Chaotic CWG run-up hitting India's global image: Moody's
TNN, Sep 25, 2010, 12.15am IST
NEW DELHI: Two days ago, in an online poll run by TOI, 97% of respondents said they strongly believed that the Commonwealth Games organizers had tarnished India's image. While the poll had generated 17,500 responses at the time of going to press, the total number of participants grew to 34,000 the next day. Now, there's proof that it wasn't just an outpouring of sentiment.
Shoddy, chaotic preparations for the Games and concerns over security have tarnished India's image and may hurt its reputation as an investment and tourist destination, global rating agency Moody's has said.
"Concerns ...view middle of the document...
"Fears regarding safety and security have been upstaged by more immediate concerns about India's preparedness to host the event, following the collapse of a pedestrian bridge allegations of widespread corruption and revelations that the athletes' housing was unfinished days before competitors are scheduled to arrive," the note said.
India's highest-ranking man on the ground, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, acknowledged to TIME that "levels of militancy are at the lowest that they have been for the last 20 years." Intelligence officers estimate that there are only about 500 militants still active in Kashmir, compared to thousands in the 1990s. In Srinagar, Abdullah says, "There is hardly any militancy whatsoever." So why not reduce troop numbers? The official explanation is that the authorities are waiting for calm to return, but there was no significant drawdown even during earlier periods of quiet in the valley. Instead, it seems that India will maintain a large armed presence as a show of strength as long as relations with Pakistan are tense.
New Delhi also has not addressed the culture of impunity that human-rights activists say has characterized the long counterinsurgency campaign. The failure to bring to justice the perpetrators of the disappearances, extrajudicial killings and rapes committed by security forces, despite documentation of hundreds of cases by human-rights groups, still produces intense bitterness among Kashmiris — and those wounds have been reopened by recent incidents. Among them were the deaths of 80 marchers during the peaceful protests of June 2008, the alleged rape and murder of two young women by security forces in 2009 and the death on June 11 of 17-year-old student Tufail Mattoo that ignited this summer's demonstrations. (Watch TIME's video "Earthquake Tourism in Kashmir.")
Since the protests resumed, Srinagar has tumbled back into a replay of the curfews and general strikes that disrupted life during the years of militancy. Leaving the house means negotiating both security checkpoints and makeshift barricades set up by the stone pelters. Some businesses have managed to keep running — those that can afford to offer employees meals, dorms and drivers with curfew passes — but most just close down, turning every day into a scavenger hunt for vegetables and milk.
Young Mattoo was killed by a tear-gas shell, but neither his death nor the deaths of 60 other people this summer have changed the tactics of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Forces (CRPF), which even Kashmir's Law Minister Ali Mohammad Sagar has called "out of control." Prabhakar Tripathy, the CRPF spokesman in Srinagar, says that his troops fire only in self-defense, but those TIME spoke to said they have no specific instructions. "It depends on the situation," says one CRPF soldier posted in the neighborhood of Nowshera. Some troops have even started improvising weapons, answering the stone pelters with marbles launched from homemade slingshots. (One...