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 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 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."

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