Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beautify city with own funds, Sheila told

The Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games today asked the Delhi government to bear all expenses of sprucing up the city in line with the event's “look and feel” the organisers have finalised. Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the OC, presented to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit the entire set of ideas and design elements that the Look and Image Department has prepared for Delhi.
While the government asked the OC to bear the expenses, the latter rejected the request.

“They will have to foot the bill. We have given them the style and design elements. They will look into the entire proposal,” said Lalit Bhanot, official spokesman of the OC.

Dikshit formed a committee comprising agencies like the Delhi Transport Corporation, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the New Delhi Municipal Council under Principal Secretary Rina Ray to act on the OC’s design proposals.

The committee will clear the budget while each agency will pay for branding their own projects.

An OC source said Kalmadi categorically said in the meeting that the OC would not bear the expenses of sprucing up the city.

Rs 744cr dalit fund diverted for Games

The state government has over the past five years been systematically diverting funds meant for the development of Scheduled Caste communities to projects related to the Commonwealth Games, a reply to an RTI query has revealed. Since 2006, Rs 744 crore has been used up from the Scheduled Caste sub plan fund for Games-related projects of various departments.

Releasing the findings on Thursday, an NGO Housing and Land Rights Network called for an inquiry by a parliamentary sub-committee into the diversion of the funds which it said violated all norms of governance.

The RTI query was addressed to the city's department of social welfare the agency in charge of SC/ST/OBC/minorities which furnished the details. HRLN and the National Dalit Campaign for Human Rights said the funds were used for projects of MCD, NDMC, DJB and departments of urban development and sports and youth, among others.

The RTI reply said that in 2006-07, Rs 1.97 crore was diverted from the special component fund and spent on Commonwealth Games-related projects. In 2007-08, Rs 15.58 crore was used from the fund. The amount rose to Rs 214.73 crore in 2008-09 and Rs 288.44 crore in 2009-10. In 2010-11 so far the amount diverted for CWG projects is Rs 233.64 crore.

In another RTI application filed by HRLN with the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games on the Agra trip being organized for the 8,000-odd athletes and delegates, the OC said the cost of the trip would be Rs 1.71 crore.

HRLN said the diversion of money violated norms governing special component plan funds. The norms, put in place by the Planing Commission and the National Development Council, clearly state that the fund is meant for micro development works for the Scheduled Caste communities. Government of India rules have repeatedly emphasized that the funds allocated under the SCP have to be disbursed exclusively for the benefit of those belonging to the SC communities, HRLN activists said. Delhi has a Dalit population estimated at 2.34 million.

HRLN has also written to the Comptroller and Auditor General seeking an audit into the exact expenditure on the Commonwealth Games to date and the diversion of funds from SC sub plan component.

New cycle route to cut through CP

It's final. The route for one of the popular events at the Commonwealth Games 2010 the mass cycle road race has been finally approved by the government. The new route, which will now start from in front of the Free Church on Sansad Marg, will no longer encircle the swimming complex in Talkatora stadium, as was planned earlier.

Objections about overlapping of the race with a swimming event and the route's intrusion into the dedicated lane for Games athletes and delegates had forced the OC to look for an alternative.

OC spokesperson Lalit Bhanot said: "The new route doesn't have any obstacles and will be relatively straight. We are expecting largescale participation in this event. The new route will now go through Connaught Place, Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, Central Vista and back to Sansad Marg. It will basically turn the public roads into a race track for the Delhi Games 2010.''

According to OC officials, work on the new route is scheduled to enter fast lane. Bhanot admitted that the route would see massive overlay work, which includes setting up of temporary structures like the VIP and media lounge, athlete area and doping centre. According to officials, the infrastructure work will take a couple of months to finish. Added Bhanot, "The route will be used for the 20km race, road race as well as the marathon.''

Sources in the OC say the present route was approved as it is near the OC headquarters, making overlay preparations easier. "The OC headquarters will be the nerve centre of the road race,'' added the source.

The earlier route was planned around Talkatora stadium, and included a stretch that was narrow and would not have been able to handle spectators and competitors simultaneously, the traffic department had claimed.

The day-long event includes a 165-km race for men and a 100-km race for women. Participants from 71 countries are scheduled to take part, with each country allowed to field 27 athletes in the event.

