Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Queen's baton reaches Gaya, to enter Patna today

The Queen's Baton for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games has reached Bihar. It was greeted by tens of thousands of people and heavy showers.

From the time the baton entered Bihar and till the time it reached Gaya, which was almost 200 kms, no street was left abandoned.

People from all walks of life gathered on side roads to catch a glimpse of the baton. The excitement among the people was palpable.

For the first time, kids from various schools displayed tableaus to welcome the baton to Bihar.

It was quite a sight to see the school girls lined up with their cycles to witness the procession.

The first relay in Bihar was conducted from Kaimurvihar for a kilometre. Prominent baton bearers were Principal Secretary, Bihar Olympic Association Mohammad Mustak Ahmed and a national athletics champions like Jyoti Kumari, Mohammad Tasleen Khan and Ramesh Prasad. Weightlifter Mohammad Sheran Khan was also one of the eminent baton bearers.

Earlier, a plantation drive was conducted at the Krishnawati boating site near Rajghat in Varanasi.

The baton reached the UP-Bihar border at around 10 a.m. The baton will enter Bihar capital Patna today.

Ahead of Games, National Museum lies neglected

Even as thousands of crores are spent to spruce up Delhi for the Commonwealth Games, a must-visit for foreigners, the National Museum, remains in a sorry state with almost half the galleries shut. Even of those open, some are in a state of utter neglect and most have remained unchanged for over a decade since they were first mounted.

Incidentally, the museum comes under the ministry of culture, a portfolio held by PM Manmohan Singh himself. A stone’s throw from the PM’s residence and Parliament house, the museum, home to some of the most valuable artefacts in the country, hasn’t had a permanent director general (DG) for almost five years. A joint secretary in the ministry, Dr V S Madan, has additional charge of DG of the National Museum.

“A museum ought to be headed by a qualified and senior museologist and not a bureaucrat. But the museum has seen a string of bureaucrats heading it at various times,” said a senior museologist who did not wish to be named.

Of the 15 galleries, seven are closed. Many have been closed for several years and no one seems to know when or whether they will ever reopen. Barring a few galleries like the gallery of paintings, miniature paintings and of the Harappan civilization, the institution, hailed as the country’s premier museum, has a weary air of neglect and boredom. Other than a sketchy audio tour in Hindi, English, Japanese, French and German, there is little to help visitors beyond the drily written and fading explanations displayed next to the various artefacts.

“Some of the galleries, like the coins gallery, which has coins from the 2nd century BC to modern times, have remained untouched for years. There is no effort to make the collection interesting or appealing to the visitors. It is row upon row of glass cases with coins,” remarked a senior museologist.

“One of the most important jobs of a museum is to preserve and conserve the artefacts in its collection. With a near-defunct conservation department, one wonders what is happening to the artefacts, especially the manuscripts. The manuscripts gallery has been closed for over five years. The manuscripts department does not have even a curator. Manuscripts are delicate objects vulnerable to mishandling, pollution and humidity,” said another senior museologist.

CM's deadline: No debris on roads after Aug 10

A day after a heavy downpour plunged the city — which is to host the Commonwealth Games in less tha three months — into complete chaos, chief minister Sheila Dikshit visited various project sites on Tuesday and asked the agencies involved to remove all construction material and debris by August 10.

Expressing concern over the extensive waterlogging in the city on Monday evening, she said the ongoing construction activities by PWD, MCD, NDMC and DMRC had aggravated the problem.

The CM underlined the urgent need for maintenance and upkeep of roads at a meeting held at the secretariat. It was attended by PWD minister Raj Kumar Chauhan, chief secretary Rakesh Mehta, principal secretary to the chief minister, P K Tripathi, principal secretary (PWD) K K Sharma and senior officials from Union urban development ministry, MCD, NDMC, PWD and DMRC.

Chauhan was out with his officials all of Tuesday to check if the debris was being removed or not. That, however, seems to be a herculean task as the entire city seems to be caught in the throes of an epidemic of digging without any method in the madness.

