Monday, May 31, 2010

From June 4, you’ll be able to buy your Games ticket online

From this weekend, tickets for the Commonwealth Games will be up for grabs.

Initially, the tickets will be available online and later at select outlets across the city. The tickets have been priced between Rs 50 and Rs 1,000. Prices for the opening and closing ceremonies, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, will be costlier as a huge demand is expected for these events.

“The tickets will be available in price slabs starting from Rs 50 and will vary from session to session. We will announce the price slabs on June 4, after which they will be available online,” said Lalit Bhanot, secretary general, Common-wealth Games Organising Committee.

“Tickets for preliminary matches will be cheaper than the finals and the prices will also depend on the size of the stadia and the event’s popularity,” he said. “Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies will be costlier but we will ensure that masses can view all the events.”

The price slabs are expected to be Rs 50, Rs 100, Rs 150, Rs 250, Rs 500, Rs 750 and Rs 1,000. The tickets are being printed at the Nashik Security Press to ensure there is no duplication.

The OC plans to sell about 17 lakh tickets and the first ticket will be presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Initially, the people will have to book the tickets online and the ticket will reach them by post. Tickets can also be bought at the Central Bank branches. There are plans to make them available at select Metro stations, major markets and malls,” said a senior OC official who didn’t wish to be named.

“There is already a huge demand for tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies and we are getting enquires every day about bulk bookings,” he said.

The OC is expecting one lakh foreign visitors to visit the capital during the 12-day sporting extravaganza in October.

Ticket rates

    * Rs 50: Price of cheapest tickets for the Games.
    * Rs 1,000: is expected to be the highest priced tickets. Tickets for opening and closing ceremonies will be costlier.
    * 17 lakh: Number of tickets that will be be printed at the Nashik Security Press.
    * 1 lakh: Foreign visitors expected to come for Games.

India angry as Queen to miss Commonwealth games

Announcement Prince Charles to attend instead comes as UK government talks up 'enhanced partnership' with India

Britain's new "enhanced partnership" with India got off to a rocky start today as Delhi reacted angrily to a decision by the Queen not to attend the Commonwealth Games this autumn.

After breathlessly reporting that Indo-Anglo relations had topped the foreign policy part of the Queen's speech, India's media gave the decision to send Prince Charles instead front-page treatment. "Royal Snub", read one headline. Noting that the monarch, 84, has attended every games except the 1966 Kingston event, papers quoted organisers and athletes angered by the decision.

The Mail Today quoted Joaquim Carvalho, India's hockey coach, as saying: "If [the Queen] can go to other places that she could certainly have come to Delhi." While the sprinter and hurdler PT Usha said the decision was "doubly sad".

A spokesman for Buckingham palace attributed the Queen's decision to "the volume of engagements, coupled with other overseas commitments".

The Commonwealth Games is the biggest such event to be staged in India since the Asian Games in 1982. With more than 70 countries competing and hundreds of thousands of spectators expected, it is seen as the local equivalent of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the moment when India demonstrates its new economic, cultural and organisational power.

Delhi has seen hundreds of millions of pounds lavished on sporting facilities, roads, flyovers, carparks, roadbridges and the laborious replacement – by hand – of miles of stone pavements. Thousands of the city's notoriously rude rickshaw drivers have received lessons in civility and the English language. Slums along key routes, such as that from the airport into the city centre, have been cleared or hidden by hoardings. Many monuments that had fallen into disrepair have been restored, while a vast new airport terminal has been built specifically for the event and the capital's metro extended. The total cost of the event is estimated to be about £4bn.

The sense of disappointment over the Queen's decision is palpable. "What can we say? At least Prince Charles will be present. We will make the necessary arrangements," said Sheila Dikshit, Delhi's chief minister. Organisers of the games said that they were OK with the decision.

India has a complex relationship with its former colonial overlords. Local commentators revel in the contrast between India's annual economic growth of 7-10% and the flagging economies of the west.

But perceived slights from British politicians can provoke heated reactions, as the former foreign secretary David Milliband found out when his manner with local counterparts and his comments about disputed Kashmir caused disquiet last year.

According to UK sources the new government in London is hoping that the "deep and historical ties" between Britain and India will help it make the most of India's strategic importance. The details of how that might work in practice is unclear.

The Indian post office has prepared a special set of stamps to celebrate the arrival of Queen's baton – the equivalent of the Olympic torch – from Pakistan on 25 June 25 after a 100,000-mile global relay.

Games push: Guesthouses to get interest subsidy from Centre

In a bid to meet the shortfall of accommodation in the Capital ahead of the Commonwealth Games, the Central government has stepped in to roll out an interest subsidy scheme for adding capacity to guesthouses.

Sources said the move, a brainchild of the Union Tourism Ministry, has been approved at the highest level and is likely to be announced this week. The Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission have also come on board as this plan is a last-ditch bid to make accommodation available for visitors during the Games.

According to the proposal, the government will pay the “interest” on loans taken — up to Rs 2 lakh per room — by guesthouse owners. This is expected to act as an incentive for them to add rooms to their existing establishments and also refurbish the existing rooms.

Sources said this will benefit about 700 licenced guesthouses spread across Delhi. The government is hoping to meet the shortage of about 10,000 rooms through these guesthouses.

The overall shortage of accommodation during the Games will be about 40,000, and the government is trying to bridge the gap by giving tax holidays to the starred hotels which will account for about 11,000 rooms. Another 6,000 rooms will be put together by the Commonwealth Games Village and the newly constructed DDA flats at Vasant Kunj in South Delhi.

Workers and slum dwellers bear brunt of Commonwealth Games preparations

The authorities want to present the Indian capital as a world-class city but the rapid, deadline-driven overhaul has led to concerns about the plight of construction workers and slum dwellers who have been evicted.
The countdown has started but Delhi still looks like a messy construction site, with roads filled with rubble.

In their race to showcase the Commonwealth Games and to present Delhi as clean and prosperous, the city's administrators have ridden roughshod over some of the capital's poorest and most vulnerable inhabitants.

The Department of Social Welfare has announced "no-tolerance" zones in Delhi and there are plans to send beggars back to their states of origin. A Housing and Land Right Network report recently revealed that beggars and homeless people were already being arbitrarily arrested and detained.

Deplorable living and working conditions

The authorities have also turned a blind eye to the working conditions for thousands of workers, many of whom do not even earn the minimum wage and are forced to work in an unsafe environment.

Anjali Alexander, the chairperson of Mobile Crèches, a NGO that campaigns for the safety of workers on construction sites, says that the "human cost paid to have this mega-event is the displacement of thousands of families and the removal of slums."

"All the hawkers have been removed. Wherever they cannot remove the slums, they will put up lovely bamboo screens so that tourists and sports people do not see the unseemly sight. The work and living conditions are terrible. There is no safety for children. Women are turned away because they do not want children hanging around on the sites."
Delayed payment of wages

Rajendra Kumar, a migrant labourer from Rajasthan, has been working on beautifying roads for the past six months with a group from his village. He says contractors have not been paying him on time and also paying less than the stipulated wages.

"I don't understand this. Sometimes they say I will get paid after a week and then they postpone that. It is tough when you don't get money on time. The contractors make fools of us. There are a lot of problems but we have no choice. We need to eat at the end of the day."

A committee appointed by the Delhi High Court recently also pointed out that the rights of laborers were being violated on the construction sites. Workers were found to be living in deplorable hygienic conditions and it was revealed that there were not enough toilets for the large number of workers. The committee indicted the regulators concerned for their failure to comply with labor laws.

High security during Commonwealth Games

Security for the Games is another major concern. There will be over 2,000 CCTV cameras set up on roads as well as hundreds inside the competition venues to ensure the safety of athletes and visitors.

But security expert Ajay Sahni said the Games would be safe saying that there was enough capacity and "a tremendous concentration of intelligence activity preceding the Games."

The Games are expected to cost the organizers over 15 billion US dollars. However, in view of the discomfort to many, some are wondering whether the cost of this massive facelift is really worth it and equal to the pride that hosting the Commonwealth Games will bring.

The Commonwealth Games will take place from 3 to 14 October 2010.

BJP expresses dismay over Queen's inability to attend CWG ceremony

Reports of Queen Elizabeth's non-participation in the inaugural function of the Commonwealth Games dismayed the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) with its National General Secretary Vijay Goel rejecting her hectic schedule plea.

Expressing dismay and concern over the issue, Mr Goel said, ''This refusal of Queen Elizabeth II reflects on the pride of Indian.'' ''Already marred with lots of controversies over preparations and security issues, the refusal would further add to the over-hyped concerns,'' he added.

He blamed the callous attitude of the CWG Organising Committee for all the controversies engulfing the games. ''There have been reports that the Auditor General had raised finger on the expenses for games in his report,'' Mr Goel said.

Despite demands from all quarters, neither the OC nor the Delhi government put their expense details on web-site, he added.

Saying that after the Queen's refusal to come to India, the matter has slipped out of the hands of OC, the BJP leader said now the onus lies with the Union Government.

''GOI should take up the matter at the highest level because Queen's non-participation sends a wrong message to the people,'' Mr Goel opined.

The plea given by the authorities concerned that Queen's schedule is too hectic holds no ground as the Calendar for the games is decided 12 years in advance, he stated.

This will be for the first time over 40 years that Queen will not be attending Commonwealth games scheduled to be held from October 3-14.

