Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Baton to reach Chennai on Aug. 18

The Commonwealth Games (October 3 to 14) in New Delhi is less than six months away and as a prelude to the biggest sporting event that India has ever hosted is the ‘Queen's Baton Relay' that traverses all the 71nations, in the Commonwealth before reaching the venue of the Games.

The specially made Baton, designed by Foley Design and Titan Industries, is in essence an embodiment of the soul and spirit of India. From the soil of India to its waters, not to mention the 18-carat gold leaf which carries the special message of the head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II and special technological inputs, there is everything ingrained in this 1.9 kg object which is being carried around by over 5000 runners through various countries before coming to India via the Wagah border on June 25.

Launched on October 29, 2009, the baton is presently in Vanuatu in the Pacific Islands after completing its journey through Europe, Africa, the Caribbeans, Canada and Australia.

Lt. Gen. Raj Kadyan, Additional Director-General, Queen's Baton Relay, Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, giving a picture of the events ahead to newsmen on Tuesday, said the baton would traverse the length and breadth of the country before returning in time for the inauguration of the Games in New Delhi in October.

The baton will reach Chennai on August 18 before travelling to Thanjavur, Rameshwaram, Madurai and Kanyakumari between August 22 and 26. Then it moves to the Andamans. On its return from the Islands on August 30 the baton will travel to Coimbatore and Udhagamandalam and then to Kerala on September 1.

He said in each State the sports celebrities from there and also other icons as listed by the local authorities would join the relay.

Gen. Kadyan said the baton run was in keeping with the theme of ‘Green Games' and thereby encouraged each State where the baton visits to take steps to plant a minimum of 10,000 saplings. Then again the Baton Relay would prove an ideal forum for each State to present its cultural heritage.

Earlier, Ms. Priya Singh Paul, Additional Director General, Communications, gave an overview of the Games through a power-point presentation and clearly the message was the Indian capital was all geared up to take up this massive venture.

She and Gen. Kadyan had earlier in the day held discussions with the State Chief Secretary, K.S. Sripathi, on the various steps to be taken for Tamil Nadu phase of the Baton Relay. “The State is well prepared” was the assurance given.

Rare wall art found in forgotten mosque

For ages, it wallowed in obscurity. Now, an obscure mosque at the butterfly park in Lodhi Garden has thrown up a surprise for conservators, sprucing it up ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

A rare colour finish in fresco style has been found in the mosque that doesn’t even have a name.

A fresco is a mural — a form of artwork — painted on walls or ceilings.

Grime and dust were the mosque’s only friends as it lay hidden under bamboo shrubs covered by branches of a tree.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is now taking steps to conserve what is turning out to be one of a kind mosque.

“Once we began cleaning the surface, we realised the mosque’s exterior was painted in red, resembling the fresco style. It is very rare for a late-Mughal period monument,” said Ajay Kumar, senior project manager of the Delhi Chapter of INTACH.

INTACH is sprucing up several monuments that have been recently notified by the Delhi State Archaeology Department. “The exterior has been done up in geru (natural reddish-brown dye) and also has ornamental plasterwork,” Kumar said adding that no other monument in Delhi has an exterior resembling this mosque’s exterior.

“The texture of the surface is different from the others inside the Garden too. The plaster on the walls also has a reddish tinge which indicates that the paint was done on wet plaster,” he said.

The monument has been listed as part of the Lodhi era in the INTACH’s The Built Heritage: A Listing published in 2000. But, looking at the architecture, INTACH conservationists feel it is a late Mughal-era structure.

A senior Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) official, who wished anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said, “There are many monuments inside the garden and not all of them belong to the same period. The work done on the exterior is not very common. We are trying to ascertain the exact period to which the mosque belongs.”

The restoration work for the monument is expected to be completed by June.

It's Commonwealth Games

The countdown has started. With a little under six months left for the Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG), India's fight with the clock is on. And because of its practical and political value, Delhi 2010 has become a highly sought-after commodity, the long term impact of which hinges not only on what happens during the Games, but more appropriately on the legacy it will leave behind.

