Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
Arthur Schopenhauer, the German thinker has said, “Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud of, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”
Does India need to measure its national self-worth in Olympic medals? India with a population of over 1350 million people and with a contingent of 120 athletes in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, has secured just 29 medals in the last 120 years of Olympic history. The hype Indian media, politicians, and others have whipped up over India’s bagging one gold medal and a few silver and bronze medals in the 2021 Olympics is absurd and has made us a laughing stock.
Indian participants in the Tokyo Olympics received a tumultuous rousing welcome with folks chanting nationalistic slogans at the airport and all the way to their home states as if India had won a war. Indian politicians, our media, etc were ecstatic in chanting our ‘glorious’ achievements, falling head over heels vying with one another. People celebrated across India and parties were being thrown by the non-resident Indians in different parts of the world who felt being left out of the nationalist & jingoistic political race in India. The hype has been so much that politicians in the opposition did not want to miss out on scoring political points and posted pictures of the medalists on their social media.
One hardly gets to hear of the US gold medalists except in the local news in the USA. I remember seeing Michael Phelps on CNN who bagged 23 gold medals in the Olympics – a real accomplishment. The USA with 1/4th of the population of India has secured hundreds of medals but one hardly gets to hear of the medalists in the mainstream American media. There are only parties thrown by their close family & friends.
In the recently concluded Tokyo Olympics, India won just 1 gold medal, while the USA won 39, China ( with about the same population of 1350 million people as India ) won 38, and Japan won 27. I never heard of celebrations in the USA, China, or Japan of the kind we had in India, with people crying from the rooftops about our ‘great’ achievement.
Australia with only 25.8 million people won 17 gold medals in the Tokyo Olympics. New Zealand with 4.9 million people won 7, South Korea with 51 million people won 6. Kenya with 55 million people won 6. Cuba with 11.3 million people won 6. Jamaica with 2.9 million people won 4. Croatia with 4 million people won 3. Slovenia with 2 million people won 3. Serbia with 6.9 million people, Uganda with 44 million, Ecuador with 17 million, Israel with 8.8 million, Uzbekistan with 33.6 million, Qatar with 2.8 million, and Kosovo with 1.9 million people each won 2 gold medals. So what are we gloating about? Isn’t it an occasion of shame, rather than celebration?
To my mind, this is just to divert our attention from our failure as a nation on every front.
India has massive poverty, record and rising unemployment, skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs, fuel, etc ( with petrol selling at over Rs 100 per liter and LPG gas cylinders at over Rs 830 ), appalling level of child malnutrition ( every second child in India is malnourished and many stunted, according to Global Hunger Index ), 50% of our women are anemic, there is widespread farmers distress due to which almost 400,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last 25 years due to indebtedness, and the farmers’ agitation for adequate remunerative prices is ongoing, there is huge corruption, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, etc.
So this celebration, festivity, hoopla, hullabaloo, and merrymaking in India is just a diversionary shenanigan, horseplay, and buffoonery, which makes us a laughing stock in the world.