Monday, June 7, 2010

Now, Games Panel Has No Money To Hire Caterers, Village Caterer To Serve Athletes At Games Venues

A year after the organizing committee (OC) decided to hire international-level caterers for the Commonwealth Games Village and venues, it says there isn't enough money to pay the m and must look at ``reworking the scope of work'' to keep costs to a ``minimum'', according to OC spokesperson Lalit Bhanot.

Asked why the catering firms chosen to do the job are still to be hired, Bhanot said: ``We hope to resolve the issue within a few days.'' On further enquiry, Bhanot admitted that the OC was ``reworking the scope of work. It's not a change in quality but rather in some areas of quantity.''

The admission comes almost a week after TOI reported that none of the firms except the one selected for the Commonwealth Games Village shortlisted for the catering tender has been given a letter of award or signed contract. When the catering tender had been issued a year ago, costs had been estimated at Rs 60 crore, based on an Ernst & Young study. Adding confusion to the chaos is the fact that the OC top brass, including chairperson Suresh Kalmadi, will be in London till June 10.

A week after TOI reported that none of the firms except the one selected for the Commonwealth Games Village shortlisted for the catering tender has been given a letter of award or signed contract, OC spokesperson Lalit Bhanot said there wasn't enough money to pay them and it must look at ``reworking the scope of work". The organizing committee (OC) top brass, including chairperson Suresh Kalmadi, will be in London for a Commonwealth Games Federation meeting, delaying resolution of the impasse.

Delhi To Lose Rs 65 Cr Revenue In Tax Waiver For CWG

As it endeavours to make the Commonwealth Games in the city a success, the Delhi government is expected to lose about Rs 65 crores in tax waivers related to the event.

The government which is spending about Rs 15,000 crores in developing infrastructure for the Games, will lose between Rs 60 crores to 65 crores in entertainment tax and luxury tax, said Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta.

Delhi government has waived off the 10% luxury tax for three months from September. It has also decided to exempt Games ticket sales at stadiums from 15% entertainment tax.

The government says it is likely to lose about Rs 35 crores as entertainment tax from the sale of 17 lakh tickets and the luxury tax waiver on hotels will lead to a loss of Rs 30 crores.

The luxury tax waiver for hotels will remain in force during September, October and November.

However, Mehta said that "these are small sacrifices Delhi government has to make to make the Games a big success."

Disabled athletes left high & dry, India may lose out on medals

Disability sports comprising 15 events in the upcoming Commonwealth Games (CWG) in New Delhi will account for 45 medals - a gold, silver and a bronze medal for each event.

Medals won in these events will be part of a country's final medal tally. Yet, in India, the host country, with just four months to go for the Games, the disability sports scene is in utter disarray.

Not only does India seem ill prepared for most of the disability events, it won't even be participating in two of the events. This after Rs 13.8 crore was allocated for disability sports events to train athletes and to buy equipment for them. With the CWG just a few months away, so far, the sports ministry has released just about Rs 5 crore. The initial allocation plan was to release over Rs 5 crore in 2008-09, an equal amount the next year and over Rs 3 crore in 2010.

The two events India will not be participating in are the 1500m races for men and women. And why? Because there are no racing wheelchairs for athletes to train with. To make matters worse, wheelchairs for the women's table tennis event and for the 100-metre race are not available. Hence, the athletes are practising with wheelchairs they will not be using during actual competition.

The cost of a racing wheelchair is about Rs 3-5 lakh, not really unaffordable with the crores allotted. However, the Sports Authority of India (SAI), which was supposed to procure them, never brought them in. And now, at this late stage, the Paralympic Committee of India (PCI) has been asked to procure the wheelchairs.

"We had submitted our proposal for wheelchairs over one and a half years back because the process of calling for tenders and so on is complicated and time consuming. But there was no response to our proposal. Now, there is no time for the tendering process. They will have to be bought in the open market," says PCI president Ratan Singh.