Minister wants chief engineers to vouch for project viability, PWD says idea ridiculous

With most Commonwealth Games projects wrapped up, Finance Minister A K Walia has pulled out a masterstroke from his hat to put a stop on further construction projects. From now on, the chief engineer of a project will have to sign a personal undertaking claiming the work is justified in order to secure financial clearance.

The undertaking, signed by the Chief Engineer and endorsed by Engineer-in-Chief who heads the PWD and the Head of Department proposing a particular project, must declare they have personally studied cost estimates and attest that they are correct. The officials are also required to personally undertake that the project will be completed within the duration and the budget mentioned in the estimate.

The Public Works Department, which manages most of the state government’s road projects, has revolted against the order, with engineers having compiled a detailed note of objection they now plan to send to department secretary K K Sharma. A top engineer said, “We work according to the Central Public Works Department rules. There is no need for one government office to mistrust another. No chief engineer can personally take responsibility of any project,” says a senior PWD engineer.

This tussle between PWD and Finance department is also affecting the ongoing Games projects. Last week, the latter turned down an estimate sent by PWD asking for funds to pay the railways for ongoing construction at Barapullah Nullah. The PWD has to pay Indian Railways Rs 40 lakh per hour for stopping rail movement to facilitate construction.

The Finance department wants the PWD chief engineer to write an undertaking even to clear this estimate. “How can we give an undertaking for an estimate made by the Indian Railways. They should tell the railways to furnish it,” says a senior PWD engineer. If the money is delayed, the railways can stop work on the stretch. The elevated road on Barapullah Nullah is already much delayed and is expected to end only by the end of August.

Disgusted at the Finance department’s insistence to submit the undertaking, the engineers have sent a reply to their secretary saying it is not possible to predict completion deadlines since unexpected procedural requirements usually delay projects. “As for vouching for financial accuracy, we already do that while preparing the file for any project. What’s the point of a personal undertaking,” says an engineer.

Walia, meanwhile, says officials shouldn’t have a problem signing the undertaking. “When they are sure of a proposal’s fairness, what is the problem in stating it in the form of an undertaking,” he asks.

Few sponsors for Commonwealth, PSUs told to cough up cash

It’s time for the public sector to come to the aid of the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games struggling to get sponsorships.

All public sector enterprises have been directed by the Union Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Ministry to cough up funds ostensibly as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

In an order issued late last month, the Ministry — headed by ex-Maharashtra CM Vilas Rao Deshmukh — has said that since the Games are of “great national importance,” it would be appropriate for “our public sector undertakings to contribute their share so that the Games organisation and management scale new heights.”

The DPE note says that, as a “one-time measure,” it has been decided “that all contributions/donation/promotions/sponsorships etc. to the Commonwealth Games 2010, Delhi will be treated as a CSR activity and will count towards the awards of marks in the MOU evaluation process.” The note is signed by Secretary, Department of Public Enterprises, Bhaskar Chatterjee.

The note has been forwarded to all Maharatna and Navratna PSUs including ONGC, Indian Oil Corporation, NTPC, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and SAIL.

“We are discussing sponsorship deals with PSUs as well as a lot of private firms. In ten days, we will be able to come up with more details about the deals,” said Organising Committee spokesperson Lalit Bhanot.

With just over 80 days left, the Organising Committee’s sponsorship kitty isn’t exactly overflowing. It has only Rs 342 crore from 10 sponsors, far below the target of Rs 1,200 crore.

Four sponsors, making up the bulk of the sponsorship value so far, are PSUs. Hero Honda and Coca Cola are two private sponsors with commitments of Rs 38 crore and Rs 15.7 crore respectively. PSUs NTPC, Air India and Central Bank have committed Rs 50 crore, Rs 50 crore and Rs 51 crore respectively. Indian Railways is the lead partner and will shell out Rs 100 crore.

With these PSUs lining up, Australian firm SMAM (Sports Marketing and Management) has every reason to cheer since it gets a 15-20% commission.

The agreement between SMAM and the OC was signed on July 25, 2007, making the company the “sole and exclusive negotiator and procurer of sponsorship for licensing contracts”.