CM, Walia launch project, website to make Delhi smoke-free

In a bid to make the national capital smoke-free before the Commonwealth Games, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Diksht and Health Minister Kiran Walia today launched a community project on tobacco control.

Observing World No Tobacco Day, Ms Dikshit launched the integrated community-based pilot project on tobacco control to spread awareness about the ill-effects of tobacco consumption and make de-addiction and cancer treatment
accessible to people through participation of NGOs. In the first phase, the project will become operational in five areas of east and south district namely, Sunder Nagri, Nand Nagri, Gandhi Nagar, Shastri Park and Hauz Khas. Voluntary organisations namely Public Health Foundation of India, Voluntary Health Association of India, Chronic Care Foundation, St Stephens's Community Health Centre, pharma giant Pfizer Limited and Delhi Medical Association will participate in the initiative.

Institute of Human Behavior and Allied Sciences will be the coordinating agency. These organisations will work for capacity building of health workers and providers by imparting training to community workers and ASHA workers and train doctors
working in the field, the Chief Minister added.

In collaboration with these NGOs, the Delhi government will arrange for counseling of tobacco users through grass-root level community workers and give them pharmocological support.

Besides, Ms Walia said the government had identified designated officers from Reserve Bank of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Delhi Transport Corporation, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, New Delhi Municipal Council, Army College of Medical Science, Public Health Foundation of India, National Restaurant Association of India, Delhi Legal Services Authority and Delhi Medical Association for implementation and compliance of smoke-free rules within their respective jurisdictions. Ms Walia said 97,153 public places were raided, 18,957 persons were fined for smoking in public and 1,495 tobacco vendors were fined and a sum of Rs 16,75,240 was realized from the violators by the government so far.

Ms Dikshit also launched a website www.smokefreedelhi.org to help people kick the addiction. ''With an estimated 120 million smokers in India, the annual deaths from smoking are expected to rise to a million during 2010 and women comprise about 20 per cent of the world's smokers. It is alarming and has become point of concern for all of us,'' the Chief Minister stated. Currently, 1.5 million people die every year globally from tobacco use, out of which 1.2 million deaths are reported from south-east Asia.

Delhi to be smoke-free city before CWG: Dikshit

Delhi will be a smoke-free city ahead of the Commonwealth Games to be held in October and a community-based pilot project will make people aware about ill-effects of tobacco usage, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said Monday.

At a function held here to mark World No Tobacco Day, she pointed out that the city government has come out with several initiatives to implement the plan.

“An integrated community-based pilot project will make people aware about ill-effects of tobacco and also make treatment accessible to them through participation of non- government organisations,” the chief minister said.

The Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences (IHBAS) has been made the coordinating agency for the pilot project, which will be first implemented in five areas of east and south Delhi — Sunder Nagri, Nand Nagri, Gandhi Nagar, Shastri Park and Hauz Khas.

The organisations will also provide training to community workers and doctors, besides arranging counselling for tobacco users.

A website www.smokefreedelhi.org was also launched by Dikshit for extending help to people who want to quit smoking. She said about 1.5 million people die every year globally because of tobacco use.

India has an estimated 120 million smokers. “It is alarming and has become a point of concern for all of us,” she said.

Delhi Health Minister Kiran Walia said a smoke-free capital will mean that everyone is protected from hazards of tobacco smoke in public places, including auditoriums, hospitals, railway waiting rooms, restaurants, public offices, court buildings, educational institutions, libraries and public conveniences, among other places.

A Delhi government official said 97,153 public places were raided following which 18,957 persons have been fined for smoking in public since October 2008 when smoking was banned in public places.

Also, 1,495 tobacco vendors were fined by the state government and a sum of Rs.1,675,240 was realised from the violators, the official added.

According to the officer, the government has also identified designated officers in several government offices for implementation and compliance of smoke-free rules within their jurisdictions.

CWG project to be finished by next month: MCD

All Commonwealth Games-related projects, taken up by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), are likely to be completed by next month.

MCD Commissioner K S Mehra informed this to the councillors at a meeting here today. ''Work of parking facility undertaken by the civic body in the vicinity of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and at training venue at DPS R K Puram is likely to be completed by today,'' Mr Mehra said.

He also stated that street-scaping of roads, leading to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Thaygraj Stadium, R K Khanna Stadium, Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range, Chattarsal Stadium and Rugby Stadium in Civil Line area will be finalised by the end of June. ''Construction of 26 waterless urinals, out of proposed 811 in different zones at a cost of Rs 35 crore have been completed while the work on 251 of them is in full swing,'' the Commissioner said. Upgrading of 222 roads and lanes out of 271 around hotels and guesthouses in Pahar Ganj, Karol Bagh and city zones is under progress while 29 of them are ready.

Security arrangements for Commonwealth Games reviewd: Chidambaram

Union Home Minister P.Chidambaram on Monday said security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games have been reviewed in consultation with Delhi police and other security forces.

“Security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games were reviewed in consultation with Delhi police and the CPMFs. Six companies of CPMF were deployed for the test events held between May 23-30, 2010,” said Chidambaram while presenting the month report card of the MHA for the month of May.

“On the request of the Government of West Bengal, 48 additional CPMF companies were deployed for the municipal elections on May 30, 2010,” he informed.

He also said: “The supply, installation, integration and commissioning of the C4i (Command, Control, Coordination and Communication Centre) project for the Delhi Police HQs was sanctioned at a cost of Rs 15.39 crore.”

“Under the MPF Scheme, Rs. 9.25 crore was sanctioned for the UTs,” Chidambaram said.

“On May 4, 2010, the Daman and Diu Marine Fishing (Amendment) Regulations were notified,” he further stated.

India fears Commonwealth Games venues will not be ready

Commonwealth Games-2010 host India appears to be in a potentially embarrassing situation, as construction delays have raised fears that the venues might not be ready on time.

India hopes the Games will showcase its rising economic power, as the country is expecting two million tourists in New Delhi, as well as about 10,000 athletes from 71 teams representing 54 Commonwealth member states for the Games beginning on October 3.However, with barely four months to go, the work at the main stadium is months overdue and the completion of the swimming pool and other venues has been delayed, highlighting the slow pace of infrastructure development.

Other games-related constructions such as roads, bridges, and hotels are also running behind schedule.

Even the roads leading to the Commonwealth Games village, where the athletes and officials will stay, are running behind schedule and the delays are causing anxiety among some of the locals.

Surender Sahni, a regular commuter on the road across the games village said he doubted if Delhi would be ready for its coming out party.

"The construction here is quite delayed, I don't think they will be able to finish it on time, and this is also causing inconvenience to the public," Sahni said.

Satish Sharma, another local, echoed similar sentiments, saying the work should have been long over.

"I think the preparations are really slow, the pace at which the construction is going on, as you can see this bridge as well as another bridge a little distance away on the same road, they are still not complete. I think they will not be finished in time for the games," said Sharma.

"I am not wanting to sound alarmist, but the reality is there is a lot more to be done, a lot of finishing work to be done," said Mike Hooper, Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

Other officials from the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Indian Olympic Association voiced similar concerns.

India had initially promised to hand over the venues to Games organisers by December 31, 2009, but deadlines have been consistently been missed for building roads, ports and power plants.

Bureaucracy and red tape and difficulties in acquiring land have delayed plans to overhaul the infrastructure.

"The construction agencies have promised that they will meet deadlines but, unfortunately, we have had times when many promises were made, and then we find one reason or another that delivery hasn't been there," said Hooper.

Authorities now fear the schedule will become so tight that there will not be enough time for checks before the start of the Games.

Heightening those fears, the lights went out at a stadium on the first day of an Asian junior tennis tournament recently, forcing officials to abandon eight matches.

However, the organisers are putting up a brave face, saying that the pace has picked up and they were on course to provide a stunning spectacle.

"I can assure you one thing, these will be the best Commonwealth games ever. There is no doubt about it," said Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Commonwealth games Organising Committee.

India is also trying to reassure foreign participants that it will provide foolproof security for the Commonwealth Games.

DDA overspending on Games; Delhi CM ignorant

Even as the official cost estimates to organise Commonwealth Games 2010 have gone up by a whopping 525 per cent since Delhi won the bid about eight years ago, Chief Minister Shiela Dixit seems to be completely unconcerned by it.

A Headlines Today investigation showed how the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has been overspending on various projects in the name of games.

But when Headlines Today approached the chief minister, she refused to explain the escalation in cost of organising the games. "I am not some financial expert, nor a wizard. I don't know anything about it. Go, talk to finance department about it," she replied.

When India bid for the games in 2003, it was estimated to cost Rs 1,899 crore. But after several revisions, the estimates now range from an official figure of Rs 10,000 crore to independent experts at an astounding Rs 30,000 crore.

The reasons for this astonishing cost escalation were delays and overspending in several projects. A Headlines Today investigation zeroed in on one such case where the DDA incurred some highly questionable expense to install hi-tech electronic gear in swimming pools reserved for training at Siri Fort Sports Complex and Yamuna Sports Complex.

The cost of electrifying Sirifort Sports Complex swimming pool worked out to Rs 4.7 crore and for Yamuna Sports Complex it came to around Rs 4.3 crore. But a pool with similar specifications at Chilla Sports Complex has been electrified for just Rs 28 lakh.

