The government seems keen to “monetize" state-held assets to meet its highest-ever disinvestment target of ₹1.05 trillion. Stake sell-offs in public sector enterprises are what this exercise has usually involved, but this time, some creative ideas have popped into the mix. Take the proposal to make money off sports facilities, such as stadia. The instance that has been cited is of Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which was built for the Asian Games hosted by the capital in 1982. While periodic use has been made of it for various sports events, it lies idle for much of the year. As an asset, it stays largely idle. In that sense, it’s a perfect target. The same could be said of other centrally owned stadia around the country.
In a country devoted to spectacle, imaginative use could easily be made of such public arenas. The question is of the mechanism best used to turn these into money spinners. Should they be privatized outright? If so, any deal would have to include caveats on privileged access for national events. A public-private partnership model could be used, as with airports, with private companies awarded contracts to run stadia and raise revenues, with some of it passed on to the de facto owner—the government.
Either way, the objective should be to squeeze value out of state properties by having their use maximized. The success of the Indian Premier League for T20 cricket made it clear that much of India’s domestic sports potential was yet to be exploited. Marketed well, our stadia could host various other eyeball gatherers.