The Indian Express had reported how organizing committee insiders raised questions over SMAM’s role in sponsorship deals. In an internal memo prepared by then ADG revenue V K Saxsena on February 12, “SMAM’s contribution in major deals signed so far has been practically nil even though they are entitled to the same commission from these deals as they are from deals which are negotiated by them.”

Hop on & off tourist buses from September

Starting September 15, Delhi will join an elite list of international cities which have a 'hop-on, hop-off' bus service for tourists.

With three designated routes that include not just monuments but also museums, parks, shopping areas and foreign exchange bureaus, the buses will ply at intervals of 10 minutes to 15 minutes just like in other foreign cities, including London, Paris, Rome, New York, Sydney, Singapore, Barcelona and others. Though the service has been started with an eye on the Commonwealth Games, it will continue after the sporting extravaganza.

To start with, 15 buses will run on the designated routes to cover monuments such as Jama Masjid, Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, Qutab Minar, Purana Qila, Begumpuri Masjid, Hauz Khas monuments and Tughlaqabad Fort, and other places of interest in Mehrauli area and Lutyens' Delhi. The routes will also cover shopping areas like Connaught Place, Santushti Complex, Khan Market, malls, Dilli Haat, museums, Commonwealth Games venues, parks, foreign exchange bureaus and even popular eating joints.

"The service will start from September 15 with 10-15 buses. Based on the response, more buses and routes will be added after the Commonwealth Games," said Delhi chief secretary Rakesh Mehta.

The buses will be luxury coaches with large window panes that will enable visitors a clear view of the city from every seat. The government is going for air-conditioned, low-floor buses. "We needed CNG buses and finding an open/glass top double-decker variant in CNG was not possible. But we will look at introducing such buses after the Games," said Rina Ray, managing director, Delhi Tourism. To make them look attractive, the buses will be painted in bright colours and the exteriors will reflect the character of the tours on offer. Every bus will also have a dedicated guide on board, along with specialised audio guides and literature, to keep the visitors updated on the sites as they pass by. Every trip will be of 2.5 hour to 3 hour duration.

The project started off as a joint effort between Delhi Tourism and Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC), but the latter pulled out due to excess workload before the Games. Now, the buses will be run by a private operator. The routes have been decided in consultation with INTACH. "The service is not just aimed at foreign tourists. We are also targeting national tourists and Delhiites who would like to explore the city. The fare, though yet to be finalised, will be nominal," Ray added.

Buses run on predefined routes at regular intervals. Tourists can choose a route and board any bus. They will have the option of getting off at a place of their interest on the way and have the choice of taking any of the later buses on the same route. The ticket has a day-long validity. "The entire plan is to empower tourists who come to the city during the Commonwealth Games. As of now, three routes have been finalised but more will added after the Games. The service will follow the model used abroad, where buses visit places of interest and not just monuments," said AGK Menon, Convenor, INTACH.

Katrina Kaif to do a Shakira at CWG opening ceremony

Taking a cue from the high-voltage opening and closing ceremony of the FIFA World Cup, it seems that the organisers of the Commonwealth Games too are gearing up for something similar. According to the latest buzz, none other than Bollywood beauty Katrina Kaif has been approached to grace the opening ceremony of the much-awaited CWG.

Grapevine has it that the authorities of the CWG have roped in Katrina to groove to AR Rahman’s tunes at the opening ceremony of the big event in October.

A source revealed, “Katrina has been approached to perform to the CWG anthem that’s been composed by Rahman.”

While talking about the same to an Indian news daily, Suresh Kalmadi, Chairman of the Organising Committee, said, “I have nothing to confirm. If Katrina confirms this, go ahead and print it.”

CWG: India's chances at the Commonwealth Games

This year's Commonwealth Games are on home turf and India's expectations from the games would be very high, let's take a look at the India's medal prospects.

The Commonwealth Games bring together a congregation of nations that were once under the rule of the British Empire and they are also the second largest sports festival in the world after Olympics.

