Brazil, its football prowess and love for the game are remarkable and denote each other to share an inseparable relationship. The ingenious sport has fostered beyond human bonds, boundaries and today it binds Brazilians from multiple races and religions together thus enriching the Brazilian culture. The impeccable five World Cup victories of the years 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002 have ranked Brazil above par excellence in the most sought after game on the planet.
I am sure by now you all would have guessed it right. Yes, I am indeed talking about the Football World Cup that is slated to start from this Thursday i.e. 12th June 2014. Brazil, world’s seventh largest economy with a GDP of nearly $2.4 trillion is all set to host not only the FIFA World Cup but Olympic games as well in the year 2016. The FIFA World Cup is sited in 12 important cities of Brazil. However, when the biggest soccer tournament was brought to the home, the world witnessed a completely shocking and unexpected public reaction from Brazilians.What the authorities had perceived to be an act of pride and glory for the nation was looked at here as a misconducted venture.
In the biggest cities of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, millions of Brazilians have taken to the streets with massive demonstrations publicly exhibiting their disappointment towards the government. At present, the government is investing a whopping sum on infrastructure, maintenance of sports facilities and security in the line up to the preparations of the global soccer tournament. The prime cause of unrest and anguish amongst the citizens is the enormous public funds that have been pushed into the staging of the most exorbitant event in Brazil, neglecting areas like education, housing, and healthcare which are of great importance to the common man.
The discontent among citizens erupted last June when fares of public transport were hiked to raise more revenues but in contrast, the public services were curtailed. 1.5 million families were rendered homeless by the Government to make space for the sporting extravaganza. The displacement of citizens was compounded further by inadequate hospitalization and the deteriorating education. In the chronology of happenings, thousands of homeless Brazilians intruded on the Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo. As a result, traffic jams ensued and stretched to a record 261 kilometers. The situation was further paralyzed as the public transport buses went to a standstill to join in these protests mainly in Sao Paulo.The matters were further complicated when security forces fired tear gas shells at the demonstrating crowds. This year, in late January demonstrations against the World Cup again caught steam and spread to fourteen Brazilians cities demanding better public services, a decrease in inflation, eradication of corruption and a sustainable way of living. Brazil is one of the world’s most economically unequal countries.Mainly the middle class and to a certain extent its poor citizens are the ones bearing the maximum burden of taxes. The poor are becoming poorer while the rich are getting richer.
Favelas or slums, the unpleasant side of Brazil that cover the outskirts of major cities such as Manaus, Fortaleza, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are still combating drug trafficking, corruption and crime. About six percent of Brazil’s 190 million people live in these favelas that are forefronted by drug lords and mafia and are neglected by the government officials. Drug dealing is one of the main means of livelihood in favelas, ultimately leading to poisoning of the entire society and destroying generation altogether. A grim reminder of this fact points towards Brazil being world’s second largest consumer of cocaine after the United States. To bring this anarchy under control Brazilian police had launched a Pacification Programme from the year 2008 which had actually brought the crime rate under control. However, as the wave of FIFA World Cup raged on, the crime in the favelas also raged at an alarming rate.
Peering more into the darkness, over one million prostitutes are equipping themselves to endorse their mundane work with infectious cheerfulness. Prostitution is legal in Brazil at the age of eighteen. However, the agony is the multiplying figures of a vulnerable adolescent from poverty-stricken areas, being coaxed into the flesh trade to cope up the demand that is ever increasing with the inflow of over 3.7 million tourists. President Dilma Rousseff has launched a program called ‘Vira Vida’ to rehabilitate victimized teenagers but the evil is still very much prevalent and undiminished. These efforts have been met by minimal success. Fortaleza, one of the cities that will be hosting the game is well-known for its sex tourism. Sexual exploitation of children is the second highest reported crime here. Although the government has assured to confront the issues during World Cup, sex tourism and child trafficking has sensed an opportunity to mint money with the upcoming tournament.
With Brazil government facing widespread unrest over its preparations for the World Cup, President Rousseff has disproved the on-going protests and criticism. She is running an extensive PR campaign to defend the World Cup, her policies and the spending though it has crossed 8 billion reais or £2.032 billion that converts to more than twenty thousand crores in Indian rupees.
The tournament commences from Thursday, 12 June 2014 with Brazil competing with Croatia in Sao Paulo. President Rousseff has increased the forces to curb the swirling violence and protests surrounding the World Cup. Officials have vouched for conducting sound and secure game and people’s security.
The world may be looking at this World Cup as a well-organized extravaganza. But the questions persist about the 1.5 million families that are rendered homeless by this tournament, the inadequate hospitalization, and the deteriorating education facilities that are plaguing general masses, the 190 million people that yet live in urban slums, the world’s second largest cocaine-addicted population and last but not the least over one million prostitutes that are being pushed in the flesh trade under the name of sports tourism. If these social evils are mushrooming all over with just the football World Cup then what would be the situation when Brazil would host the Olympic Games in the year 2016 which would certainly be on a much larger and wider scale.
While this valley between the rich and poor widens in Brazil, the fact that it is part of BRICS nations cannot be ignored. We are all aware that BRICS is the group of nations that are developing economies rising out of poverty and all the above mentioned social evils. So the biggest question of unbalanced development that is happening in the light of such a big global extravaganza that too in a BRICS member-nation and is being geared towards serving the rich and creating facilities only for them remains unanswered.
ll Hari Om ll-ll Shriram ll-ll Ambadnya ll
Published at Mumbai, Maharashtra – India