Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Shashi Tharoor has been asked to resign. Reports, quoting BCCI officials say that the Indian Cricket Board will most certainly ask Lalit Modi to quit as commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The lid covering the sleazy and murky world of IPL has been finally blown off.
The resignation drama coincided with another development that did not evoke the same kind of media frenzy. More than 1.1 crore poor people (or 11 million) have been added to the list of Below Poverty Line (BPL) families who are eligible to receive a monthly entitlement of food ration. At the insistence of Sonia Gandhi, the Planning Commission has been forced to revise the estimates of the hungry, accepting the Tendular committee recommendation of 37.2 per cent population living in poverty, as the new line for hunger.
Once these estimates are accepted by the empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) and the National Food Security Act comes into place, the Above Poverty Line (APL) category will stop receiving any subsidised ration. There are at present 115.2 million APL families who are entitled to subsidised food.
The story of India remains embedded in the tussle between BPL, APL and IPL.
Writing in the New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha puts the IPL honeypot to be worth Rs 20,000-crore (US $ 4.5 billion). "Actually, such is the money involved that during the league’s last burst of expansion the auction figures were quoted in US dollars... For IPL commissioner Lalit Modi it is perhaps fitting that the numbers are in dollars. Rupees are the currency of people living in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand... well, you get the picture."
According to the Times of India (April 18, 2010): "The current projected cost, computed on the basis of the proposal to provide 25 kgs to every BPL family at Rs 3 works out to Rs 28,860 crore. It will touch Rs 40,400 crore if the government raises the entitlement to 35 kgs per family.
"Even in the case of the second scenario, the burden on the exchequer would be lower than the existing Rs 56,000 crore annual food subsidy."
The cost of feeding the hungry must be reduced, and only then can we feed the rich.
In his edit page article: How to feed your billionaires (The Hindu, April 17, 2010), P Sainath asks the pertinent question: "How about questions on public subsidies going to some of the ricjest people in the world? The BCCI-IPL cost the public crores of rupees each year in several ways. The waiving of entertainment tax worth Rs 10-12 crore for the IPL in Maharashtra alone was discussed in the State Assembly. Maharashtra has extended other support to the IPL, which is yet to be quatified. This, despite being a state whose debt will cross Rs 200,000 crore in the coming year." This is not the only concession, there are several other concealed freebies from the public resources.
Maharashtra is also the State where lakhs of cotton growers in the infamous hunger belt of Vidharbha have ended their lives.
As a discerning reader of the Hindustan Times (April 18, 2010) points out: "Nothing mirrors the widening gap between the rich and the poor in our society more starkly than the IPl phenomenon. While millions of people are struggling hard to eke out an existence, the sharks in business and politics are busy capitalising on our love of cricket to make millions of rupees. The dramatic personae in the side-show represents the rottenness in the IPL. Evidently, their fracas is over "to which pocket how much" should go. Nobody at the helm of BCCI-IPL can claim that their actions are completely above board. The valid quation is of why tax waivers, write-offs and subsidies are given as freebies to billionaires and millionaires behind the IPL under the pretext of making it a grand success at a time of drastic cuts in food subsidy despite the rising hunger goes unasked and unanswered." (G David Milton, via email)