Sharath Kamal all set for Commonwealth Games

India’s hope for a medal in table tennis during the Commonwealth Games received a smashing boost when Achanta Sharath Kamal became the first paddler from the country to win a singles title on the IITF Pro Tour. He defeated top seed Li Ching of Hong Kong in the final of the Egypt Open on Sunday. Back

in the country after a
successful outing that included triumph in the US Open at Michigan as well, the defending Commonwealth Games champion termed the wins as the best moments in his sporting career. “The quality of players was exceptionally high and to emerge victorious is a special feeling. It is a good indication that our training is on the right track and we are prepared for the CWG,” he said, but added that playing in front of the home fans “can be a double-edged sword”.

The Arjuna Awardee had made it to the semifinals of the Indian Open last month only to be humbled by world number 13 Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany. “There was a lot to learn from that tournament. I realised the need to focus on my backhand technique more, which is not my strong point, and it helped me in Egypt. I also increased my physical fitness,” said the 76 ranked paddler.

Also crediting his success to video analysis technique, he said, “Video analysis along with a great support staff has and will continue to assist me and my fellow players in the run-up to CWG,” he told HT from Chennai.

The training is set to get even more gruelling with a transitional camp, already underway in Patiala, being followed by camps in China and a tour of Europe.

Sharath feels that these tours, especially under the guidance of Italian coach Massimo Constantini, would greatly benefit him as well as other paddlers. “Massimo has the ability to adjust to the needs of each player and will continue to play a crucial role in our preparations.”

Maintaining 2010 CWG infrastructure a 'challenge': Gill

Sports Minister M S Gill inaugurated the Rugby Stadium at the Delhi University campus, one of the Commonwealth Games venues, and admitted maintaining the magnificent structures after the October 3-14 showpiece event here is going to be a big "challenge".

"I am happy to inaugurate this beautiful venue where the Rugby 7s discipline will be held during Commonwealth Games. It is really good that such a sprawling complex has come up in the University campus within two years time," Gill said.

"But I think, its a challenge to maintain the facilities those are coming up for the Delhi Games. It is one of the main challenge before organisers of big international events all around the world and so to India," Gill told reporters.

However, Gill assured that a proper strategy for the same will be formulated soon.

"Different ideas regarding that are currently being explored. Whatever we do, will do for all," Gill said.

The state-of-the-art sports complex, which has come up at a cost of Rs 306.41 crore provided by Union Sports Ministry, will also be a training venue for netball, boxing, women's wrestling and athletics during the Games.

The fully air-conditioned stadium structure has a total build-up area of 10,000 square kilometer, while the main ground boasts of features like auto-sprinkling technology, underground drainage system and natural grass, seeds of which have been imported from the USA.

Ten thousand spectators can enjoy the actions with permanent seating arrangement for 2,500 while the temporary arrangements will be made for another 7,500.

Besides, the environment friendly features of the complex include ozone system for air-freshening and latest less power consuming air-conditioning system.

Gill, after taking a round of the venue, also hoped such facilities will inculcate sporting culture among the students.

"Around 40-45 per cent of Indian population is young. We have to inculcate sporting culture among them if the country wants to move ahead in the new millennium. I hope such facility will help the cause. It's a gift to the DU," Gill said.

"Besides giving facilities, the sportspersons should also be encouraged with other means like quota in all educational institutions or some scholarship programmes can also be launched for them," the Minister added.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, also an alumni of the University, hoped that the facility will be a "great legacy" for the institution.

"I expect that the facility will drive more and more students to come to the sports arena," she said.

Among others, Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental was present on the occasion.

Sorry, forgot service tax, flags... provide Rs 720 cr

Commonwealth Games is turning out to be a costly affair with each passing day. Even as the event draws closer, the Organising Committee has shown a ‘price escalation’ in 21 functional areas and demanded Rs 720 crore more.

But the reasons cited are vague like “forgetting to budget service tax or including the cost of flags of each participating countries”. “We are scrutinising the proposal and have asked for replies to a few queries. Once it is cleared by the ministry, it will go to the Group of Ministers for sanction,” said Rahul Bhatnagar, joint secretary, Sports Ministry.

The main heads are as follows:
Catering — Rs 63.33 to Rs 185 cr: The maximum hike of Rs 121.65 crore is under this head. The total budget for catering in the Games Village and venues was initially Rs 63.33 crore, but the contract for master caterer at the Village was finally signed at Rs 106 crore. The reason for this escalation was the delay in signing the contract. The delay meant they had to buy kitchen equipment instead of hiring it.

Communication, Image & Look — Rs 87.37 cr to Rs 195 cr: Image and look involves branding of various stadiums, painting the town in Games colours and putting up banners and posters. The committee claims Rs 60 crore allotted for this was spent by other departments.

