NEW DELHI (AFP) – One of India’s top businessmen on Thursday launched a front-page attack on the “splurge” of public money being spent on the Commonwealth Games, saying the country should instead tackle dire poverty.
Azim Premji, chairman of the giant Wipro software company, wrote that the true cost of the Games was about six billion dollars — twice the government estimate — if all infrastructure projects were included.
“Is this drain on public funds for the greater common good?” Premji asked in a signed article for the Times of India.
“How can we forget that we could have established primary schools and health centres in tens of thousands of villages? Can we ignore this splurge the next time a malnourished child looks at us in the eye?”
Premji, rated by Forbes as the second richest Indian, has headed Wipro for more than 40 years, leading the company to international success. He is widely celebrated for his simple lifestyle and business ethics.
Premji, 65, said the Games were a “worthy endeavour” but that the expensive and chaotic preparations had come at the expense of India’s real needs.
“India needs more schools, and the existing schools need better infrastructure and more teachers,” he said.
“To not have this, and to instead spend on a grand sporting spectacle sounds like we have got our priorities wrong.”
The Games have been dogged by delayed venue construction and alleged corruption, with fears mounting that the event will not meet international standards when the opening ceremony is held on October 3.