Friday, April 23, 2010

Connaught Place (CP)’s unloved zone

Its curved passage is empty. The stone floor uneven. The wall disfigured. The plaster is chipping off. This short passage connects the Outer Circle corridor to the Middle Lane of M-block in Connaught Place (CP), Delhi’s colonial-era shopping district, that is being given a major facelift in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games.

Most showrooms and restaurants in CP line its Inner Circle. Since the opening of the Rajiv Chowk Metro Station at Central Park in 2006, newer cafes, fast food outlets and an increase in footfall has brightened the otherwise dull Outer Circle too. It’s the Middle Circle that remains drab. Drabber still is the Middle Lane that links the Outer Circle to the Middle. The stylish crowd is rarely spotted here, despite its proximity to watering holes such as Q’ba, @live and Blues.

No change yet
“I’m running this shop here since 1978,” says Anup Kumar of Rameshwar Das, a stationary store that is one of the only two shops in the passageway. “While Inner Circle has undergone a makeover and Outer Circle is being renovated, the Middle Lane hasn’t changed at all.” Outside, the wall’s whitewashed layer has peeled off exposing large patches of blue. Office goers, salesmen, young couples and shoppers walking in the Outer Circle corridor rarely throw a peek into this gallery. Its other end opens into the Middle Lane. On the right are five auto spare parts shops. Upstairs is something rarer — private residences.

Sanjeev Gupta has been living in his second floor apartment for 47 years. His terrace has a lovely view of the Outer Circle Road and of high-rises such as Statesman Tower and Gopaldas Building. “Outer and Inner Circles are being redone. The Middle Circle may be the next,” Gupta says, hopefully.

In the future
However, Anand Tiwari of New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), the agency renovating the area, says, “Our focus are Inner and Outer Circles. In the Middle Lane, we are setting up tunnels with service ducting for electric wires and cables, water and sewage.” So, while CP’s Georgian architecture is again looking new, its Middle Circle will remain as it always has.

Not everyone minds this status quo. Painter Karim Khan, who feels “the presence of a sea beach whenever he is in Connaught Place”, says, “I will always prefer the Middle Lane over the Inner and Outer circles. For me, a beautiful woman who is dead is nothing compared to an ugly woman who is alive.”

Hotels 'drywall' to speed up projects

Opening The Leela Palace Kempinski at Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, in time before the 2010 Commonwealth Games in October is a big challenge for C P Krishnan Nair.

Though the hotel structure looks far from seeing an autumn 2010 launch, the chairman of Hotel Leelaventure Ltd is going all out for it - even if it means delaying his luxury hotel project in Chennai by almost a year.

Nair is banking on the ‘drywall construction’ (DWC) technology to speed up the development.

“Worldwide, all the top-of-the-line luxury hotels use it,” said Vivek Nair, vice-chairman and managing director, Hotel Leelaventure.
He is convinced that using DWC will ensure the New Delhi hotel opens its gates in July 2010.

“With civil works done and interior embellishment well on its way towards completion, we are confident of welcoming guests by the end of July this year,” Nair said.

The Leela Group seems to have drawn inspiration from the UK-based largest budget hotel company Whitbread Plc for using DWC technology.

According to Aly Shariff, managing director of Whitbread’s Indian subsidiary christened Premier Inn India Pvt Ltd, their Bangalore hotel is the first such project in India to use full drywall construction concept.

“The hotel was completed in a record time of 9 months,” he said.
Hemant Khurana, vice president - sales and marketing for Saint-Gobain Gyproc India Ltd, said, “Drywall is a different type of construction that uses plasterboards and framing systems to create the desired interiors. A combination of different types of plasterboards is used taking into account factors such as fire resistance, acoustics, height of the wall, etc, to do a drywall construction.”

In India, Saint-Gobain Gyproc and Lafarge Boral Gypsum India Pvt Ltd (LaGyp) are among the largest suppliers and service providers of an end-to-end DWC technology. In terms of usage, the DWC technology is largely used for commercial developments, office space, education institutions, hospitals etc in India.

“DWC reduces the overall construction time by at least a year. In the hospitality sector particularly, the hotelier is able to book revenues for that advanced launch period thereby reducing his breakeven time and increasing the profitability in the long run,” said Sanjeev Kumar Jain, projects director - India, Premier Inn India.

Speed of construction certainly is the primary advantage of using the DWC technology for most of the hoteliers. It is 3-4 times faster than the masonry style though not very competitive in terms of cost vis-à-vis the traditional brick and mortar approach. “The cost per square foot for a DWC tends to be 20-25% higher,” Khurana said.