India in the past have performed well at the games, finishing fourth in the last two editions with 50 medals, including 22 golds at Melbourne (2006) and 69 medals at Manchester (2002).

Abhinav Bindra, Vijender Singh and Sushil Kumar won medals at the last Olympics and that made them the blue eyed boys of Indian sports but one has to also take into account that they can at best get us three gold medals.

In fact, shooting and weightlifting have been the two disciplines that have pushed up India's medals tally. India topped the shooting charts at Melbourne with a whopping 27 medals, 16 of them gold.

This year in shooting, there are 40 medals up for grabs and Indian shooters have performed well at the World Cups of various shooting disciplines, making them the contingent that will hopefully have the lion’s share of gold medals. India topped the shooting charts at Melbourne with a whopping 27 medals, 16 of them gold.

The Weightlifting fraternity in India has borne the brunt of doping scandals in the past and would be hoping that the demons don’t come back to haunt them again. Indian weightlifters came back with no medals from the Asian Championship but are sweating it out in the gym, determined to turn the tables around and win a few medals. Lifters like VS Rao and Ravi Kumar are top medal contenders. In the women's section, Geeta Rani and Yumnam Chanu are the best that India has.

As far as wrestling is concerned, India has one of the strongest pool of players with Sushil Kumar at the helm of it. India had a good run at the 2002 Manchester Games, winning three gold and three silver. A majority of new medals are likely to come from wrestling, it did not feature at Melbourne. This time, more than 21 gold medals will be at stake.

In table tennis, with China not around India has a good chance of winning a few medals. Sharath Kamal after winning the US Open will lead the Indian challenge at the Games. Subhajit Saha and others are also being pitted to win medals for India.

Players like Sania Mirza, Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri will be India's best bet at tennis in this years games.

India have had a good record in badminton and Gopi Chand is confident Saina Nehwal will win a gold medal.

Indian boxing coach GS Sandhu has put a very strong pool of boxers with players like Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar, Nano Singh Thakcom and Ramesh Kumar raring to go.

Indian hockey players did not live up to the expectations in the last World Cup and would be eager to make amends at this years games although the women’s hockey team's confidence would be high on the back of their gold medal run in the last commonwealth games at Melbourne.

One of the major reasons why India has never been able to break into top three at the commonwealth games is the lack of prowess in athletics and swimming, the two disciplines which account for the maximum number of medals. At Melbourne games, India won only three medals in athletics out of 160 that were up for grabs.

The Delhi Commonwealth Games have been a blessing in disguise for Indian athletes. The government has pumped in a lot of money to train the athletes and world class sporting facilities are also coming up which will help Indian sports in the long run. India will have the home advantage and hopefully will to break into the top three this time.

Jats threaten to disrupt Delhi Commonwealth Games over jobs reservation demand

Scores of Jats have gathered under the banner of the Akhil Bharatiya Jat Aarakshana Samiti (ABJASS) - All India Jats Protection Forum gathered in the national capital on Monday to voice their demand for reservation in government jobs.

Later, elder functionaries of the forum issued a warning to the government that if their demands were not met, they would disrupt the Commonwealth Games to be staged in New Delhi during October.

Earlier, on June 14, the Jats had stopped water supply to New Delhi from the Ganga Canal as a mark of protest against the government not heeding to their demand for reservation.

Further, they had given a deadline of July 10 for the government to reckon their demand.

The chief of ABJASS has warned that the government would be responsible for the eventual disruption of the Commonwealth Games since the demand of the Jats has not been met.

"For the past nine long years, we have attended various meetings with the state and central (federal) governments. If the government does not consider our demand in a democratic way, our members would demonstrate by through disruptive ways and we would hold the government responsible for it," said Yashpal Malik, national president of the ABJASS.

The Jat community consists of people belonging to the three faiths - Hindu, Muslim and Sikh.

"The agitation will prove that the Muslim Jats are no less curious than any other member of the Jats community. For any kind of sacrifice, we were ready in the past and even today we are ready. We just want your support," noted Haji Mohammed Yameen Chaudhary, national vice-president, ABJASS.

back to top