Vinish Khanna, the director of Adroit Water Treatment Plant, said, "We have done a lot of other pools also including DDA's Chilla Sports Complex. Chilla pools are deeper than these pools (Sirifort and Yamuna sports complexes). They have more volume of water and the same specification."

"Almost same specification fibre glass filters, same ozone generators as Chilla. It was tendered around a year back and was inaugurated as the first pool this year. The electrification of Chilla pool cost around Rs 28 lakh, while the other two 10 times of it. But it has now gone up by 20 times," Khanna added.

When confronted, the DDA verbally told Headlines Today that standards followed at Yamuna Sports Complex and Sirifort were much higher than Chilla and they have followed International Swimming Federation (FINA) guidelines. Interestingly, FINA has no guidelines whatsoever to decide electromechanical parts of pools.

Former national swimming champion Khajan Singh said, "See FINA only sets guidelines for the pool specifications and the standard of water in it. They have nothing to do with the machines used in it. Whichever machine fulfils their requirements, they are more than comfortable with it."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Plate success as Scotland secure Delhi sevens spot

SCOTLAND produced a bristling display to land the IRB World Sevens Series Plate at Murrayfield yesterday and deliver a major confidence boost to rugby's hopes of competing in the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The team was under pressure after failing to reach the quarter-finals in any of the preceding seven tournaments of 2009-10, the Commonwealth Games Scotland demanding a top-eight finish as proof that they could compete in Delhi this autumn. the

Though they lost to England in a nail-biting cup quarter-final, by going on to beat South Africa and Argentina to win the Plate they effectively finished fifth in the final leg.

Samoa were crowned the IRB Sevens World Champions for the first time after an enthralling performance, but Stevie Gemmell, who now moves to another SRU role in player development after five years as sevens coach, was delighted.

He said: "It was unbelievable really. The boys were very disappointed to lose to England, but they showed real character and some great skills out there to end up winning five ties from six over the weekend, and beat top sides Fiji, USA, Wales, South Africa and Argentina.

"Their work-rate was immense and it was an outstanding effort against countries with far greater resources than ours. Scottish teams are too often knocked but this squad has provided a great lift to Scottish rugby and I hope these players can take the confidence from this into their XVs careers."

With the same Samoa squad expected to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, coach Stephen Betham said he believed they would provide new inspiration for young players in the Pacific Islands.

NZ offer SBW Commonwealth Games lure

SONNY BILL WILLIAMS has been offered the opportunity to compete at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games if he returns to New Zealand to push his claims for next year's Rugby World Cup.

All but incumbent All Blacks will be available for Commonwealth Games selection in October, and the Herald understands that the possibility of Williams representing New Zealand in India has been raised during negotiations with his manager, Khoder Nasser.

If he turns his back on a lucrative three-year deal with French club Toulon, worth $2 million a season, Williams's aim would be to make the All Blacks side for the October 30 Bledisloe Cup clash in Hong Kong, ahead of New Zealand's end-of-season tour to Europe.

But New Zealand's Sunday-Star Times reported that Williams's first rugby appearance in the national jersey could be before then, at the Commonwealth Games. He would also be eligible to represent NZ when Sevens rugby is introduced to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 24-year-old has already played seven rugby league Tests for the Kiwis and if he plays for the All Blacks will be the first New Zealand league international to do so.

He has never played Sevens rugby but media commentators believe the temptation to pick him for the Commonwealth Games would prove difficult to resist.

All Blacks great Jonah Lomu, who also had a league background but played rugby at senior level, was introduced to the game at international level in Sevens, and New Zealand officials have told Williams he ''could be the next Jonah Lomu'' if he accepts their offer.

According to French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique, the NZRU's deal is worth $550,000 a year and only behind those of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and star five-eighth Dan Carter but Williams would have opportunities to earn more through third-party endorsements.

Coincidentally, the Crusaders are using the lure of playing alongside McCaw and Carter to try to get Williams to play for the Christchurch Super Rugby franchise.

Delhi gets its latest architectural marvel

Delhi will soon have a new tourist spot, just in time for the Commonwealth Games.

Guru Tegh Bahadur Memorial, an architectural marvel that promises to give an insight into the life and teachings of the Ninth Guru of Sikhs, is ready and likely to be inaugurated soon.

Constructed along National Highway 1 (GT Karnal Road) near Singh Border by Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC), the memorial would be known for his architecture, design and world-class illumination.

“It has a unique concept. The central pylon represents Guru Tegh Bahadur while the three semi-arches represent his three disciples. Ten monoliths around it represents ten Sikh Gurus and disseminate their teachings,” chief engineer Jose Kurian said.

Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who also has the charge of the tourism department, visited the memorial on Saturday evening and commented that this architectural marvel would also be known for its greenery and soothing landscape.

Celebrities to endorse traffic drives

Soon, you might be looking at Akshay Kumar, or even Shah Rukh Khan, asking you to use public transport during Commonwealth Games. Delhi Traffic Police have decided to rope in celebrities of Delhi origin to endorse its awareness drives during the Games.

“We are in the process of identifying the celebrities,” Ajay Chadha, Special Commissioner of Police (Traffic) said. “We hope they will have a great impact. They will appeal to the people to follow lane driving, give precedence to emergency vehicles such as ambulances, fire brigade and police vans and also create awareness against drink driving.”

The special drives are likely to start in June and will continue till October. The traffic police have also joined hands with some social organisations to run the special drives, said Satyendra Garg, Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police (Traffic).

The Automobile Association of Upper India has been asked to help impart behaviour training to bus drivers, while the Society of Indian Automobiles will conduct educational activities such as seminars, debates and quiz, officials said.

For the first time in 44 years, UK Queen to skip Commonwealth Games

A packed appointments schedule has led Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to skip the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October. This will be the first time in 44 years that the monarch will be absent from the signature event.

Her heir, Prince Charles, will represent the British royal family.

“Prince Charles will represent the Royal Family in India and a message of support from the Monarch to the athletes will be read out,” the ‘Daily Mail’ reported.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: “It is correct to say that the Queen will not be attending the Commonwealth Games this year. The sheer volume of engagements this autumn, coupled with other overseas visits, means she would not be able to attend.”

“The British High Commission in Delhi said it was delighted that Prince Charles would represent Her Majesty at the opening ceremony on October 3,” he added.

At previous edition of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, in 2006, the Queen had described the event as a “great sporting celebration”.

“The Commonwealth Games are both a product of our unique organisation as well as a tangible example of the value of this partnership of peoples,” she had said.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Scottish seven under pressure to do it for Delhi

THE world of sevens rugby was savoured in all of its glory in Melrose last month, but when the leading 16 nations do battle for the Ned Haig Cup this weekend there will be little similarity to what supporters enjoyed in the small Borders town.
The ball will be the same shape and the rules the same, but from about that point on, the Emirates Airlines Edinburgh Sevens moves into a different world. Melrose Sevens remains a world leader for club tournaments and maintains all that is good about the feeling of "a day out at sevens", but this is a very different prospect.

Scotland are under serious pressure to perform today with the nation's place in the Commonwealth Games later this year partly dependent upon their ability to prove they can hold realistic ambitions of reaching the latter stages of the cup in Delhi.

Coach Stevie Gemmell has struggled for continuity and consistency this season with players coming into his squad and departing, dependent on injuries and call-ups from the professional teams. He has fielded veteran sevens caps like Mike Adamson and club stars such as John Dalziel of Melrose and Selkirk's Lee Jones, but the unavailability of Colin Gregor, one of Scotland's best sevens performers for many years, has been a severe handicap.

Jones is part of the squad this afternoon and he will use this tournament to mark the end of his amateur career and what he hopes will be the start of a lengthy one with Edinburgh as he makes the step-up to the pro ranks this summer.

A strong winger just as comfortable playing scrum-half in XVs, Jones blends the sevens nous learned over many years and countless tournaments with Selkirk Youth Club and Selkirk in the Borders with the professional attributes of real strength, power, aggression and pace.

And that is where this two-day tournament differs most significantly from even the best club event. Where a player with pace such as South African Alshaun Bock stood out at the Greenyards this year, he was not considered quick enough any more to be part of the South African team that will this weekend seek to rekindle the celebrations they enjoyed in winning the IRB world crown at Murrayfield last year, even if they cannot catch leaders Samoa or chasers New Zealand this time around.

Put simply, each team aspiring to reach even the quarter-finals of the main cup competition at Murrayfield must have at least seven fast players in its squad of 12. The other five have to be just quick. They must also have the brawn one expects with XV-a-side forwards to survive the mighty impact from tackles, the kind the South Sea Islanders are famed for, and they must also have the movement, balance and handling skills that set apart those attackers who light up XVs rugby by beating a man one-on-one.

It is hard to judge who the top performers will be now. Russia are refining their game and beginning to emerge as a serious pool threat, while Kenya continue to claim top scalps with a regularity that explains their current eighth place in the world standings.

Scotland have managed to pull together their strongest squad of the series and are intent on finishing on a high, and Gemmell hopes the Murrayfield crowd can again help them in the same way that they roared them into the semi-finals last year.

"The last three years the crowd has been magnificent," he said. "They've cheered us from game one until the very last game that we've played in.

"We need to make sure that the crowd are behind us because of how we are performing. When games are tight, the public help us – the atmosphere last year was unbelievable. If we can replicate that in terms of the public support this year, and we can replicate those types of performances, then this will be a special weekend for everyone involved in Scotland Sevens."