Vikas Oberoi, managing director, Oberoi Realty Ltd (currently raising around Rs 1,500 crore through a public issue), however, has a contradictory view on the costing per square feet using the DWC technology.

“Our experience with this technology has been very cost-effective as compared the regular brick wall construction. The cost of construction using DWC for us has been Rs 105/sq ft as compared to Rs 140/sq ft for a brick wall,” Oberoi said.

Oberoi Realty’s The Westin Mumbai Garden City is the second hotel project in India to use the DWC technology.

Among a few others following suit include Marriott International’s Hyderabad hotel under the Courtyard by Marriott brand and InterContinental Hotel Group’s The Crowne Plaza hotel in Kochi.

Markets to shut for Commonwealth Games

Delhi Police wants all major Delhi markets to be closed on the opening and closing days of the Commonwealth Games 2010. The opening ceremony of the 11-day sporting extravaganza will be held on October 3 and the closing ceremony will be held on October 14, both at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

The list of markets which the cops want shut on those two days include Khan Market, Chandni Chowk, Sarojini Nagar, Connaught Place, Greater Kailash, Karol Bagh, Lajpat Nagar, Rajouri Garden, and others which are popular with foreign nationals.

The move comes days after the US, UK and Australia issued advisories warning their citizens about possible terror attacks in the capital in areas frequented by foreigners.

The Delhi Police advisory was sent to various market associations, with the cops asking shop owners to help manage the mega event. Delhi Police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said, ‘‘We have asked the market associations for their support as that will help Delhi Police manage the Games and manpower can then be utilized in other places.”

Another senior officer of Delhi Police said the closure of the markets will reduce the burden of law and order on Delhi Police. There will be less traffic and we will be able to focus on security for the Games.

Since it is an 11-day sporting event, our resources will be exhausted. The markets can stay open on their weekly offs in lieu of the days they are being asked to shut down,” said an officer. The opening ceremony will take place on October 3, a Sunday, while the closing ceremony will be held on October 14, which is a Thursday and which is likely to be declared a national holiday by the government.

A shopkeeper from Connaught Place said, ‘‘Who will bear our losses? Delhi Police wants the entire city to stay inside their houses so they can provide security for Games.”

President of Khan Market Association, Sanjeev Mehra, however, said, ‘‘We will cooperate with the police. It’s a question of national honour and we want to extend our support. All shopkeepers will follow the advisory. Sales will suffer but there was no need for the police to use coercion when asking for markets to be shut down .”

To give own land for Games, UP demands 115 hectares in Delhi

The Uttar Pradesh government has staked claim on 115 hectares of prime land in Delhi for releasing some land to the Delhi government for the Commonwealth Games.

The demand is part of a bargain struck by the Uttar Pradesh government to “amicably resolve” a litigation initiated by it in the Supreme Court after the Delhi government acquired 21 acres of land to widen the UP Link Road connecting the Commonwealth Games Village with Noida.

UP’s claims were voiced in a meeting held by Attorney General of India G E Vahanvati on April 20 (and attended by the chief secretaries of both states. The meeting was held on the directions of the Supreme Court.

UP has asked the Delhi government to “change land use” for two tracts of land, measuring 100 hectares and 15 hectares in Aali and Okhla villages respectively, on Mathura Road. “The state of UP had requested for a change of land use of both parcels of land to residential, for purposes of accommodation for officers, offices of the state government and incidental public and semi-public facilities that go along with such land use,” an application filed before the Supreme Court by the UP government said.

Appearing for the UP before a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted: “Uttar Pradesh has two pieces of land in Delhi and the state requests for a change in land use on both tracts of land to residential...”

Besides this, UP wants Delhi to set up a sewage treatment plant at the Chilla Regulator (on the UP Link Road) on Shahdara drain to prevent untreated sewage from entering the latter’s Yamuna waters.

“Delhi should put up the sewage treatment plant so that the sewage is treated before the drain enters the state of UP in Noida, so that treated sewage is then channelled to the Yamuna,” the application stated. Land in UP, as required by Delhi for the Games, will be made available if the two demands are met, the application added.

“The state of UP assured the state of Delhi that subject to the amicable solution of the above two important issues of the UP government, land required for the Commonwealth Games, some of which has already been acquired by Delhi, would further be made available as and when required by Delhi.”Maintaining that a second meeting is slated for April 30, Rohatgi requested the court to await the outcome of the meeting.

The upcoming meeting will be attended by the vice-chairperson of the Delhi Development Authority and the Secretary of the Union Urban Development Ministry.

