Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We cannot allow the Games' image to be damaged: Fennell

The embattled Commonwealth Games Organisers received a strong rebuke from CGF chief Michael Fennell who said that the image of the Games "could not be damaged by corruption charges".

"We cannot allow the Games' image to be damaged by these allegations. I think we want to have good Games but we need to clarify these (allegations) and ensure that there is full investigation and full transparency," Fennell said in his first reaction to the corruption allegations on Games' organisers.

-Sports secy tells Kalmadi to suspend 2 officials

"We will ask for a full report on what has been alleged and we want an urgent report. I understand an urgent meeting of the executive board of the OC has been called and I will be visiting Delhi on August 18. I myself would be wanting to look at all these things because we cannot have the Games damaged by these allegations," he added.

Asked if he would want an inquiry by the CGF, he said," No. We don't support, neither do we feel that corruption should be or ought to be a part of any Games or events such as these. But we are not familiar with the facts and that is a matter for Indian authorities to sort out.

"I am monitoring all the aspects very carefully and it does cause quite a lot of concern because we don't want to have corruption whatsoever. It is something which is very disturbing and do feel that the matter needs urgent attention by Indian authorities," he told NDTV from Jamaica.

On CGF Chief Executive Officer Mike Hooper writing a letter to the OC after the corruption scandal broke out, he said, "We had asked for some clarification of the news reports but we have not had any response from the OC."

Caught in a web of corruption charges, Commonwealth Games Organisers formed a three-member panel to probe the allegations of irregular financial transactions.

The panel comprises of Jarnail Singh, OC Chief Executive Officer, G C Chaturvedi, Special Director General- Finance, and Gurjyot Kaur, Chief Vigilance Officer.

Graft allegations add to Delhi's woes two months out

The government has urged Commonwealth Games organisers to sack two officials at the centre of corruption allegations in another blow to the troubled event two months before the opening ceremony.

Organisers of the Oct. 3-14 Games were already struggling with a budget that has grown to 17 times the original estimate, delays in venue construction, a dearth of sponsorship and withdrawals by big name athletes.

On Tuesday, a three-member panel was established to look into the allegations of financial irregularities by two senior organising committee (OC) officials.

"We have received a letter from the Sports Ministry in which the ministry expressed concerns about two officials," OC spokesman Lalit Bhanot told reporters on Tuesday.

The panel, headed by OC chief executive Jarnail Singh, would submit its report "soon", Bhanot added.

The country's first hosting of a major multi-sport Games since the 1982 Asian Games is threatening to become a national embarrassment.

A report from the government anti-corruption agency leaked to the media last weekend identified 16 Games construction projects where large-scale financial irregularities are suspected.

Organisers were able to wash their hands of that issue as the construction work was being conducted by government agencies but it did nothing to dissipate negative perceptions surrounding the Games.

The latest allegations resulted in the sports ministry sending a letter to OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi on Sunday, advising him to drop the two officials -- TS Darbari, a director general at the OC, and Sanjay Mohindroo, a deputy director general.

"With the Games just two months away, (such) matters ... raise questions of probity and integrity of officers in the OC," read the letter, which was also leaked to the media.

"They tarnish the image of the Games and adversely affect its credibility."

Darbari has denied any wrongdoing while Mohindroo has been unavailable for comment.

The issue even reached the Indian parliament on Tuesday with the opposition creating uproar in both the houses.

With time fast running out before the arrival of the 8,000 athletes and officials, organisers are putting on a brave face even if the signs are far from encouraging.

Sports Minister MS Gill told the parliament last week that the estimated cost of conducting the Games had escalated from 6.5 billion rupees ($142 million) in 2003 to some 115 billion.

The Games has failed to attract significant sponsors outside the state-owned companies but organisers are upbeat about late initiatives to attract revenue.

The primary concern now for organisers is getting the six venue-clusters and the five stand-alone facilities ready for the event.

The annual monsoon has added to their woes by further disrupting construction, submerging approach roads, waterlogging building sites and exposing leaks in the completed venues.

CWG scam: New stadium costs Rs 84 cr, JLN renovation Rs 961 cr!

If it took just Rs 85 crore for the modernisation of Ferozeshah Kotla stadium then why did the renovation of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium cost Rs 961 crore? This was the CPM’s poser to the government on Monday as allegations of diversion of funds for SC/ST schemes to Commonwealth Games projects rocked Parliament.