Their pool is tough, but more open than last week's, with Fiji and the USA the top seeds, and Wales, like Scotland, capable of beating both of them on their day. The Fijians have lost their mantle as the world's leading sevens nation, but are still third in the rankings.

The size of Scotland's challenge cannot be under-estimated in an ever-improving sevens arena, but on home soil hopes are high that, while a colourful, social carnival goes on across the back pitches and around the stadium from dawn to dusk, the difference on the field this weekend will lie in the results.

Delhi Metro to set up new shopping outlets

In about a month from now, commuters at Delhi Metro railway's Rajiv Chowk station in Connaught Place will have more options to indulge in some retail therapy. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has readied kiosks to be set up on the concourse of the station to sell hand-crafted products.

The Delhi Metro has tied up with the Union Ministry of Textiles to showcase Indian handicrafts at select stations of its network and make them commercially available. Aimed at promoting handicraft items from across the country, the tie-up entails setting up of 160 kiosks for display and sale of handicrafts at metro stations.

40 kiosks in first phase

In the first phase, the Delhi Metro has awarded the contract for setting up 40 kiosks to M/s Basics for a period of six years. Thirty per cent of these kiosks will be reserved for select categories of artisans such as Shilp Gurus, National and State award winners. etc.

“The Agency has already installed a prototype of the kiosk at Rajiv Chowk metro station. The design of the prototype kiosk has been approved by the Ministry and it is expected to start commercial operations in June,” said a Delhi Metro spokesperson.

The scheme is part of the “Marketing Support and Services Scheme” of the Ministry's Office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts). “The Office of the Development Commissioner is a nodal body for handicrafts sector. This office implements six Central sector schemes for development of the sector and one of such schemes is the Marketing Support and Services scheme, under which there is a component called ‘setting up of marketing hubs in Metros',” said a Delhi Metro official.

A financial assistance of up to 25 per cent of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs.10 crore is made available for the hubs. “The Delhi Metro's mandate was to create these kiosks. Accordingly a Rs.41crore scheme was formulated by the Corporation and the Union Ministry of Textiles, for which the latter has sanctioned Rs.10 crore,” said the official.

The kiosks which will be set up at stations attracting huge footfalls, are expected to fetch good returns for the investors. “Since they will be set up at stations with a high commuter turnout, the kiosks are expected to earn healthy returns. Showcasing the best of Indian handicrafts, they will also prove to be popular shopping destinations for foreign buyers, expected in large numbers during the Commonwealth Games,” said a Delhi Metro spokesperson.

Food items to be available too

“Two kiosks, each 9 X 12 square metres in size, will be installed at every selected Metro station. Besides handicrafts and textiles, local food items will also be sold at these kiosks which will provide an ideal marketing platform to wholesalers and retailers. The food items will however be packed and consumers will not be allowed to eat at these kiosks,” the spokesperson said.

Listing the advantages of the proposal, the spokesperson said the benefits are twofold: “Since the shops will be located at places where visibility in terms of foot falls is high, they will not be required to advertise. Secondly, all the kiosks will be linked by the Delhi Metro network and it will be possible to project the entire range of handicrafts through this network for the buyers.”

Benefits of Games will be felt for longer than 15 days

Only for 15 days? That is the question that comes to mind each time I read a report or hear about how much the Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi is costing us. I shall get to the numbers a little later, but let me first ask: Is the sports and city infrastructure, which is rapidly coming up and making Delhi a more classy megapolis, going to last just 15 days?

A lot of numbers are doing the rounds, including a mind-boggling Rs 30,000 crore that an NGO has released. Let me reiterate that the cost of the Games is Rs 1620 crore – and this is by way of a loan from the Government that will be repaid from the revenues we earn from sale of broadcast rights, sponsorships, ticket and merchandising.

There has been some talk of the city being left with “severe financial legacy.” I shall address that but only after speaking of the sporting legacy that the Games will leave for Delhi.

Seven venues are being upgraded, spanking new facilities for nine sports are being opened and a number of training facilities are being either upgraded or created. And each of these has been designed with the athlete in mind.

Delhi can truly be the sports capital of the country too, what with our national squads training here in the run up to major competitions. Also, the megapolis has the wonderful opportunity to become the most sports-conscious city in India. Its citizens, who are among the most important stakeholders in the venture, have taken to the Games admirably.

The ever-expanding network of the Delhi Metro – I am told that it will extend to 185km during the Games, spanning the IGI Airport to Connaught Place, to the Games Village in Akshardham to all venues – and the 2000 low-floor buses will make commuting in the city a pleasant experience.

Add to that the new over-bridges and flyovers, and Delhi’s commuters will have a hassle-free time on the city’s roads. None of these facilities has been built to benefit only the Games. These are lasting legacies.

I am sure that the new infrastructure, especially the new airport terminal, will also boost tourism and will make Delhi a hub for international tourists. A study by Price Waterhouse Cooper says India’s GDP will benefit by $4500 million over four years from 2008-2012. Thanks to all these projects, as many as two and a half million jobs would have been created.

Let me draw your attention to reports from Scotland where the budget for the 2014 Glasgow CWG has been revised by 70 million pounds to 523.6 million pounds. It wasn’t any different in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Inflation is not a local phenomenon and cost escalation is a common feature.

To brand the Games a wasteful extravaganza is to take a very short-sighted view. Let me congratulate you and your fellow citizens for taking the discomfort during the city development with a smile. Your patience, I am sure, will be rewarded with a world-class city. Rest assured: That is not just for 15 days.

Now, it's OCA's turn to flex its muscles

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has taken exception to what it termed was an attack on its Secretary-General, Randhir Singh, by the Union Sports Ministry.

In a letter addressed to the Union Sports Minister, Dr. M.S. Gill, the OCA Director-General, Husain Al-Musallam, has stated that any personal attack on Randhir Singh “will not be accepted and entertained by the OCA.”

He was responding to the ministry letter of May 25 in which it had alleged that Randhir had a clash of interest in the ongoing dispute about the Government guidelines since he was the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Secretary-General as well as the IOC Member in India, apart from being the OCA Secretary-General.

Warning

The OCA letter warned again that any form of interference in the autonomy of the National Olympic Committee or the National Sports Federations (NSFs) would not be accepted and could result in strict penalties.

Notwithstanding the tone of the letter, the ministry sources were formal and diplomatic, reiterating that there was no change in the government policy to promote autonomy of sports bodies.

“In response to the Delhi High Court, the Government has filed, on May 1, the guidelines of 2001 and 1975. These are court property and are to be discussed on August 18,” sources said. Government endeavours were focused fully on the timely preparations to hold the Commonwealth Games in October and the Indian contingent's participation in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, a month later, they said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had also warned the ministry repeatedly of the consequences in case the latter continued to insist on imposing the guidelines on the IOA and the NSFs.

Country’s culture to be on show during the Games

The Organising Committee Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi, in collaboration with the Delhi Government, has decided to showcase India's rich culture to the Games visitors by organising a series of events offering a taste of country's music, dance and folklore.

The Tribune reported that the state government has selected 15 venues in the city where cultural festivals will be held during the mega sports event to be held from 3 -14 October.

A host of renowned artistes and singers will perform in the events.

"The cultural programmes are being selected very carefully as we want the spectators to preserve the memories of the events for a long time," the official said.

He said to cater to the taste of young visitors, programmes featuring fusion music and dance will also be held.

Another official said the government had already roped in renowned theatre director Aamir Raza Hussain to stage shows at Red Fort and Quli Khan Tomb in Mehrauli.

There will be light and sound shows at Red Fort, Old Fort and Quli Khan Tomb.

The official said Hussain had been given the responsibility for the Red Fort and Mehrauli shows, while a film company will organise the light and sound show at Old Fort.

Titled Dasatan-e-Dilli, the 45-minute Mehrauli show will show Delhi's story.

"This is a great opportunity to showcase our cultural heritage to the entire world, and we are putting in a lot of efforts to select the programmes for the events," said a senior official with the Chief Minister's office.

He said cultural programmes would be held at venues, including the Games Village, Red Fort, Mehrauli Fort, Purana Qila and Kamini auditorium.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trains being procured for new Metro corridor

Delhi–Badarpur line to start functioning from September

Slated for a September opening, preparations for the initiation of the Delhi Metro's Central Secretariat–Badarpur corridor are on in full swing. To ensure there are no gaps in the smooth functioning of the 20-km-long corridor that will cater to a large section of the city's population, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has already begun procuring trains for the section.

A DMRC spokesperson said trains have begun to arrive for the corridor that is due to be opened to the public before the Commonwealth Games. “Six new standard gauge metro trains have already arrived at the Sarita Vihar Depot located on this line. All the six trains are presently being assembled in the depot and they will be tested for technical fitness before undergoing for testing on the main line for load and braking” the spokesperson said.

A total of 25 trains, which have four coaches each, will be used on the Central Secretariat-Badarpur corridor initially. The number and frequency will be changed depending on the passenger rush.

The line is expected to cater to about 3.6 lakh passengers per day by 2011.

Badarpur's proximity to Faridabad in Haryana is expected to draw a large number of commuters to the system.

“The Delhi Metro had ordered 46 standard gauge trains for Phase II of its project from a consortium of MRMB -- Mitsubishi, ROTEM, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. Of the 46 trains, 11 are already running on the Inderlok –Mundka corridor,” said the spokesperson.

