Law of Unintended Consequences

The newspapers have been filled with reports about the Commonwealth Games these past few days. Reading them, I am struck by the fact that the Games offer us an opportunity of observing examples of many interesting Laws and Principles.


1. The Dilbert Principle – The basic concept of the Dilbert Principle is that the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.

In the case of the Commonwealth Games, we can observe the managing done by the Group of Ministers, their duty being to advise or make suggestions. The GOM had the very important job of approving A R Rehman’s CWG theme song.

The GOM also insisted on “Islamic elements” in the ceremonies. They also demanded  ‘some Buddhist elements’, as well as “Audible and identifiable” dohas by Kabir.

The organisers had proposed a “peppy version” of ‘Vande Mataram’ for the closing ceremony. The all-important decision was taken by the GOM- ‘who, however, told the organisers not to “deviate from the original character” of the song.’

2. Murphy’s Law – “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.

The news reports gave detailed accounts of dogs and snakes in the CWG village, leaking roofs, incomplete construction on sites, and collapse of a foot over-bridge near the main Games venue.

3. Parkinson’s Law – “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

The Organising Committee had years to prepare for the games, but most of the work was done in a haphazard manner, during the last few months.

While attempting to explain why this happened the Committee members demonstrated variations of-

4. –Boren’s Laws –

——a. When in doubt, mumble,

——b. When in trouble, delegate.

——c. When in charge, ponder.

An excellent example of Boren’s laws was given by Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games- He attempted to explain-

There was definitely a delay in handing over the venues…these are well established facts… most of the venues we got late… the OC which has to do overlaying and other final touches got delayed in getting the venues… when you get venues late naturally there would be problems.”

However, it is possible to end this list of laws on a heartening note.

5.  Law of Unintended Consequences – Actions of people—and especially of government—often have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

One would have expected that seeing the mess that the CWG had become, Indians would become disheartened. They would not try to salvage the games but resign themselves to have the games become a total failure.

That, however did not happen. The collapsed foot over-bridge was re-constructed by the Army in a record time of six days.

The living quarters  for the athletes were cleaned up, and participating athletes conveyed that the facilities at the Games were quite good.

Security measures were reviewed. A tight air defence blanket thrown over the city for the Commonwealth Games  factored in all security threats.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit  then declared that Delhi was ‘absolutely ready’ for the Commonwealth Games. 

So here’s hoping that the Games are conducted successfully and safely right up to the concluding ceremony on the 14th of this month.



  1. the army had to step in to construct a bridge ! i am sure the bridge ( ie if the raw materials were of reasonably decent quality ) will last for years ( read: longer than expected ) when the other constructions /leak/or develop cracks/or have limited guarantee period. We will be saving a lot of lives in the present and future.

    Use the most skillful resource under time crunch otherwise use the “lalo panju “- i am sure somebody has observed this as a principle.

    why don’t they just use the best and organize resources – both capital and time and materials well – The “tube light’s” law ! – but lets look at it this way – there has to be a life cycle of generating revenue/fuelling the economy . May there is a reason why everything should not be effecient /effective the first time itself ?

    i enjoy your ” laws” posts


  2. And at the end og the day when games get over—Kalamdi and Sheila Dixit will be nominated for the Padma awards.Let us not be fooled that loot was not shared by one and all.
    Kalmadi and Sheila dont have the digestion capacity as big as this.


  3. Sunder– Thank you!

    A S Raghunath– Thanks, and welcome here!

    Anrosh– Yes, the Army took only six days to rebuild a bridge which the CWG organisers had taken months to construct (that too, unsuccesfully, as it turned out).

    Makes us wonder if siphoning money away from the preparations was the only thing that the organisers did!

    Maybe there is a reason why things should be efficient the second time, but I don’t think that would have been the case if the same people had rebuilt this bridge! 🙂

    Chowlaji– You are probably right- it’s a sad state of affairs…


  4. Hello Manju,

    Hope you are doing well. Have been away for a long time and it is a pleasure to be back.

    India pitched aggressively to get the CWG – 2010. The then NDA government thought that this was a good way to project India’s image to the world. It would inspire many in the country of our own capabilities and probably help a sports revolution.

    Unfortunately, they were voted out in the following year and it soon became an orphan project. Add Mr. Mani Shankar Iyer who tried his damned best in derailing this project. We then had to deal with those who saw it as a God given opportunity to loot and screw the games out of shape.

    Add to that an insane and almost pervert media witch hunting. There was nothing that seemed to be on track. You could almost see a pattern in this.

    Thankfully, a stern warning from an uncharacteristically aggressive PM and a lot of things started falling in place.

    I feel this was deliberate and sadly none of them will be hauled over the coals. I am sure there were many agents who would have been very happy to see this effort fail miserably.


    1. Mavin, nice to have you back!

      Yes, it seems probable that the CWG-2010 became an ‘orphan project’, as you say, because it was the NDA govt that brought it to India. And the media has certainly behaved in a highly iresponsible manner.

      Thankfully, it now seems that the Games will continue to go well after a wonderful start.

      Afterwards, the govt should certainly conduct an objective review of the events leading upto the Games, so the same thing does not happen again….


  5. Dilbert principle is very good and apt for this time! I didn’t like this song of AR Rahman.

    Nobody can save India now from these corrupt politicians. We, the citizens just sit and watch with a bored/fed-up/resigned look. Is there a choice to elect a different party whose leaders are less corrupt but efficient to run the country in a decent manner? I don’t see anyother party/leader at present.

    Kalmadi and his party have swallowed all the money now, but will never have enough money to build even granaries to store the already produced foodgrains.

    Chowlaji is right, Kalmadi will be honoured with the highest award now!

    Yes, we can do one thing, we can leave everything to our army, like we asked them to build the bridge in a record time, which is going to be strong enough to last for a 100 years and Kalmadi is going to regret for this decision!


    1. Sandhya, nice idea to leave everything for the Army to do- but that is not the real job of the Army. 🙂

      Unfortunately, you are right- there is very little difference between the various political parties and leaders. There is no one that we can really look up to.


  6. Very humourous. Without taking away the gravity of the situation. Yes, atleast for India’s sake, we hope CWG is a success. But after the games will those who contributed to/were responsible for the disaster be taken to task?


  7. I was joking about the army. When somebody is capable of doing the job in the prescribed time and in a good manner, why can’t they (I remember reading the name L&T, which is a reputed company) do it?

    Rahul also seems to be dumb! He is not too young also to take some responsibility of this CWG preparations. Indira gave the responsibility to Rajiv during Asiad (I did a post on that). Thank god we got 5 golds and nothing serious problem is reported, though small small problems are there which could have been avoided. The sprint track had dents until the previous day!


  8. Manju, That was an amazing analysis.

    Lets hope that everything does indeed end in a positive way, but that the powers that be do not forget the chaos and mess that preceded it and those responsible it brought to justice.. The only thing I wonder is if anything like that will happen. After all as most of the others have said, the loot must have been shared across, for people to sit quietly for so long..


  9. Radha– It’s doubtful if those responsible will be punished, or even censured. And if many people are involved, how many can we punish?

    Sandhya– Sorry, I misunderstood!
    Probably a non-govt. company could have done the job. It’s only when the govt. takes the responsibility, something goes wrong….

    Smitha– You’re probably right- the loot must have been shared across…


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