Ceremonies — Rs 106 cr to Rs 375 cr: The budget has almost tripled since the first estimates. Initially, sum of Rs 106.58 crore was increased to Rs 250 crore by the Group of Ministers last December. This was again increased by Rs 50 crore. Now, the committee is demanding another Rs 75 crore for special effects, staging scenic props, make-up and costumes. A R Rahman’s hefty fees of Rs 5 crore has also been factored in. Wizcraft, which is executing the opening and closing ceremonies, is being paid Rs 40 crore.

Accommodation — Rs 13.32 cr to Rs 20 cr: The committee needs Rs 6.68 crore due to factors like increase in room rents. Initially, rooms were to be allotted at Rs 5,509, but the final contract was signed at Rs 7,857 per room. International technical officials, initially supposed to stay at DDA flats, will be now staying in hotels. The committee has also woken up to the need to maintain a helpdesk and provide welcome kits at 19 hotels for the delegates.

PROCUREMENT DEPARTMENT: Rs 5 crore for procurement of souvenir items to be gifted to VVIP and VIP guests.

PROTOCOL, CGA RELATIONS: Rs 13.41 crore as provision for flags and commemorative medals not made in the earlier estimate.

WORKFORCE: Rs 2.88 crore to give bonus to employees to check attrition.

COORDINATION: Rs 19.61 crore as the committee forgot to factor in Service Tax.

VENUE DEVELOPMENT: Rs 20 crore as DDA has refused to pay electricity bills of venues.

CLEANING, WASTE MANAGEMENT: Rs 28.39 crore as cleaning services for 62 venues not being undertaken by MCD and NDMC; plus pest control.

BROADCASTING: Rs 3 crore for Rs 12-lakh monthly salary of foreign consultant Patrick Furlong from May 2007.

Who will foot the branding bill?
The tussle between the Delhi government and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee over who will foot the bill for dressing up the city during the Games fortnight is still on. While the committee claims that beyond the peripheries of stadiums it is the Delhi government’s responsibility, the government wants the organisers to pick up the tab. The OC claims they are paying for the branding activities inside each venue, the Games Village and hotels and are already running short of money.

But the government has its counter ready. “If the government will pay for everything then why does the OC need a budget? We have already spent Rs 12,000 crore on infrastructure. And why is the OC informing us about this expenditure at the last moment?” asked a senior official. Sources said Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has put her foot down and insisted that the the budget has to be rationalised and they cannot be paid a lump sum.

A multi-agency committee, including the DTC, DMRC, MCD and NDMC, has now been set up under Principal Secretary Rina Ray. Each agency will pay for ‘Commonwealth branding’ themselves and their budgets will be discussed separately. The committee has agreed to provide the expertise as well as items required for branding.

Multiple authorities delayed CWG projects: Dikshit

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Thursday reiterated it was the multiplicity of authorities that led to a delayed start of the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games projects, but said she was confident that all the work will be completed by the Aug 31 deadline.

Talking to reporters, Dikshit acknowledged there was a delay in starting the projects, but said now the work progress was good.

Earlier speaking at a function, Sports Minister M.S Gill said the work on building infrastructure and stadiums should have begun in 2003 and not 2008.

Dikshit has been maintaining that there are too many authorities in the capital like the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Development Authority and it puts an obstacle in working unitedly.

The chief minister has asked all the agencies to complete the work related with the mega-event by Aug 31 and make the city absolutely ready to host the Games.

Chairing a high-level meeting to review the preparedness of the city for the Games recently, she said Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta will function as nodal officer to resolve the day-to-day obstacles related to the projects.

The Delhi Metro was also asked by the city government to hand over various roads under its control by July 31 so that beautification and upgradation work can be completed before the Games.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit visits CWG sites

With only 80 days left for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games (CWG) and rising concerns over timely completion of projects, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Wednesday inspected the sites of the delayed projects and asked officials to complete them by the Aug 31 deadline.

An official said Dikshit inspected three-four sites, including the Barapullah Nallah elevated road corridor that connects the Games village with the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in south Delhi.

The elevated corridor, undertaken by the public works department (PWD), has missed several deadlines and the government has expedited the work on it as it is important for smooth travel of players and delegates during the Games.

Wednesday's visit to Barapullah Nallah was second by the chief minister in past 10 days.

Delhi PWD Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan and top government officials accompanied the chief minister her during the visit, the official added.

Dikshit had June 9 directed all the stakeholders of the CWG projects to complete the work related with the mega-event by Aug 31.

"Final touches are being given to the works at most of the sites which the chief minister visited," the official added.

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