UP ready to plea bargain on UP-Delhi link road hurdle

The Uttar Pradesh government today told the Supreme Court that it was prepared to go for plea bargain to clear the hurdle of UP-Delhi link road which is to be widened for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatagi submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrihnan that the state government was prepared to cooperate provided the Centre was ready to change the land use of two pieces of land in Okhla, owned by the state of UP, measuring 100 hectares and 15 hectares, to residential to accomodate the residences for the state government officials. There has been an ongoing dispute between the Centre and the Mayawati government regarding the ownership of land to be used for the link road as the land meant for the road falls partly in UP and partly in Delhi.

The Centre has approached the apex court seeking directives to the Mayawati government not to create hurdles in the construction of the link road in view of the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

On the last date of hearing the apex court had asked both the Centre and the UP government to sincerely explore the possibility of amicable settlement to the issue.

Gurgaon police to get 'expert training' in etiquettes

In view of the Commonwealth Games, Professional experts will be engaged for imparting training in good etiquettes to police officers from the rank of SHO to down up to constables in this district. ''This has become important in view of Commonwealth Games, to be held in neighbouring Delhi in October this year as part of which a shooting event is being organised in Kadarpur shooting range of Gurgaon, Police Commissioner of Gurgaon S S Deswal, said while interacting with the media after inauguration of newly constructed building of Palam Vihar Police Station at sector 22 A number of foreign players as well as tourists, are expected to visit Gurgaon. The constables in Gurgaon police are learning how to express themselves in English so that they do not face in difficulty in communicating with the foreign visitors, he said. Mr Deswal said the police officers and other personnel will be imparted training in behavioral skills and would be taught to keep control on their anger while dealing with public and observe proper etiquettes. ''If they are courteous enough in their behaviour they would earn good image for the Indian policing system especially that of Gurgaon and Haryana worldwide, Mr Deswal said.

Gurgaon police has started security drills along the Kadarpur road and proper security arrangements will be ensured to the foreign visitors coming to Gurgaon to participate in the Commonwealth Games, he said. The Gurgaon Police has demanded more manpower and the Director General of Haryana Police Ranjeev Dalal has assured to provide about 800 more constables to Gurgaon before the Commonwealth Games. Mr Deswal said ''Once we have enough manpower, we would focus on improving the traffic management especially on important intersections of old Gurgaon.'' More constables would be deployed to manage the traffic, he added. At the same time, he said that a high-level meeting has been called on April 29 to discuss how to ease traffic congestion at important crossings on expressway like Shankar Chowk and IFFCO Chowk.

Malhotra for inquiry into hiring of DTC drivers, conductors

Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijay Kumar Malhotra today asked Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna to order an inquiry into the alleged charges of widespread corruption in the procedure of appointment of drivers and conductors in the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). Prof Malhotra, in a statement said, it was reported that the DTC would employ close to 6000 buses for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi in October this year. The DTC had sought applications from prospective drivers and conductors on contract basis for operating these buses and close to 30,000 applications were reported to have been received. ''However, it has been brought to our notice that due to widespread corruption, bribery and partisanship, this entire process has been cancelled,'' Prof Malhotra said.

Repeated complaints from various government departments about scandals in the admission/enrolment examinations had led the Delhi Police to uncover a gang, which in turn revealed that there had been serious malpractices under the Delhi Subordinate Service Selection Board (DSSSB) in the enrolment of employees in the DTC and teachers, he said.

Prof Malhotra said these episodes had left a question mark on the dependability and authenticity of the working of the DSSSB. He pointed out that the same Board was responsible for the selection of drivers and conductors for DTC. Prof Malhotra said if adequate numbers of drivers and conductors were not inducted into the DTC force, there would be serious deficiencies in the transport arrangements during the Commonwealth Games. He asked the Lieutenant Governor to order a high-level inquiry into the alleged malpractices in the procedure for hiring drivers and conductors for DTC and punish those officers found guilty of malpractices. Prof Malhotra also demanded that the entire process of hiring be made more transparent to avoid such scams and scandals in future.

Delhi prepared for CWG, nothing left to be addressed: Dadwal

Delhi Commissioner of Police Y S Dadwal today said the city police was ''totally prepared for the upcoming Commonwealth Games and nothing is left to be addressed.'' ''I categorically state that the Delhi police is totally prepared for the Commonwealth Games and all required arrangements are in place,'' Mr Dadwal said, while briefing mediapersons here. He cited the number of test events held in the capital before the Games and said they all went perfectly without any security issues. ''Various major sporting events were organised in Delhi including IPL cricket matches recently. The analysis puts into perspective our security preparedness for the Games,'' the Commissioner said. He explained that the security arrangements for these events were not restricted to providing security at the stadia only but also meant to secure the places of stay of participants, team and technical officials besides airport and routes to reach the game venues. Athlete protection also involved transformational security and securing the places of visits of the participants. This also involved covering the media briefings and visitor management and control at the stadia and hotels, he said.