"We traditionally did not have any wheelchairs for these sports. And so, our athletes are not trained to compete at the international level. Now we have asked PCI to procure the latest wheelchairs as SAI has failed to do so. EAD (elite athletes with disability) was a neglected sector all these years, but now with the CWG coming up, we are working to improve the situation," said Rahul Bhatnagar, joint secretary of the ministry's international sports division, who is in charge of arrangements for the CWG.

Disability sports are part of the Games since the last CWG in Melbourne in 2006. "So why has no effort been made to prepare our disabled sportspersons when crores are being spent in the name of CWG? What was the ministry doing till now?" asks Javed Abidi of the Disability Rights Group.

"There have also been several allegations of financial irregularities levelled against the PCI. The ministry has initiated an enquiry into these allegations. We have asked the Comptroller and Auditor General's office to look into these allegations. But till the enquiries are complete, we have no option but to release funds to the PCI, because it is the only federation for disability sports in the country. But if any allegation is proved, we will suspend the federation," says joint secretary in the sports ministry, Injeti Srinivas.

The fact remains that even as the sports ministry grapples with myriad problems, disabled athletes struggle to train without proper equipment.

Festive ambience at stadium

There was a touch of festive ambience at the J.N. Stadium on Monday. The venue is gearing up to host the third and final leg of the Asian Grand Prix athletics meet on Wednesday.

Over 300 competitors from 19 countries, including India, are getting ready to test their mettle in the event. Actually, the programme was spread over for two days.

The Indian leg of the GP was reserved for the campers training for the Commonwealth Games on June 8.

But for want of sufficient entries, the host Tamil Nadu Athletics Association and the Asian Athletics Association have been compelled to hold both the meets on the same day. The same was done in Bangalore too.

Limbering up

Athletes were seen limbering up on the track and near the pits. There was a motley collection from India, Uzbekistan, Iran, Oman and Kazakhstan on the field getting familiar with the conditions, more importantly, the weather, which was humid, despite the cloudy patches that hung like a canopy over the stadium.

Detailing the features of the meet, Walter I. Dawaram, President, TNAA, explained the reasons for compressing both the IGP and AGP in a single day. On Wednesday, the IGP competitions would be held in six events from 2 p.m. and the AGP events comprising 16 events would follow from 5 p.m.

He was optimistic that the first international meet in the metropolis after the 1995 SAF Games would be rewarding for everyone.

Pat for the winners

He complimented the medal winners, Ranjith Maheswary and Krisha Poonia, who have shown marked improvements in the two earlier meets held at Pune and Bangalore.

Maurice Nicholas, Secretary, Asian Athletics Association, was happy that the quality of performances proved the calibre of the stars. He added that the Asian junior championships in Hanoi from July 1 to 4, and the Asian All Stars' meet, the test event on July 29-30 before the Commonwealth Games in Delhi would help measure the depth of Asian talent.

Among those venturing to get into the rhythm for Wednesday's programme was Tintu Luka, a prodigy trained by P.T. Usha. Happy that Tintu had recovered from food poisoning after the Pune meet, Usha was confident of her ward performing better in Chennai.

Tintu was pushed to a silver medal in Pune and missed the next edition at Bangalore owing to indisposition. The rangy Uzbek star, Svetlana Radzivil, was also training hard to better her personal best of 1.98m in high jump.

The Uzbek delegation headed by Kesnia Ziyakhodjaeva, was pleased by the hospitality and the professional manner in which the events were held in Pune and Bangalore.

The State meet, however, will begin on Tuesday.

T3 beats deadline, aviation ministry throws a party

The capital will witness the first-of-its-kind 'thanksgiving' party for a rare event — a Commonwealth Games project getting ready before the event in the face of massive hurdles. The aviation ministry has invited the country's top 22 bureaucrats including the cabinet secretary and secretaries of ministries of home, revenue, defence, external affairs, surface transport and the intelligence bureau chief to IGI Airport's new terminal (T3) as it has been completed with more than a little help from all of them and is now ready for a July 3 inauguration.

