Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Australia warns its citizens to avoid New Delhi markets

Australia has not upgraded its travel advisory on India ahead of October's Commonwealth Games, but has warned tourists to avoid some of the city's shopping areas and markets.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade updated its travelers' website on Thursday to give information about the new warnings issued by the United States and Canada a day earlier.

The warnings come as thousands of athletes and tourists prepare to travel to New Delhi for the games and only days after bomb blasts rocked Bangalore ahead of the Indian Premier League semifinals.

Two blasts outside Chinnaswamy Stadium, where the Bangalore Royal Challengers and the Mumbai Indians played Saturday, injured 14 people.

The new Australian warning highlights the dangers posed by crowded areas which foreigners are known to frequent, including six of the city's shopping areas and markets.

``According to these warnings, specific and credible information suggests that markets ... could be targeted by terrorists in the coming days or weeks,'' the department's website states.

``We strongly advise Australians to minimize their presence in market areas of New Delhi.''

Chandni Chowk, Connaught Place, Greater Kailash, Karol Bagh, Mehrauli and Sarojini Nagar are all believed to be possible targets for terrorist attack in the Indian capital, the website says.

Australia, however, has not upgraded the overall level of advice on India, continuing to urge travelers to exercise a high degree of caution while in the country.

On Tuesday, an organizing committee official said security plans around the games will be ``foolproof'' and potential threats had already been identified and thwarted.

T.S. Darbari, joint director general of the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Games, rejected suggestions competitors' family members and supporters will be at risk outside protection perimeters which will surround games venues.

``Delhi is very, very safe (and) secure, not only for the sports people who are coming but also for their families and for the tourists,'' Darbari said.

He said security precautions for the Oct. 3-14 games were unprecedented.

``I know what the plan is that is being formulated, I can't share the details, but let me tell you it is foolproof,'' he was quoted as saying in Sydney.

ASI opposes walkway within regulated area of Old Fort

The much-touted hanging foot overbridge coming up on Mathura Road-Bhairon Road near Purana Qila for the Commonwealth Games has run into a roadblock after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) opposed its construction.

The ASI has issued a notice to the Delhi Integrated Multi-modal Transit Service (DIMTS), a special purpose vehicle created by the Delhi government to implement its transport schemes for the Games, to stop work as the site falls within the regulated area of Purana Qila, a Centrally protected monument.

A new amendment in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010 states ‘any person who owns any building, structure or land in a regulated area and desires to carry out any construction, repair or renovation’ has to make an application to the National Monuments Authority (NMA). The regulated area of a protected monument extends up to 300 m - the first 100 m is the prohibited area, while the remaining 200 m is the regulated area.

ASI officials maintained that a notice was sent earlier to the DIMTS to stop construction but the body refused. The ASI then pasted a copy of the notice at the site. Construction, however, has not stopped.

The NMA is, meanwhile, yet to be instituted. The body will comprise a ‘whole-time’ chairperson (to be appointed by the President), the Director General of ASI as ex-officio member and other full-time and part-time members (not exceeding five each).

“We have received the notice and are examining it. We will have to see what it implies, only then can we respond. Work at the site has not been stopped yet,” a DIMTS spokesperson said.

DIMTS had taken up the work for the Public Works Department (PWD) and planned landscaping and installing of street furniture in the area. The walkway is being constructed to link Major Dhyan Chand Stadium, a Commonwealth Games venue, to the parking area at Purana Qila. According to DIMTS, the walkway is the largest single-span bridge — a hanging bridge without any support in the middle — in the city and is specially designed to allow a good view of the Purana Qila.

The Rs 3.53-crore project will be able to accommodate 5,000 users per hour, against the usual capacity of 1,000 people per day for a normal foot overbridge.

Blatant violation of labour laws at CWG sites: CPI-M

A CPI(M) member on Wednesday alleged "blatant violation" of labour laws in the ongoing construction work for Commonwealth Games in Delhi and said over one lakh families had been evicted to "beautify" the capital city.