“The government should come out with coherent answers on all this,” CPM polit bureau member Sitaram Yechury said at a press conference here. The entire Opposition had together raised an uproar in both Houses of Parliament earlier seeking a debate on the issue.

Mr Yechury said he hoped there would be consensus among Opposition parties on other issues concerning the Commonwealth Games as well.

Quoting official figures for renovation of various stadia, he said that for the Indira Gandhi stadium the amount stood at `669 crore and for the shooting range at `149 crore. On the other hand, the Lal Bahadur stadium in Hyderabad was modernised for `80 crore and the state-of-art stadium in Nagpur was built at `84 crore. “Building a new stadium cost just ` 80 crore and renovating the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium `961 crore,” Mr Yechury said. The renovation of all stadia cost `4459. 48 crore, he said.

The CPM leader, who headed the parliamentary standing committee which submitted a report on the preparedness for the Commonwealth Games last year, said the panel had cautioned about the state of affairs. “We found that none of the targets had been fulfilled. We had said that the pace at which things were moving not more than 40% of the flats would be ready,” he said. Alleging absence of adequate labour laws, he said over 70 workers had lost their lives in the construction process for the games.

Congress distances itself from Kalmadi

An embarrassed Congress distanced itself from Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, even as allegations of massive corruption — and even diversion of funds — rocked Parliament on Tuesday.

However, the party described Union Minister for Urban Development S. Jaipal Reddy, Union Minister for Sports M.S. Gill and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as people of integrity.

Even though Mr. Kalmadi, the Lok Sabha member from Pune, is in the Congress, party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed stressed, “Suresh Kalmadi is there not as a Congress representative but as the president of the Indian Olympic Association.”

Law to take its course

Acknowledging the serious charges against the CWG Organising Committee, Mr. Ahmed said, “As Chairman of the committee, he [Mr. Kalmadi] will reply to the charges. If there have been irregularities, the law will take its own course. The country wants an answer to the charges. We, too, are going through media reports about complaints in the management of the Games.”

However, when asked to comment on the roles of Mr. Reddy and Mr. Gill, he said their “integrity” was beyond doubt, while Ms. Dikshit was of “impeccable integrity.” Pressed to answer whether he could give a similar clean chit to Mr. Kalmadi, he said: “Who am I to give a clean chit to Kalmadi?”

‘Party image not hit'

The Congress spokesperson, however, rejected the idea that the Congress' image had taken a beating as the CWG Organising Committee had members from other political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party. On allegations that materials for the CWG were being purchased at exorbitant rates, Mr. Ahmed said, “The price you mentioned seems unrealistic, but it is for the Organising Committee to explain these things.” While stressing that the CWG should not be obstructed in any way as that would damage India's standing, he said that if the spate of allegations were proved the guilty would not be allowed to go scot-free. “Let us wait for some time. There will be an inquiry by some agency,” he said.

However, on the issue of diversion of funds from the Scheduled Castes Special Component Plan for the Games, there were divergent views in the party.

Mr. Ahmed was ambivalent, saying, “I don't have the details, but if it is true, it is very surprising that funds earmarked for weaker sections have gone for organising the Games.”

Contractors threaten to stop Games work

After being on a tool-down strike since July 21 for non-payment of their dues by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the municipal contractors are now threatening to stop work on Commonwealth Games-related projects if their dues are not settled by the civic body.

According to Delhi Municipal Contractors' Association president Sunil Vohra, about 1,000 contractors, including about 70 working on Games-related projects, would also be staging a dharna at the MCD headquarters in Town Hall on Wednesday to press their demands and submit a memorandum to Municipal Commissioner K.S. Mehra.

“We had been on strike since July 21 but had kept the Games works outside the purview keeping national interests in mind. While we have not been paid our dues amounting to Rs.650 crore for the past 18 months, many Games contractors have also not got payment for five months. We want to send a message that work on the Games-projects can also be stopped if our dues are not cleared,” added Mr. Vohra.

No paucity of funds

The cash-strapped MCD is struggling to make payments to project contractors as well as give arrears of the Sixth Pay Commission to its employees. However, Mr. Vohra said the civic body had received Rs.2,100 crore from various sources recently and should pay the contractors using those funds.

