wasn't ready for democracy in 1947 after over 1000 years of ruling from various kings and 300 years by British.

There is so much I can write looking at history of one of the greatest nation in the world not mentioning that British still living among Indian as form of corruption.

On the other hand, I might not the infinite details about fiasco of Commonwealth games; I just know how everything works in that part of the world.


Sally
26 Sep 10, 11:58
India falling apart

India is famously a country of contradictions where one can safely say that everything and its opposite is true.

Rarely can that have been more evident than it is today, with India’s poor reputation for inefficiency, bad governance, shoddy work and corruption being demonstrated by international rejection of conditions at the Commonwealth Games village, just 13 days before the games are due to begin with 8,000 athletes – and by the collapse of a new steel arch footbridge at the main Nehru Stadium’s car park, injuring more than 20 people.


Sally
26 Sep 10, 12:01
Indian

The sign of an immature democracy is when its people are blind to its countries own failings, which instead blame others this is clearly apparent in India, China, Russia and probably Brazil.

Whereas in countries such as the UK and US, the people tend to blame those responsible i.e. their own governments, rather then look for foriegn escape goats.

The facts their is rampant corruption which is why crap gets built and it is YOUR governments fault, no one elses!


Great!
27 Sep 10, 11:33
India’s (and China’s) ???

So the collapsed bridge/roof togther with shambolic infras and poor project management as a whole shows CHINA's "Shaky Foundations of a Cheap Labour Economy"?

You are a genius, Mr. Cnningham !


asok
06 Oct 10, 23:01
Commonwealth games

Sir, Please stop putting us Indians down. We have put on a spectacular opening ceremony for the whole world to see. The games are running smoothly as chairman Suresh Kalmadi predicted. He should be declared a national hero for pull off such amazing feat. All the minor troubles before the games will be soon forgotten before the games end. We will put the Chinese to shame and make the 2008 Olympics looks like child’s play. With the success of the CWG, the West will recognize our sports superpower status, which is the envy of China. I am proud to be a Indian. We are more than ready to host the Olympics games. Lets bring it on.


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