At least 70 deaths have been reported in connection with the construction activity and there was no clarity on whether compensation was paid to them or not," M B Rajesh said in the Lok Sabha during Zero Hour.

Maintaining that even the Delhi High Court had taken note of the existing working conditions, he said "one lakh people have been evicted from the slums and abandoned on the roadside to beautify the city. And there is no plan to rehabilitate them."

Out of 12 lakh workers at the game sites, only 22,000 were registered, Rajesh said.

He also claimed that there were an estimated 2,000 children between 14-16 years of age who were working at these sites. "It is a gross violation of labour laws," he said.

The CPI(M) member said this was "the human cost of the Commonwealth Games" and demanded stringent action against those involved.

Darker side of the Games; the pathetic condition of labour

The Lok Sabha was today privy to the darker side of the preparation of the XIX Commonwealth Games, the deplorable condition of the workers engaged in its construction work. What gets highlighted in the media and other places is the prowess of the nation in holding the Games, the modernisation of the city by way of many more flyovers, the extension of the road network, the upgradation of various stadia, the attempt to rapidly spread the metro network and many other such things about which the Delhiites can be justly proud of. The terrible condition of the labour and those engaged in making Delhi a better place to live in is lost sight of.

The issue of a beter deal for the workers was raised by Mr M B Rajesh, CPI(M), during Zero Hour. He said nearly one lakh families have been evicted for beautification of the city, a large number of labourers do not get alternate employment after the completion of civil work, there was large scale deployment of child labour, labour laws were being freely flouted and the living condition of these workers leaves much to be desired.

Besides, Minimum wages are rarely paid.

He cited statistics in this regard and wanted the Central and State government to rise to the occasion and set things in order.

Delhi is a place you really fall in love with: Australian Chef-de-Mission

Australian contingent Chef de mission Steve Moneghetti has said he is really looking forward to returning here for the Commonwealth Games in October. “It's such a cosmopolitan place and a place you really fall in love with,” he told the media on the sidelines of a ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday to mark the visit of the Queen's Baton 2010 Delhi.

“I was there a month ago and it was very safe and secure,” Moneghetti said.

Moneghetti, who won gold in the marathon event in Victoria in 1994 and was mayor of the Commonwealth Games Village in Melbourne in 2006, ran the last leg of a short Queen’s Baton Relay 2010 along the Yarra River along with four-time Commonwealth champion and Sydney 2000 Olympic 400m gold medalist Cathy Freeman.

Freeman said if she were not retired from track and field sport, security concerns would not stop her going to Delhi in October. “As an athlete I was pretty ruthless and very focussed,” Freeman said. “I was very unfazed by any kind of external goings-on, once I knew what my target was, I stayed committed. Nothing could really take me away from an arena of competition. My priority was just to compete and compete against the best there was,” she said.

Australian Commonwealth Games Association Chief Executive Mr, Perry Crosswhite said their position had not changed and the country will send a team to the Games. “Certainly it (the bombing in Bangalore) is not a good thing, but it doesn't affect our current position,” Mr. Crosswhite said.

“Right now, we're going to the Games and as we said all along, if athletes (or officials) don't want to go to the Games, that's their decision and it won't be held against them. I'm very confident the actual athletes will be protected, the safest place will be the (Games) Village in Delhi, the venues and the transport routes there and from.”

Indian Govt denies dispute between DD and CGW partner SIS

The Government today denied that any conflict had arisen between Doordarshan and its international partner for the Commonwealth Games 2010, Satellite Information Services Live, over the fee to be paid to the British consortium.

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting S Jagathrakshakan told Parliament that the agreement with SIS was for a contract price of Rs 2.46 billion and there was no dispute on this.

He said in reply to a question by a member of Parliament that the amount had been based in total evaluated cost from the accepted financial bid and after negotiations with SIS.

The questioner had wanted to know whether it was a fact that SIS had threatened to back out from mutually agreed terms and had demanded an additional amount of Rs 2.50 billion.

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