M A I N   N E W S

The posh and the poor: F1 brings out the deep divide
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, October 30
There were reports about the “disparity” between the “champagne world of Formula One” and the “deep poverty of much of the country’s people in the areas surrounding Buddh International Circuit” - the venue of India’s first Grand Prix.

Not everyone is impressed with the multi-crore “elitist” sporting extravaganza in a country where 46 crore people are poor.

Labelling the F 1 a “misplaced priority” for a poor country like India, former Sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar dubbed the sport as “vulgar display of money”. Sociologists say that the sport will only increase the disparity among different sections of the society and increase the gap between “haves and have-nots”.

“What kind of a culture are we promoting? As it is, racing is a ludicrous sport. It burns rubber and fuel, the two commodities that India imports. This track is built on the land acquired from farmers at an absurd price and F 1 organisers had the gall to demand tax exemption for promoting the sport,” he says.

Ironically, the grand finale of the money-fuelled sport coincided with the World Thrift Day today.

While a majority of political heavyweights stayed away, the presence of Mayawati at the presentation ceremony invited criticism. “Mayawati will have to pay for consorting rich and famous,” warns Aiyar.

Incidentally, the former Sports Minister also pooh-poohs Assocham’s claim that the F 1 will generate revenues of over Rs 90,000 crore in the next 10 years and create 15 lakh job opportunities for technical workers. To this Aiyar retorts: “Any investments will generate income. I don’t understand how an investment in F 1 will yield better results,” adding that his primary objection was that the highly elitist sport was meant just for the richest.

“A desperately poor country like India needs to invest money in irrigation, sanitation, education and health facilities. Why do we have to keep confusing sports with economics? The misconception has already landed Greece in a debt trap,” he added.

Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya has fiercely defended India's right to host F 1, saying the country's economic growth was as much a reality as its poverty. “In every country, there are the privileged and the under-privileged. We have under-privileged people in our country, but that does not mean the country must be bogged down or weighed down,” Mallya said.

"India is a progressive country, we have a strongly growing economy, a large economy. The government is doing all it can to address the need of the poor or the under-privileged people, but India must move on,” he added.

Food policy analyst Devinder Sharma, however, says that merely by holding F 1 or building a seven-star hotel, India will not “move on” and join the First World category.

“India has the world’s largest poor population of 46 crore and has 32 crore hungry people. As many as 47 per cent of the country’s children are malnourished. The global hunger index has India at 67th in the list 81 countries. How will the F 1 help the poor in the country? There is a global movement opposing control of the resources by one per cent population,” adds Sharma.





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