Easy connectivity

The Delhi Metro will provide easy connectivity to three venues of the Commonwealth Games 2010, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium near the JLN Stadium metro station, National Stadium near the Central Secretariat metro station and Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range near the Tughlakabad metro station on this line.

The 16 metro stations that will fall on this corridor include Central Secretariat, Khan Market, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Jangpura, Lajpat Nagar, Moolchand, Kailash Colony, Nehru Place, Kalkaji Mandir, Govindpuri, Okhla, Jasola, Sarita Vihar, Mohan Estate, Tuglakabad and Badarpur.

Metro to bring in 25 trains for Badarpur line

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is on a war footing to open its much-awaited Central Secretariat-Badarpur corridor before the Commonwealth Games.

Even as the construction work for the Metro line is under way, trains for it have begun to arrive. The Central Secretariat-Badarpur line is scheduled to become operational by September this year.

This corridor is significant as it would provide easy connectivity to three of the Commonwealth Games venues: including Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (near the JLN Stadium Metro station), National Stadium (near the Central Secretariat Metro station) and Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range (near Tughlakabad Metro station).

According to the DMRC officials, six new standard-gauge trains have already arrived at the Sarita Vihar Depot located on this line. All six trains are being assembled at the depot and would soon be tested for technical fitness, before they undergo testing on the main line for load and braking.

“A total of 25 trains — each of four coaches — have been planned for use on the Central Secretariat-Badarpur corridor. Initially, these will cater to an expected traffic of about 3.6 lakh passengers per day by 2011,” Anuj Dayal, spokesperson for the DMRC said.

The DMRC had ordered 46 standard gauge trains for Phase II of its project from consortium MRMB — Mitsubishi, ROTEM, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd.

Of these, 11 are already running on the Inderlok-Mundka corridor, informed officials.

In all, there would 16 stations falling under the Central Secretariat-Badarpur line: Central Secretariat, Khan Market, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Jangpura, Lajpat Nagar, Moolchand, Kailash Colony, Nehru Place, Kalkaji Mandir, Govindpuri, Okhla, Jasola, Sarita Vihar, Mohan Estate, Tughlakabad and Badarpur.

Metro Line in figures

* The 20-km-long Metro line from Central Secretariat to Badarpur would be operational by September.
* A total of 25 trains to be used on this corridor initially.
* This line is expected to handle about 3.6 lakh passengers per day by 2011.
* Line to connect three venues of the Commonwealth Games.

Action, camera but no lights!

The television cameras have arrived for the ‘live' coverage of the Asian junior tennis championship, but the centre court does not look ready to play host.

Lighting could pose a serious problem, if the matches are to be played late in the evening. Only 32 of the 96 bulbs, eight each on the four sides, which came on Thursday were lit leaving huge blocks of dark areas on the court.

Players had difficulty spotting the ball that was pouncing on them from the dark. The umpire was at his wit's end and the players were at the mercy of his calls.

There were temporary stands being hurriedly erected for the television cameras, which spoke of poor planning. A stadium that is being readied for the Commonwealth Games could have built camera positions in advance, but the requirements of the media, both print and electronic, look to be the last among the priorities of the authorities who had designed the arena.

Two small rows of tables represent the media tribunes.

In fact, the centre court has only seen a cosmetic change. Huge iron platforms put on either side of the court, with seating and ramps, make it look compact, but it is a clear case of a good opportunity lost to renovate the stadium to match world standards.

Too much steel has robbed the original charm of the place, and the high roof may not be able to stop either the sun or the rain unleashing their fury on the spectators.

With hardly anyone watching, mainly discouraged by the foolish security drills that drive even the players and coaches away from the stadium, it will not be a bad idea to use show court No. 2, the newly built second show court at the DLTA Complex, for the climax of the tournament, as was done during the ITF junior tournament last week.

The CEO of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mike Hooper was at the stadium, watching the action on centre court in the evening, along with A.S.V. Prasad, but left before the floodlights were switched on.

Of course, Prasad stayed on to note the situation of inadequate light. Friday is another day. The technicians may after all work magic with the lights! — Special Correspondent

Punished Singaporean shuttler denied C'Wealth chance

Singapore's top badminton player will miss her chance to compete at this year's Commonwealth Games after being slapped with a suspension for bad behaviour, the sport's chief in the city-state told Reuters on Thursday.

Singaporean officials hit Zhang Beiwen with the stiffest penalty ever meted out by the Republic when they suspended her for three months without pay and stripped her of the right to train with the national team or attend selection trials and tournaments.

The punishment, imposed for ill discipline and disruptive behaviour at training the Singapore Badminton Association said, means the world number 31 will not be eligible to compete in the trials for New Delhi's Oct. 3-14 Commonwealth Games.

"SBA would like to send a clear message on the emphasis we place on the professionalism of our players," SBA chief Edwin Pang told reporters.

"We will not tolerate acts of ill-discipline by our players as they have an adverse effect on the national team, regardless of how highly-ranked they may be or how potentially valuable they may be to Singapore in major tournaments."

"In the past, SBA has levied fines and suspension from competitions on errant national players but this is the first time in recent years that we have suspended a national player employed by the Association from both training and competitions without pay."

The SBA said China-born 19-year-old Zhang, a team bronze medallist at last year's Southeast Asian Games in Laos, had shown "poor attitude at training and tournaments."

"On a number of occasions, she failed to carry out instructions by her coach and comply with the training requirements made of the team. Beiwen had been lacking in discipline and determination, as expected of a professional and a national player."

Men's doubles and mixed doubles player Hendra Wijaya was also suspended for three months but will receive 50 percent salary for the duration of the suspension and will continue training, Pang said. His punishment was for skipping training.

Pang said both players' places in the national team would be reviewed at the end of their suspensions.

Luxury vehicles for CWG to have special numbers

Come October and you will see luxury cars sporting unique numbers to ferry delegates during the Commonwealth Games.

The Delhi government has proposed an exclusive registration number series for the 2,000-odd cars the Commonwealth Games organising committee (OC) is procuring for VIPs and other delegates for the Commonwealth Games.

A senior Delhi government official said that the series is likely to start with the letters CWG, abbreviation for the sporting event used globally, followed by numbers 0-2000.

Though no final decision has been taken yet, chances are that these vehicles will continue to have this special number as legacy of the Games.

Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta said that special numbers will help police and OC members identify vehicles catering to delegates and other VIPs, especially in wake of security curbs during the event.

The cars will include sedans and more luxurious cars for VIPs like visiting heads of states. There will be limited number of super luxury, bulletproof cars for VVIPs. The cars will have distinct colours and the Games logo.

Sources said these cars would be `sponsored' by one of the three Indian car manufaturers. Since these cars would be later sold through dealers, the OC wants brand-value associated with the fleet. A unique registration number would add to the brand value, a Delhi government official said.

During the Melbourne Games, Toyota had sponsored cars and later sold them as special edition cars.

The transport department has already written to the ministry of road transport and highways seeking its permission to start this series of unique numbers.

"It would require amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act to have unique series for which transport officials have been directed to write to the union ministry," a Delhi government official said.

Dish TV to sell 60,000 HD set top boxes this fiscal

Direct-to-home (DTH) operator Dish TV today said it aims to sell 60,000 high-definition (HD) set top boxes this fiscal, riding on anticipated success of FIFA World Cup and Commonwealth Games this year.

The company today launched its High Definition (HD) service, with set top boxes (STBs) priced at Rs 5,990.

"The year has a lot of sporting events lined up like football World Cup, CWG and cricket World Cup next year, all of which will have a HD feed. This presents a great opportunity for us and we are looking at selling 60,000 units this fiscal and a quarter of a million in the next fiscal," Dish TV Managing Director Jawahar Goel told reporters here.

HD transmissions offer better picture and sound quality compared to standard definition (SD) transmission. HD set-top boxes, which offer wide-angle viewing, are considered particularly suitable for watching sporting events and action movies.

For DTH firms, HD set-top boxes promise a lucrative revenue stream as they will be priced higher than traditional devices and carry higher monthly charges.

While a normal box is priced at about Rs 4,000 and the total subscription cost hovers around Rs 150-200, Dish TV will offer HD STB at Rs 5,990 and the HD pack (with four channels) alone at Rs 150 per month.

"We will not subsidise the HD boxes as we believe this will be the value driver for us," Dish TV COO Salil Kapoor said.

Dish TV will ofer Zee TV HD, Zee Cinema HD, Discovery HD, National Geographic HD and FIFA World Cup broadcast by ESPN on HD, he added.

"The HD telecast will immensely enrich the experience of soccer fans as they get ready for the most eagerly anticipated sporting event this year," RC Venkateish, Managing Director, ESPN Software India said.

Currently, Sun Direct and Reliance BIG TV are the only other DTH operators offering HD service. Tata Sky has also announced its plans of offering the service this year.

"There is immense potential for HD in India, which will get biggest impetus this year with the Commonwealth games to be telecast in HD format. With more DTH platforms launching HD services, it will get a dramatic push this year," Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific Senior Vice president & General Manager, India said.

Battery Operated e-rickshaws to hit Delhi Roads Soon

Drivers will be specially trained, e-rickshaws to have GPS for easy monitoring

Rickety rickshaw rides are set to be replaced by a world-class experience the e-rick is on its way to Delhi. Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is introducing new rickshaws a hybrid between an auto rickshaw and cycle rickshaw that will be fitted with GPS systems.