''Security was also provided during the practice sessions of the teams and the same level of security was extended to the participants as was done for the main event,'' Mr Dadwal said. In addition, elaborate traffic circulation plans were also put in place, he noted and advised the general public to support the police and play a role of responsible citizen at least during the traffic movement. Reacting to some media reports regarding security arrangements for the Games, the Commissioner appealed that ''It is better to publish the report after confirming from us because they go to world press and create apprehensions about security arrangements made here.''

Rs.68 crore to develop tourists destinations in India

The Indian government has sanctioned over Rs.68 crore ($15.30 million) to develop tourist destinations in the national capital, Agra and Jaipur ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the Lok Sabha was informed Friday.

In a written reply, Minister of State of Tourism Sultan Ahmed, said that in view of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games the ministry has provided financial assistance for tourism projects following requests from the states.

He said the ministry has sanctioned Rs.35.78 crore for Delhi, Rs.21.47 crore for Agra and Rs.11.44 crore for Jaipur.

The funds will be used to develop various infrastructure, including wayside amenities, signages, parking facilities and public utilities in view of the Commonwealth Games scheduled for Oct 3-14.

BBC to broadcast 2010 Commonwealth Games

The BBC on Friday announced it has won the broadcasting rights for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

The Games will be available across TV, radio, online, iPlayer, mobile and new media outlets across the UK.

"We're delighted to have the exclusive rights for the UK," BBC Sport's head of major events Dave Gordon was quoted as saying on the BBC website.

"The Games mark another step for athletes across the world as they prepare for the 2012 Olympics."

"We have a rich history of covering the Commonwealth Games and are looking forward to bringing the best of the action to the UK public," he said.

With a total of 17 sports, the Commonwealth Games are considered the third largest multi-sport event in the world, behind the Olympics and the Asian Games.

A BBC spokesman insisted full precautions would be taken to protect the staff covering the event in Delhi, considering the security concerns in the subcontinent.

"We never discuss our security plans in advance, but we will naturally be taking all necessary steps, as we always do, to ensure the safety of all members of the BBC team," said the spokesman.

Care, classes for labourers' children at Games sites

Peering through a bioscope, drawing on slates, saying their mathematical tables- these aren't scenes from a classroom but from makeshift daycare centres for the children of labourers working at Commonwealth Games sites in the capital.

Seven-year-old Zainab, whose parents were away working at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is a venue for the mega event from Oct 3 to 14, says she loves coming to the creche.

"Mujhe yahaan bahut achha lagta hai. Main yahaan pahaade padti hun aur drawing karti hun (I like coming here. I learn mathematical tables and drawings)," said the little girl.

These centres are a joint initiative by the NGO Mobile Creches and Sesame Workshop India, the organisation behind the edutainment show "Galli Galli Sim Sim", which is the Indian version of the internationally popular "Sesame Street".

While the centres have been installed by Mobile Creches, the study material as well as training to teachers are being provided by "Galli Galli Sim Sim" free of cost.

"These are mobile centres that have been set up at one corner of the sites. The kids are taught with the user friendly material through trained teachers. We have a bioscope at the centre where kids are shown the 'Galli Galli Sim Sim' TV show and are educated through the same as well," Sashwati Banerjee, executive director, Sesame Workshop, told IANS.

According to Banerjee, these centres have been functioning since 2007, but the ones at the Games sites were set up only when the work began there.

Though many such centres are spread across the city and in other cities as well, for the Games sites, these are located near the Indira Gandhi Stadium, Shivaji Stadium and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

"It is very nice that these children get to study here or do something productive. Even the parents feel at ease as their children are safe here," Baladevi, a teacher incharge, told IANS.

A total of four teachers have been deputed at each centre to take care of nearly 40 children, who visit the creche between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. every day.

"At first, it was extremely difficult to convince the parents to let the children be here till the time they work at the construction site. But they realised that it's a safe option. The girls come here after doing their household work and everyone mingles very well," said the incharge.

Apart from books, study and entertainment material that touch upon subjects like literacy, maths
, science, health and nutrition, the creche also provides nutritious food for children as well as periodical check-ups by a doctor for free.

For toddlers, there are temporary cots made with cloth sheets.

The centres are a welcome change for Zainab and children like her, who would have otherwise been playing in the mud or forced to help in household chores.

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