Calculating the cost of the games

While no one can deny that Mani Shankar Aiyar has a tendency to shoot his mouth off, the second part of his controversial statement on the Commonwealth Games (CWG) is relevant for future decisions. “Basically, I will be very unhappy if the Games are successful because they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and all these.”

It just so happens that Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has bid for 2019 Asian Games. How much is that going to cost? How much will CWG cost? We don’t know and it is an unfair question to ask. After all, we still don’t know how much Asian Games of 1982 cost. Estimates range between Rs 700-1,000 crore.

We don’t know because there are different types of expenditure—roads and transportation, offices and commercial space, hotels, sports infrastructure, housing, communications and other services. Direct expenditure is difficult to pin down and government window-dressing of accounts doesn’t help. For CWG, we are roughly talking about Rs 140 crore for the bid, Rs 2,100 crore as a central budget allocation for 2010-11, Rs 4,000 crore spent by NDMC and MCD, Rs 400 crore for opening and closing ceremonies, Rs 3,400 crore for constructing and renovating stadiums, Rs 175 crore for the organising committee’s (OC) offices, Rs 500 crore for new parking, Rs 350 crore for streets/footpaths, Rs 1,100 crore for the village, Rs 100 crore for coverage and an additional Rs 15,000 crore spent by Delhi on infrastructure. That’s close to Rs 30,000 crore and there are items one hasn’t included. Plus, there will be cost escalations. So we end up spending close to Rs 40,000 crore. If we spent Rs 700 crore in 1982, Rs 40,000 crore is a more realistic figure than the Rs 3,500 crore that floats around. Capital is scarce in developing countries and opportunity costs of capital are high. Costs of developing infrastructure are also high. Also, revenue sources are scarce. Barring Los Angeles in 1984, there is not a single instance of such mega sports events having generated surpluses.

Therefore, these are public resources, even if sponsorships from PSUs masquerade as non-public sources. While there is no longer any point in asking whether we should have spent Rs 40,000 crore on CWG, we should certainly ask whether we can make better use of such money in the future.

The point isn’t so much corruption, bribery and leakage, instances of which may be surfacing now. If...

Rlys to ensure foolproof security during C'wealth Games

The railways is fully geared up to face security challenges during the Commonwealth Games period to be held in New Delhi from October 3 to 14. The railway ministry is said to have given its approval to install close circuit cameras (CCTV) in all premier trains across the country to ensure foolproof security on running trains.

The decision has been taken in view of Commonwealth Games and recent threat perceptions from terrorist outfits.

According to Railway Board sources, the railways would install CCTV in the premier trains like Shatabdi Express and Rajdhani Express originating from New Delhi to different stations across the country. The railways will introduce this system in all superfast trains in future from the security point of view depending on its success. The new system will also help railway security personnel to keep a tab on the activities of terrorists or any suspects, sources said.

According to ECR CPRO Dilip Kumar, the railway ministry has been mulling over the new security project for a long time. Most probably it would be introduced on the Delhi-Agra-Gwalior route first as well as on those routes which are vulnerable from security point of view.

According to a Board official, this project is being introduced on priority basis due to fast approaching Commonwealth Games. The railways has chalked out a comprehensive plan to provide foolproof security to people either visiting Delhi to witness Games or passengers boarding trains from Delhi and other suburban stations during the Games. Besides, a large number of foreigners are expected to visit Delhi during the Games, hence the railways has to beef up its security at stations and on running trains, he said.

According to sources, the railways has decided to manufacture new coaches fitted with secret cameras to maintain a close surveillance on passengers' activities. Besides, it will help keep a tab on the suspects.

Demand to stop diversion of funds for Games

The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) have charged that more than Rs.744 crore has been diverted from the Special Component Plan (Scheduled Castes Sub-Plan) between 2006-07 and 2010-11 for Commonwealth Games-2010 expenses.

Addressing a press conference here on Tuesday, representatives of the two organisations said the Delhi Government had in response to an RTI application dated June 30 confirmed that Rs.744.354 crore had been diverted from SCP funds for the purpose of the Commonwealth Games.

NCDHR senior economist Umesh Babu provided a break-up of these funds diverted through various departments of the Delhi Government, including transport, sports and youth, Delhi Jal Board and urban development. “We need to ask where is the money [for the Games] coming from?” said HLRN associate director Shivani Chaudhry. She added that health and social sector budgets had suffered huge cuts this year. “Money for marginalised population is completely stopped.”

