… And Buddh International Circuit in New Delhi makes 19 Grand Prix venues for this season! India celebrated yesterday its entrance into the exclusive world of Formula One. Not much can be said about the actual race, as Sebastian Vettel grabbed yet another victory. He left impressed by the circuit and how people there “are happy with what they have, even if you compare and they have so little, but they are happy, friendly, helpful and respectful”. Visibly content, Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One CEO said that “F1 is as popular in India as cricket in France, but things will improve drastically in the years to come”.
There was no hottest ticket yesterday than that for the Grand Prix’s after party. Ecstatic Bollywood mega stars, such as Shahrukh Khan, awaited eagerly Lady Gaga performance. The pop start promised to support an orphanage that cares for children with HIV and sang wearing something that looked liked a torn sari.
Not everything went as planned thought. The F1 Rocks concert was cancelled due to safety reasons. Metallica’s fans weren’t’ really pleased:
Many Western media drove the discussion away from the entertaining aspect of the race and emphasised the politics of poverty and inequality in India. For example, Washington Post’s Rama Lakshmi referred to last year’s unrest among the farmers of the area over the forced acquisition of their land by the government for construction projects, including the Grand Prix circuit. He goes on to discuss the unequal growth that the country is experiencing, the perfect circuit in contrast to the bumpy roads, the rich in contrast to the poor. He presents two points of two opposite views expressed by the analysts: according to the first, India has set wrong priorities. According to the second, the country needs to move on from the poverty debate.
Without any desire to claim expertise on Indian politics, I would give myself the freedom to provide my personal view. First and foremost, it would be valuable to take a close look at the possible benefits of the facilities to the poor people living in the nearby villages, without taking into account possible financial loss caused to a number of families from the acquisition of the land by the government. If the estimated number of jobs related directly or indirectly with these facilities truly reaches the 6,5000, then it cannot be refused that the impact to the people living nearby is positive. From all the possible candidates, they seem the most likely to be recruited for these positions. Furthermore, if the position is permanent, it may offer a steady income, therefore, it could offer the family the possibility to plan activities, such as sending the children to school and saving for further education.
On the other hand, poverty is decline, the Indian middle class is rapidly expanding and possibly getting interested in politics. They are educated and keep their eyes open for opportunities to make money. This includes the introduction of new forms of entertainment for the nation and the promotion of the country as a popular destination for foreigners who can enjoy quality services and spectacle, not only curry and saris.
In reality, criticizing the Indian middle for acquiring new shiny toys may result to missing the point altogether. Denying poverty won’t drive it away in the say way that laying emphasis on it won’t create more jobs. India had a long period of self-reflection and decided to experiment with capitalistic democracy. The realistic reaction to the situation would be to accept that life in an aggressive economy is full of inequalities. If the government cannot help the poor and the local NGOs can offer only that much, maybe positions generated by the private sector could lead to a more inclusive society however fragile capitalism has proven to be.
Chronic poverty and corruption cannot be eliminated overnight. The Grand Prix, a private venture, cannot be abandoned on romantic moral grounds. Let’s not forget that many London 2012 venues were built in East London and gave value to areas that a sane person wouldn’t visit alone at night even if she had to chose between that and walking on a rope blindfolded. In simplistic terms, in a capitalism investment brings development and development brings jobs opportunities and a chance to a better future. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what the poor need. Charity and free meals can only take then that far. There is still, though, one question pending: is it correct to accept the poor people’s improvement of living conditions as a mere side-effect of the investors’ activities? But that’s the topic of a different article.