These will be manned by drivers who will not only speak English but will also be trained to take tourists around the city’s popular destinations.

While 10 of these batteries operated, eco-friendly rickshaws will be seen on city roads by next month, MCD hopes to launch 4,000 of these before the Commonwealth Games. Said an MCD official: ‘‘We hope to replace all rickshaws plying in the city with the new e-ricks. There are a total of 99,000 licensed rickshaws in Delhi.’’

The e-ricks will have space for two to three people and will work as feeder services for Metro in areas like Vikas Marg, Vishwavidyalaya, Chandni Chowk, etc, besides plying near popular tourist sites.

The civic agency has formed a tie-up with a private firm, which will own, operate and maintain these rickshaws. The company is also exporting the e-ricks to England. Said an official: ‘‘ The maximum speed for this vehicle is 25km/hr. Provisions will be made at all MCD parking lots to recharge the battery of these rickshaws. We are also in talks with malls to allow their parking space to be used for recharging rickshaw batteries.’’

The current rickshaw pullers will be hired by the private firm and will receive a monthly salary of Rs 4000-5,000 besides a medical insurance by the company.

E-ricks’ trial runs have already been conducted and according to sources, a ride on the e-ricks would cost Rs 10-15 depending on the distance. Significantly, senior citizens will not be charged for taking its services.

The company will also enter into an agreement to park these ricks at MCD parking sites at night. The firm will get advert i s e m e n t rights from the civic agency in lieu of its service.

Added a senior official: ‘‘The company will pay us a monthly fee per vehicle for putting up advertisements on the new rickshaws. E-ricks will ply in the light motor vehicle lane.’’

Other facilities like LCD screens might be added to the existing model at a later stage to make it more attractive. The entire rickshaw model is recyclable.

These modern rickshaws ply in countries such as England, Australia, China, Canada, Denmark, Italy and Germany.

In fact, e-rick fleets were present at a number of international events such as the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the Expo 2005 in Japan and 2006 Football World Championship in Germany.

Delhi Metro trains on Central Sec-Badarpur line arrive

Metro trains have begun to arrive for the 20-km-long Central Secretariat-Badarpur corridor that is scheduled to be opened for public by September this year before the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

A total of 25 trains (four coach each) have been planned to be used on this corridor initially that will cater to an expected traffic of about 3.6 lakh passengers per day by 2011, a DMRC spokesperson said today. The 16 metro stations that will fall on this metro corridor include Central Secretariat, Khan Market, Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Jangpura, Lajpat Nagar, Moolchand, Kailash Colony, Nehru Place, Kalkaji Mandir, Govindpuri, Okhla, Jasola, Sarita Vihar, Mohan Estate, Tuglakabad and Badarpur.

Six new Standard Gauge trains have already arrived in the Sarita Vihar depot located on this line and all of them are presently being assembled in the depot. They will be tested for technical fitness before undergoing for testing on the main line for load, braking, among other things, he said.

The Delhi Metro will provide easy metro connectivity to three venues of the Commonwealth Games 2010, that is, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium near the JLN Stadium Metro Station, the National Stadium near the Central Secretariat Metro Station and Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range near Tughlakabad Metro Station on this line.

The Delhi Metro had ordered 46 Standard Gauge trains for Phase II of its project from a consortium of MRMB - Mitsubishi, ROTEM, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. Out of the 46 trains, 11 are already running on the Inderlok - Mundka corridor.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Five added to Aussie Delhi Games team

Promising walker Jess Rothwell and four marathon runners have been added to the Australian track and field squad for October's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

The squad now numbers 74 - including 12 elite athletes with a disability - and Athletics Australia hopes that number will increase to 90 by Games-time.

Rothwell forced her way onto the team by finishing ninth earlier this month at the World Race Walking Cup in Mexico in her comeback from injury.

The 20-year-old was an impressive 22nd on her major championships international debut at last year's world titles in Berlin.

She will join Claire Tallent and Cheryl Webb in the women's 20km race in Delhi.

"For a long time Jess has been regarded as having real potential going forward and the selectors had no hesitation in nominating her to the team," said AA chairman of selectors Peter Fitzgerald.

Marathon runners Lisa Flint, Martin Dent, Jeff Hunt and Michael Shelley were also added to the squad, joining Lisa Weightman, who earned automatic nomination to the team following her top-20 finish in Berlin last year.

Dent is the only one with previous Commonwealth Games experience, having contested the 3000m steeplechase four years ago in Melbourne.

Hunt impressed selectors by clocking a fast time of two hours 11 minutes on his marathon debut in Japan.

"Fun to fitness" Commonwealth Games mascot Shera on ‘Galli Galli Sim Sim'

With the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 all set to be held in Delhi, the sets of Galli Galli Sim Sim were visited by a very special guest — the Games' mascot ‘Shera'. Together with the Muppets — Chamki, Googly, Boombah and their friends, Shera not only created an atmosphere of fun and laughter on the sets, but also taught the Gallizens a valuable lesson — the importance of health and fitness.

The Gallizens were also joined by children from Pratham, a non-profit organisation that partners with the Galli Galli Sim Sim outreach programme. Promoting the idea of ‘Keeping Fit the Fun Way', the fit and energetic Shera taught the children how to stay healthy by playing, exercising and eating right. “Shera made us jump and dance and play lots of games,” said Deepanshu from Pratham. The episode will unveil Season 5 of Galli Galli Sim Sim in September and will be broadcast on Doordarshan, Cartoon Network and POGO.

CWG 0001-2000: branded cars to ferry VIPs during Games

You may find luxury cars sporting unique numbers ferrying delegates during the Commonwealth Games.

Delhi Government has proposed an exclusive registration number series for the 2000-odd cars the Commonwealth Games organising committee (OC) is procuring for VIPs.

The series is likely to start with the letters CWG, abbreviation for the sporting event used globally, followed by numbers 0-2000, a senior Delhi government official said.

While no final decision has been taken yet, chances are that these vehicles will continue to have this special number as legacy of the Games.

“Special numbers will help police and OC members identify vehicles catering to delegates and other VIPs, especially in wake of security curbs during the event,” Delhi chief secretary Rakesh Mehta said.

The cars will include sedans and more luxurious cars for VIPs like visiting heads of states. There will be limited number
of super luxury, bulletproof cars for VVIPs. The cars will have distinct colours and the Games logo.

Sources said these cars would be ‘sponsored’ by one of the three Indian car manufacturers. Since these cars would be later sold through dealers, the OC wants brand-value associated with the fleet. A unique registration number would add to the brand value, a Delhi government official said.

During the Melbourne Games, Toyota had sponsored cars and later sold them as special edition cars.

According to officials, the transport department has already written to the ministry of road transport and highways seeking its permission to start this series of unique numbers. Senior officials said all vehicles are issued '10-digit' registration number that includes the state code and the district code where the vehicle is registered.

“It would require amendment in the Motor Vehicle Act to have unique series for which transport officials have been directed to write to the union ministry,” a Delhi government official said.

DU authorities appeal aspirants to use public transport

With the admission season in Delhi University beginning this week, hopeful students who will spend the next few days frequenting the campus are being advised to stick to using public transport as against their private vehicles.

Parking space available at the campus has been squeezed significantly due to the large scale of civil works underway in the run up to the Commonwealth Games and a large number of private vehicles might create problems, the University administration says.

In an appeal to the people who are expected to flock the University in the next few days, the University has asked them to use the Metro facility and other modes of public transport.

"... the University would appeal to the public to use the Metro Rail facility, wherever available, or public transport to the maximum extent possible to arrive at the Campus and to avoid bringing private transport," a statement said today.

The process of admissions for the 54,000 seats in the University's colleges is set to begin from May 28 and the last date of sale of forms and the deadline for submission of completed application forms is June 11.

The University has added 5,000 seats to its last year's kitty of 49,000, completing the process of implementation of the 27 per cent OBC quota.

The first admission list will be out on June 22 and three subsequent cut-off lists will follow on June 26, July 1 and July 6.

The Proctorial Board met concerned University and police officials on Monday to discuss security and related arrangements for the smooth conduct of admissions.

The Centre's in-charge have been asked to keep in touch with the Station House Officers of their respective areas to make sure security arrangements are satisfactory.

Police pickets would also be strengthened at all Women's hostels, the University said in a statement.

HC asks govt to safeguard workers’ rights

A recent report says workers at the Games sites are not being paid the legally stipulated minimum wages

The Delhi high court has told the Centre and the state government to ensure that workers at various building sites in the Capital are registered with the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board (DBCWWB) so that their rights are safeguarded.

The court ruling on Tuesday came after the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) filed a public interest litigation (PIL). It will have a direct impact on the Commonwealth Games (CWG) projects that are racing for completion before the 3-14 October event.

The court notice has been sent to the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, the Delhi Development Authority and the Sports Authority of India as well.

A report titled The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth, Whose Commons? released by the New Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) this month said workers employed at the CWG Village were not being paid the legally stipulated minimum wages or overtime. Unskilled workers were being paid Rs85-100 per day against the stipulated minimum wages of Rs142 for eight hours of work. Skilled workers were being paid Rs120-130 per day for eight hours of work even though the stipulated wage is Rs158 per day.

The report alleged that women were paid less than men and that at least one-third of the workers were not paid their wages on time. Workers were often not given safety equipment (and when they were, money was deducted from their wages), it said.