India is almost ready to offer the world's athletes a first-rate Games village alongside first-rate facilities for most sporting competitions. Barring the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, construction of which has also picked up pace in recent months and the S P Mukherjee swimming complex, most venues are set to stage the test events leading up to the Games. The two venues mentioned are also likely to be ready before the country faces the world's cameras come August 2010 when the final countdown will start.

More than venues or the Games village, it is our urban infrastructure and the issue of community integration that appear to be of paramount importance in the time remaining. With Sheila Dikshit and Jaipal Reddy giving assurances on the issue of infrastructure, the government has been given the benefit of doubt. But, on the issue of community integration, the verdict is out: Delhi has a lot to catch up on.

One of the questions posed by the public is: whose Games are these? Do they belong to the organising committee or the government of India? Or do they belong to the Indian people at large? If it's the latter, as should be the case, little has been done to give citizens the feeling that it is their event and that it is being organised to benefit them in the long run. Unless the effort to promote community integration is undertaken with immediate effect, the legacy of Delhi 2010, it can be surmised, can be mixed at best.

Studies around Delhi and the National Capital Region help demonstrate that the ordinary taxpayer, whose money is being used to fund the Games, is still in the dark about most things pertaining to the mega event. For him, it is an exercise in opulence with little or no benefit in the longer term. Most believe that the sports facilities being created will never be within the reach of the common man and the problems facing them on a daily basis will far outnumber the gains promised.

While Delhi residents haven't yet raised the slogan "We want bread not circuses" of Toronto citizens in the 1990s and one which derailed that city's Olympic bid in 1996, they are smarting under the impact of the entire city being dug up. Hence they seem opposed to the biggest event in India's sporting history. Unless the organising committee is successful in winning people's confidence, the emotional connect so necessary in ensuring a successful Games legacy will be extremely difficult to achieve.

The other key element is how a mega event of this nature can finally create a sports culture in India. Can CWG 2010 create a rallying cry of 'sport for all' in all parts of India or will sport continue to be a haven for the rich? The notion of sport for all was certainly part of the Delhi 2010 vision which states, "More than all, the legacy of the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi will be to boost...sports culture as a part of the daily life of every Indian, particularly the youth." However, the ground reality is somewhat different. With the stakeholders under incessant pressure to ready infrastructure on time, the vision of sport for all has receded into the background.

This inability to promote sport among the nation's youth becomes extremely pertinent in light of the observations of leading sports historian Bruce Kidd. He affirms that "despite the widespread 'intuitive' expectation that inspiring performances stimulate new participation, there is no evidence that they automatically lead others in the general population to do so, let alone in ways that address the most difficult challenges of development". Research demonstrates, he argues, that unless those inspired enjoy full access to sustainable programmes with safe, adequate facilities and conducted by competent, ethical leadership, the take-up - and the resulting benefits from mega events is short-lived and ineffective.

These observations are extremely relevant when applied to the legacy of the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. There's little doubt that Delhi was fundamentally transformed as a result of that event. But it can definitively be asserted that the legacy of the Asian Games remains negative when viewed in terms of nurturing an all-pervasive sports culture in India. This is a drawback that helps explain why India has won one solitary individual Olympic gold medal in all these decades.

Knowing full well that the tremendous effort and cost of staging a major sporting event need to go along with the realisation of a sustainable legacy for sport, Delhi needs to step up and set an example. Only if this is done can Delhi serve as a perfect model of what the CWG could achieve if the facilities constructed for it are properly harnessed for the city's development.

Proposed lines under Ph-2 of Delhi Metro to be functional by Sept

All the proposed lines under Phase-II of the Delhi Metro will become functional by September and more trains could be expected on the routes that will connect the stadia during the Commonwealth Games, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) director (Electrical) Satish Kumar today said.

Talking to medaipersons at the Delhi Metro training institute here, Mr Kumar said, ''All the proposed lines under Phase-II will be functional by September.''

To a question about new plans of DMRC to meet demand of commuters during the Commonwealth Games, Mr Kumar said, ''Plans in Delhi Metro are made on a long-term basis and are not restricted to the Commonwealth Games, but still we are considering if we can operate more trains on the routes that will connect the stadia during the Games.''

