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.

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