While the exact number of workers on CWG sites is not available, a study by Building and Wood Workers’ International estimated that 300,000 workers will be needed for the Games over three years. The number of workers registered with DBCWWB is under 20,000.

PUDR says that 49 workers have died at various Games sites and that workers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Punjab were not given the benefits of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act.

Arundhati Ghose, former Indian ambassador to the UN, who was part of the four-member panel appointed by the high court in February to assess the situation of construction workers on CWG sites, confirmed the HLRN report’s findings.

“We visited several CWG sites and looked at conditions in the context of the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, the Minimum Wages Act and the Migrant (Workers) Act, among others. Most laws that exist are being contravened by the contractors,” said Ghose.

The committee recommended stringent punishment for non-payment of wages, and sought consolidation of numerous labour laws. The court has asked respondents to provide an update on 7 July on the registration of workers.

Mike Hooper, chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said the federation cannot demand accountability from the contractors or regulators. “The employment laws of India must be respected and if anyone is shown to flout those laws, then action has to be taken by the appropriate authorities,” he said.

Ahluwalia Contracts has the construction contract for the CWG 2010 Village residential project. Chief executive officer Arun Sahai said it provided workers with clean drinking water, a medical inspection room, ventilated living spaces, 110 bathing points and toilets, and paid them according to the Minimum Wages Act.

“Our records are regularly audited and site inspection is regularly carried out by the labour department,” he said.

A Mint team was unable to independently verify his claims. Commonwealth Organising Committee secretary general Lalit K. Bhanot said journalists would not be given permission to enter CWG sites. Workers outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium construction site said that they lived in tents made of tin and tarpaulin despite blistering summer temperatures.

The HLRN report recommended an investigation by the National Human Rights Commission. It also said the next time India seeks to host such an event as the CWG, an environmental and social impact assessment, along with a cost-benefit analysis, should be prepared before approval is given.

“This issue is much bigger than just the Commonwealth Games,” said Ghose. “We are building our country on the back of people whose rights are violated every hour of the day.”

Speed up registration of CWG site workers: High court

The Delhi High Court Wednesday asked the state agencies to speed up the registration of workers at the Commonwealth Games construction sites.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Madan B. Lokur expressed concern when they came to know that only 400 workers of the 40,000 workers were registered till date.

‘These people are neglected….they must be protected. There should be no kind of exploitation with these workers. The government agencies must adopt a positive approach,’ the bench said.

According to a government report, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has 971 workers, who are not registered and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has 3,384 workers.

‘Is the government also ensuring that the benefits these workers are entitled to, are actually given to them? Mere registering them would not hold any value,’ the bench observed.

Responding to the query, Delhi government’s standing counsel Nazmi Waziri said: ‘We have issued large scale advertisements, workshops and jingles on radio for the awareness of the workers at the games site so that they can come and register themselves.’

The court said, ‘These methods are not accessible by these workers and there should be some innovative methods so that workers know about their rights and benefits.’

‘It is evident from the report that there is enormous breach of labour laws, as a result of which poor workers suffer from agony and anguish,’ the court said while directing the agencies to make certain measures to provide medical, maternity and death benefits to all the workers.

The court directed the government to file a compliance report by July 7.

The court had Jan 27 ordered a five-member committee, including former UN ambassador Arundhati Ghosh, the labour commissioner and the labour secretary, to inspect Commonwealth Games sites.

The court had ordered the inspection on a public interest petition filed by non-government organisation People’s Union For Democratic Rights.

Govt has money for CWG, not for pension : Malhotra

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Vijay Kumar Malhotra today said the Delhi Government has thousands of crores to spend on the Commonwealth Games but they have no money for the pension of senior citizens, widows and handicapped persons.

Criticising the Sheila Dikshit government for inordinate delay in the payment of pension, Prof Malhotra charged the former of making people run from pillar to post merely to submit their forms.

''Situation is so bad now that neither the Social Welfare Department nor any other authorised office is accepting their forms,'' he added. Earlier the SWD would release the pension funds within a month from the submission of forms by applicants but since the incumbent Chief Minister has been voted in for the third term, ''The government is delaying these payments under the pretext of making changes in the procedures,'' he alleged.

Asking the CM to simplify the process, Prof Malhotra urged her to direct the SWD to immediately release the pensions of those whose forms have already been recieved.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Commonwealth Games Scotland warns SRU that rugby sevens team may be left out of Delhi campaign

After being snubbed as potential tourists by New Zealand and South Africa earlier in the week, Scottish rugby suffered another serious blow yesterday when the nation’s Commonwealth Games authorities made it clear there will be no Scottish presence in the sevens competition in Delhi later this year without a significant improvement in performance and firm guarantees over the calibre of players who will be available.

Michael Cavanagh, chairman of Commonwealth Games Scotland, issued that warning ahead of the weekend’s Emirates Airlines Edinburgh Sevens at Murrayfield, the final round of an IRB Sevens World Series in which Scotland have performed abjectly, failing to reach the quarter-finals of any of the seven tournaments held so far.

Scotland’s globetrotting sevens team have won just a handful of ties over the past six months, accumulating precisely zero ranking points in the process. That has alarmed Games officials, whose rule-of-thumb is that teams and individuals will only be put forward if they have a realistic chance of a top-eight finish in their respective disciplines.

“In order to have their selection confirmed, and in line with all of the other 16 sports, Scotland Rugby Sevens need to demonstrate the potential to finish in the top eight at the Games and confirm the availability of the strongest possible combination of players,” said Cavanagh. “We have been in ongoing discussions with the SRU and will review the situation with them following this weekend’s final leg of the IRB Sevens.”

While Scotland might be able to pull off some decent results at Murrayfield this week, bolstered as they have been by players like Ben Cairns, Ally Hogg and Greig Laidlaw, it is far from certain that the SRU could commit to releasing players of that quality for the Delhi games in October, when Glasgow and Edinburgh will also be competing in the early rounds of the Heineken Cup.

“We’ve always been clear about the criteria for taking part in the Games and we’re comfortable with that situation,” said SRU communications director Dominic McKay. “We’ll make sure we have the strongest possible squad to compete at the Games.”

The embarrassment is all the greater as seven-a-side rugby was invented in Scotland, the idea of a butcher, Ned Haig, who dreamt up the format as a money-making idea for Melrose. That heritage is recognised at the Rugby World Cup Sevens, held every four years, where the winners are presented with the Melrose Cup.

“The players are well aware of the situation,” said Scotland sevens coach Stephen Gemmell. “There is no secret there. If we are going to go to the Commonwealth Games then we have to show that we can be competitive, both in terms of what we do on the pitch and the squad we get together.”

As in so many other areas of the game, Scotland’s problem is primarily one of scarce resources. If Heineken Cup demands rule out around 50 home-based players, it is hard to see where a competitive Scottish sevens side will be found. Already, there are strong indications that the elite rugby review being conducted by the SRU could result in international sevens being ditched in favour of concentrating efforts elsewhere.

However, given Scotland’s unique heritage in the sport, it also seems probable that less stringent performance criteria will be applied in order that there can be a Scottish sevens presence when the Games are held in Glasgow in 2014.

MCD may fail to install lights in time

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) might not be able to complete the last phase of installing streetlights in the city before Commonwealth Games 2010. According to the MCD, they haven’t yet received funds from the Delhi government to buy streetlights for the last phase.

“In the last phase, we were supposed to install streetlights along 704 km of road which includes colony areas. But we have not received Rs 200 crore for the project from Delhi government till date,” said Subhash Arya, leader of the MCD House.

Currently, the MCD is installing streetlights along 50 major roads under phase-II, which will automatically switch on when the sun sets and switch-off when the sun rises. Besides this, Arya said, some work in Karol Bagh is falling behind schedule.

“I visited Karol Bagh recently and found that the footpath work was left midway at some points. I have now directed officials to complete all work taken on by them,” added Arya.

Meanwhile, Delhi urban development minister Dr A.K. Walia, along with New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) chairperson Parimal Rai, inspected on Tuesday various ongoing Games-related projects in the NDMC area.

Walia directed the NDMC to complete all civil work before the onset of monsoon and concentrate on horticulture work thereafter.

CGF losing sleep over incomplete venues

Commonwealth Games Federation’s chief executive officer Mike Hooper has expressed his concern over the unfinished venues and slow pace of work. In all, 10,000 athletes will participate in the October 3-14 Games.

However, with 132 days to go, the main stadium is months overdue and completion of the swimming pool and other venues has been delayed, highlighting the slow pace of India’s infrastructure development.

“I am not wanting to sound alarmist, but the reality is there is a lot more to be done, a lot of finishing work to be done,” Hooper said. Other officials from the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Indian Olympic Association voiced similar concerns.

The completed venues were initially promised to be handed over to Games organisers by December 31, 2009.

Targets have been consistently missed for building roads, ports and power plants. The capital is also repairing old colonial buildings and completing new roads and rail links to give the city a makeover to try to ensure a successful event.

But the signs have not been encouraging. “The construction agencies have promised that they will meet deadlines but, unfortunately, we have had times when many promises were made and then we find one reason or another that delivery hasn’t been there,” Hooper said.

Authorities now fear the schedule will become so tight they will have insufficient time to check venues for glitches before the Games open.