Aviation secretary M Nambiar, who has overseen the project and ensured coordination with scores of other government agencies along with DGCA chief Nasim Zaidi's sharp eye on operational aspects, will showcase T3 to the top bureaucrats. According to relieved ministry officials, the GMR-led Delhi International Airport Pvt Ltd (DIAL) implemented the Rs 12,000-crore project in just 37 months while a project of this size and scale usually takes 60-70 months.

"There were several issues that had the potential to derail this project. But the National Facilitation Council led by the cabinet secretary provided the meeting ground for varied stake holders and ensured that differences and ego hassles between the various departments were ironed out. So we thought having a thansksgiving at T3 would be ideal for the NCF's final meeting," said a top official.

Giving a sense of the task completed, he said a minimum of 1,000 trucks were required to ferry material to the site to bring five million tons of metal required to complete the project. Due to traffic restrictions on commercial vehicles, these trucks used to come from 10pm to 6am when international traffic is at its peak.

Handling these trucks without causing hindrance to the passengers and vehicular traffic was a tough task, said an official.

"Due to restrictions imposed by the government, DIAL could not get required number of visas for experts engaged in the glass facade work," said an official. A number of 'green' issues also had to be addressed that included relocating 60 neelgais with the wildlife department's help.

A number of issues, though, are yet to be sorted out. The Delhi government's promise of uninterrupted power and water supply along with sewerage and drainage by providing the required infrastructure is still to be fulfilled. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit recently visited T3 and assured that all these tasks would soon be completed.

Delhi to release Rs.271 crore for development work

The Delhi government Monday approved the release of Rs.271 crore to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for carrying out infrastructure- related work ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
Finance Minister A.K. Walia said that an amount of Rs.271 crore out of approved outlay of Rs.912 crore for the year 2010-11 has been approved as the first instalment.

“There will be no dearth of funds for public-oriented projects. I am confident that the MCD will be able to present a better image of the city during Commonwealth Games,” he said.

Skewed modernisation means a farewell to Delhi's tongas

Plans for a pre-Commonwealth Games facelift signal a too-hasty exit for the city's horse-drawn carriages

The Mughals used them. The British used them. But now the government in India is finding it difficult to accommodate the tongas (or horse-drawn carriages) of Delhi. The decision isn't due to fanatical animal rights activists; nor can it be called a sincere move to decongest roads. This a part of the campaign to spruce up the image of Delhi before the Commonwealth Games start in the capital in October and foreigners start swarming into the city to witness the tale of urban boom the country has been boasting about.

The decision is cynically clear. All "un-modern" sights, sounds and smells are being sanitised. The tongas have become sluggish on the smooth four-lane streets of Delhi, a pain for the speed-hungry imported cars, and an awkward sight in front of swanky malls. The projection needs to be perfect. The country doesn't get enough chances of hosting mega-events, and the foreign traffic that the country will witness in that period will be unprecedented.

The clacking of the hooves on the tarred streets, or the ringing of the decorative bells of the horses, or the occasional neigh – acting as the alternative to honking – were part of the everyday scene in the walled city of Old Delhi. Every "picture postcard" a tourist would take of the forts and crowded bazaars would inevitably include the iconic tonga. Generations and centuries passed for the tongawallas and their horses, carting off people and loads through the old city. But now, sadly, they will be relegated to sepia-toned history.

Of the 150 tonga-pullers that remain today, most will be redeployed as drivers of the black and yellow three-wheeler auto-rickshaws. They are naturally unhappy. No longer will they have to brush the horse's coat, nail in shoes or clean the stables, habits running through their genes for generations. They made part of our history.

The axe has fallen not just on the tongas but on several other facets of the city. Though begging has been illegal in the country for some time now, faces of the malnourished, shredded clothing and runny noses always extend their hands asking for coins at traffic stops. But with the Commonwealth Games pressurising the need for squeaky clean getaways through traffic points, the government passed orders for the beggars to vacate the pavements they had been dwelling for so long. There is absolutely no systematic plan for any rehabilitation of these people.

It is a skewed version of modernisation that hastily calls for a cosmetic makeover of history and reality rather than trying to carry forward real improvement. There should have been planning and proper execution years ago, right from the dreamy days when the government decided to start putting together its bid for the Games.

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