The Metro training modules have evolved after consultation with Hong Kong and Singapore Metros. Methods such as role-playing and computer based training are adopted from these metros, he added.

Munak water only for Commonwealth Games: Haryana

Delhi may finally get its rightful share from Munak canal, but only for the Commonwealth Games. After intervention from the Centre, Haryana has agreed to give Delhi 20 million gallons per day (MGD) water from whatever it will save due to Munak canal project. The state, however, continues to maintain that Delhi has no rightful claim on the Munak savings and should not expect any extra water from Haryana.

According to senior government officials, the change in Haryana’s stance came after the PMO intervened. ‘‘Twenty MGD water will be diverted to the Bawana water treatment plant that is ready for the last six years but is not operating due to lack of water. We will see what can be done in November since we cannot shut down the plant again,’’ said a DJB official.

According to Delhi officials, they have paid Haryana Rs 350 crore for the construction of 102-km Munak canal that would save a huge amount of water for the two states by cutting down on transit loss. Work started in 2003 and the canal in Haryana side is now complete. While Delhi was under the impression that it would get share in saved water, Haryana in August 2009 said it was ‘‘erroneous on the part of Delhi to claim the so-called savings from the construction of the (Munak) canal’’.

‘‘Not a drop out of any savings will be given to Delhi and the state should not waste its resources by constructing any treatment plant on this presumption,’’ said Haryana government.

As per a SC ruling, Haryana is required to supply as much water to Delhi as is needed to maintain the Wazirabad pond level at 674.5 feet. Currently, en route loss is around 30% and it will come down to about 5% once the Munak canal becomes operational. Based on an assumed saving of 80 MGD, Delhi would divert 20 MGD and 40 MGD for the underconstruction Okhla and Dwarka water treatment plants and another 20 MGD for the Bawana plant.

"Even if Haryana claims the Yamuna’s share, it has no claim on 40 MGD of the total 80 MGD water since that comes from Sutlej. We have spent money on the construction and it is quite clear that we should also get benefit from the savings. There is an MoU to this effect and Haryana cannot deprive us of our rightful share,’’ said a Delhi government official.

Cong, BJP workers clash

New Delhi: A verbal duel between workers of two major political parties turned ugly as they fought with each other over water supply in Sangam Vihar area of southeast Delhi. The police said four people were injured in the scuffle.

The incident was reported on Sunday night when some workers of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and Congress clashed with each other over inadequate water supply in the area. Sources said some BJP workers were protesting against water and electricity problems in the area when they reached near a function organized by Congress workers. There was some argument and workers of both parties clashed with each other, said a senior police officer.

Police said they have registered cases under the relevant sections at Sangam Vihar and were investigating the case.

Expo to showcase Delhi’s heritage in September

The multi-layered culture of Delhi, moulded by its melting pot status over the centuries, would be showcased for its residents, with the leading heritage body INTACH planning to put together an exhibition soon.

As the capital gears up to host the Commonwealth Games in October, the exhibition is being planned in September to make people aware of the rich legacy of their city.

“It will be about Delhi, its culture, its rich history and tradition as also its food. We hope to tell people how rich in heritage their capital city is with its layers of history dating back to centuries,” said Mr A.G.K. Menon, Convenor of Delhi Chapter of Indian National Trust for Arts and Culture Heritage (INTACH).

Mr Menon said it is imperative for the people to realise the historic worth of the city they live in and take pride in its rich heritage.

“The heritage of Delhi is not only tangible heritage, but its richness spreads beyond its monuments, in its language, its food, its dress,” he told PTI.

“Though we do not have many artefacts, but definitely we will display models, maps, books, paintings and other items showing the diverse and yet composite culture of this place,” he said.

“While working intensively on Delhi’s heritage for the past few years, we have collected so many useful and interesting things, that we thought it would be good to put them on display for the residents of the city right ahead of the Games,” Mr Menon said .

The exhibition would be held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, with whom INTACH is partnering for the project.

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