Heightening those fears, the lights went out at a stadium on the first day of an Asian junior tennis tournament on Monday, forcing officials to abandon eight matches.

“The Games will happen, swimming will happen, athletics will happen,” Hooper said. “But it comes down to the level and standards of completion, I suppose.”

Hooper said he was wary of threats by mostly Pakistan-based militant groups but said security drills had been satisfactory so far. “Everybody is concerned about the security environment... but no team has said we are not coming to the Games,” Hooper said.

Govt-Fortis deal on ambulances dead

After a month-long effort to salvage the joint venture between the Delhi government and Fortis Hospitals to launch additional ambulances before the Commonwealth Games, the mediation has been called off.

Former chief secretary Narain Swami, however, is yet to submit a report to the government detailing causes that led to “irreconcilable differences” between the parties.

The deal was called off last Friday and the two parties will now approach an arbitrator for financial closure.

The state Health department is, meanwhile, looking at hiring vehicles from ambulance operators during the Commonwealth Games, scheduled to begin from October 3.

“We will be purchasing 30 ambulances and the rest will be hired from private operators. After the Games, we will augment out fleet gradually,” Special Secretary Diwan Chand said.

The Health department had partnered with the Fortis group of hospitals to roll out 150 fully equipped ambulances in time for the Commonwealth Games. The deal had cost the government Rs 25 crore and the first batch of ambulances was supposed to be delivered in January this year.

The partnership fell apart after the Delhi Health minister inspected and rejected the fleet that was ready to be delivered.

According to the pact, other than the 150 ambulances, there would have been 20 ‘first-responder’ (two-wheeler) vehicles, which would reach a victim within 15 to 20 minutes of receiving a call for help.

Of the 150 ambulances, 141 would have been basic life support ambulances and nine would be advanced life support.

Since 1991, pre-hospital medical emergency transportation and ambulance services have been provided through CATS.

Focus on Connaught Place re-development ahead of CWG

With thousands of foreign visitors likely to throng Connaught Place during the upcoming Commonwealth Games, Delhi Urban Development Minister A.K. Walia Tuesday asked civic officials to focus on the area’s re-development and complete the event-related works by June.

During an inspection to check the ongoing CWG project at Connaught Place, Walia said development of the area was on at 11 blocks and 75-81 percent of the work has been completed.

He said the re-development of Connaught Place was important as a number of tourists, players and officials of sports organisations from several countries will visit the place in October.

The minister, along with New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) chairman Parimal Rai, also inspected other ongoing Games-related project sites under the civic agency.

He directed the NDMC to complete all civic works before the onset of monsoon and concentrate on horticulture work thereafter.

An NDMC official said that keeping in view the requirement of parking for vehicles during the Games, the civic agency has chalked out a plan to make available ‘Park and Ride’ service at the Safdarjung Airport.

With a total area of 170,000 square metre, there will be a parking space for 3,000 cars, 6,000 two-wheelers and 450 buses, he added.

“This move will help in decongesting main entry and exit roads leading to the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, the main site for the Commonwealth Games,” the official said.

Walia also visited the renovated Talkatora Stadium, where boxing tournament will take place during the Games, besides Shivaji Stadium which will be used as training venue for hockey.

India fear Commonwealth Games venues will not be ready

Construction delays have raised fears that Commonwealth Games venues may not be fully ready in time providing a potential embarrassment for India which hopes the Games will showcase its rising economic power.

The country is expecting two million tourists in New Delhi, as well as athletes from 71 teams from the 54 Commonwealth member states for the October 3-14 Games. About 10,000 athletes and officials are due to take part.

However, with 132 days to go, the main stadium is months overdue and completion of the swimming pool and other venues has been delayed, highlighting the slow pace of India's infrastructure development.

"I am not wanting to sound alarmist, but the reality is there is a lot more to be done, a lot of finishing work to be done," Mike Hooper, chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said in an interview.

Other officials from the Commonwealth Games Federation and the Indian Olympic Association voiced similar concerns.

India had initially promised to hand over the venues to Games organisers by December 31, 2009.

Targets have been consistently missed for building roads, ports and power plants. Bureaucracy and red tape and difficulties in acquiring land have delayed plans to overhaul infrastructure to sustain 8-9 percent economic growth by 2012.

Experts say poor infrastructure shaves an estimated 1 or 2 percentage points off India's annual economic growth.

The capital is also repairing old colonial buildings and completing new roads and rail links to give the city a makeover to try to ensure a successful event.

DEADLINES MISSED

But the signs have not been encouraging. "The construction agencies have promised that they will meet deadlines but, unfortunately, we have had times when many promises were made and then we find one reason or another that delivery hasn't been there," Hooper said.

Authorities now fear the schedule will become so tight they will have insufficient time to check venues for glitches before the Games open.

Heightening those fears, the lights went out at a stadium on the first day of an Asian junior tennis tournament on Monday, forcing officials to abandon eight matches.

"The Games will happen, swimming will happen, athletics will happen," Hooper said. "But it comes down to the level and standards of completion, I suppose."

India is also endeavouring to reassure foreign participants that it will provide foolproof security for the Commonwealth Games.

Threats to sporting events were underscored in April when bombs went off outside a packed cricket stadium in south India. That stirred concerns India might not be able to secure events involving large numbers of athletes and spectators at a variety of venues.

A comprehensive setup to provide security, including high-tech scanners and X-ray equipment, has yet to be purchased by authorities, let alone installed at venues, officials say. Thousands of security staff will oversee the venues.

Hooper said he was wary of threats by mostly Pakistan-based militant groups but said security drills had been satisfactory so far.

"Everybody is concerned about the security environment... but no team has said we are not coming to the Games," Hooper said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Govt may defer Air India pay cuts till after Commonwealth Games

The government is thinking of deferring any decision on wage cuts in Air India until after the Commonwealth Games.

In its attempt to streamline the ailing carrier’s finances, it had suggested steep wage cuts for senior employees last year.

But this resulted in pilots striking work, crippling operations and prompting the Prime Minister to step in.

Now, despite the airline management suggesting many stiff cost savings measures, there is a general consensus that any “turbulent” decisions such as wage cuts be deferred until after the Commonwealth Games in October.

“It is true that AI’s financial situation is precarious and we are implementing many tough measures to get the balance sheet back to black. But any turbulent decisions such as wage cuts will now be deferred until after the Games. This is the general thinking now,” highly placed official sources said.

Already, some AI employee unions have threatened to strike over alleged delayed payment of May salaries amid concerns over the “image” of the carrier. Though passenger load factors have been improving, officials in the Ministry of Civil Aviation feel the airline’s imagehas not improved.

Sources pointed out that maximum savings from any wage cuts at various percentages would work out to be “just about Rs 600 crore. This is not significant enough to take up such a contentious issue at this stage. It is better to defer this matter.”

In the earlier attempt, the airline’s management had proposed steep reduction in performance linked incentives (PLIs) of employees - PLI payout accounts for almost half of the airline’s total salary bill of Rs 3,100 crore per annum.

The government has deferred deliberations on wage cuts after criticism by the parliamentary committee on public sector enterprises (Copu) which tabled its report in Parliament recently.

Copu had said manpower-related costs accounted for only 16.2% of AI’s cost structure.

“More than extra emphasis has been given to rationalising manpower cost. The structure shows that around 34% of cost is from fuel, and manpower cost has, in fact, gone down over the previous year to 16.2%. So, by rationalising on manpower cost, how much can you optimise when in an operational company like Nacil, manpower is a crucial element in keeping your planes flying?”

Players warm up in sweltering heat

The Asian Junior Tennis Championships kicked off in the Capital on Monday, and though the day's matches were played out in front of largely empty stands, from an organisational perspective, it was somewhat better than the last Commonwealth Games test event.

By all accounts, it was easier to get around the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association's RK Khanna Stadium. There was the usual sight of dust covering every square inch of space, but that is something expected at a venue that is still far from finished.

The police were better behaved, although they didn't believe that the rules they enforced, applied to them as well. On a sweltering day, spectators were not allowed to take in bottled drinks, but at least one policeman made himself comfortable, lighting a cigarette next to Court No. 3 visitors' gallery. The venue is, like all public places, a non-smoking venue and cigarettes aren't allowed.

That aside, it was a packed day of tennis. The top four seeds among boys and girls received first round byes, making Lin Zhu, the fifth seeded Chinese girl, the top seed in action on Monday. Zhu, with an ITF junior ranking of 111, had no trouble dispatching Zainab Ali Sajjad, 6-2, 6-3.

The Chinese are looking to dominate the boys section as well, fielding the top three seeds, including last week's finalists, Chuhan Wang (1) and Bowen Ouyang.

Seeded players had little difficulty in the girls' section. Seventh seed Rishika Sunkara, India's top seed in the fray, barely broke a sweat in her 6-0, 6-0 win over Vasundhara Raju.

Tenth seed Kyra Shroff, who made it to the finals of the ITF junior tournament in Delhi last week, continued her good run with a win over Ravnoor Kaur.

Looking at how miserable those watching the games were in the heat, it was hard to imagine what the players went through. Ninth seed Rakshay Thakkar from Pune, was perhaps one of the luckier ones, with his match scheduled for late evening. He beat Rithvik Anand comfortably. When asked about the venue, Thakkar was positive, " The new surface is really good. It is slower than most Indian surfaces, which is good for us, because surfaces abroad are slow as well."
 


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