Another issue raised at the conference was lack of “transparency and accountability” of the Commonwealth Games funds. “There is a lack of a single authority monitoring accounts,” said HLRN executive director Miloon Kothari. Ms. Chaudhry pointed out differences in the expenditure figures quoted by different ministries. Mr. Kothari said the Games Organising Committee's claim to recover the money spent on the Games through sponsorships does not hold good since there is no such aid forthcoming. He said it would be “corporate social irresponsibility” to contribute to the Games.

Questioning the social devastation and human rights violations being carried out in the name of the Commonwealth Games, Mr. Kothari called for a “fundamental re-thinking and re-structuring of the Games”. The organisations have demanded, among other things, an order by Delhi Chief Minister to “stop any further diversion of SCP funds towards the Commonwealth Games”, and “an explanation to the nation by the Prime Minister on the exact expenditure of the Commonwealth Games, highlighting the impact on social welfare programme budgets”.

30 crucial hurdles confronting Commonwealth Games organisers

It's now down to the last 60 days. The 'Games train' has left the station. We are terrified of failing before the glare of the world's cameras. Meantime, Delhi is going through what has been labelled as the 'winner's curse'.

Every city that wins an event like the Commonwealth Games talks up its benefits, while talking down the downside. This becomes part of a narrative that is progressively enriched, without critical examination.

If handled right, the prospect of playing host to the world on the occasion of CWG 2010 could surely have ushered in a new era in the history of Indian sport. But with just 60 days to go, Delhi badly needs a miracle to get things back on track.

Despite all the contradictions surrounding the Commonwealth Games, there's little doubt that if staged well, it will make a statement to a sizeable global audience. A failed Games experience, on the other hand, will add teeth to the murmurs that there remains a serious disconnect between India's new-found modernity and the masses of Indians who still inhabit pitiable conditions of existence - a stereotype championed by commentators intrigued by India's growing economic might and political clout.

At its best, Delhi 2010 was to herald the start of a new journey. The event was meant to reorder the city and make it more livable.

With just 60 days to go, however, such a possibility appears remote. It's now about a last-chance dash to finish the stadiums, get infrastructure projects completed, stave off allegations of financial mismanagement and somehow justify the claim of having transformed Delhi into a truly global city.

With the magnitude of unfinished work resulting in daily headlines in the nation's press, the organisers of Delhi 2010 should brace themselves for the most difficult 60 days of their lives.

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

The stadium which was inaugurated amidst much fanfare still looks a construction site. While work inside the stadium is near complete, much remains to be done with regard to landscaping, underground cabling, removal of the huge debris that has piled up, approach roads and the adjoining weightlifting stadium, which has a damaged floor due to leakage.

R K Khanna Tennis Complex

Looks good from inside with some cement and plastering work outstanding. However, from the outside the stadium is a nightmare. Overlays need to get done and the debris that has piled up will take days, if not weeks, to be removed. Unless it is all complete the overlays cannot be taken up in full swing causing the organisers a real headache.

University Rugby Stadium

This is surely one of the most beautiful stadiums in Delhi. However, much of the underground cabling work remains and the rubble is marring the beauty of the site. And, unless proper plans are in place, there's a big chance that this 10,000 seater stadium will turn into a white elephant once the Games are over.

Siri Fort Sports Complex

The venue where badminton sensation Saina Nehwal will lay claim to a gold medal, is a sorry sight. The approach roads are pathetic, the floor is damaged, there are leaks in many places and the boundary wall is far behind schedule. With giant mounds of construction material everywhere, Siri Fort is far from ready.

Thyagraj Complex

This venue is perhaps the best of the lot and is near complete. The accumulated debris needs to be cleared though and some landscaping work remains. However, the work isn't huge and will get done on time with a little more effort.

Indira Gandhi Sports Complex

The Indira Gandhi sports complex, which will play host to three major events, is far from complete. Land-scaping and work on the boundary wall is on and the overlays haven't even started. The floor has been damaged at the velodrome.

Karni Singh Shooting Range

The shooting range was the worst affected after the rains. A grass embankment was washed away and the ceiling badly damaged. Water has leaked through and caused serious damage to the floor. The damage was such that the CISF was forced to send out an SOS to the OC seeking immediate intervention to get repair work underway.

Yamuna Sports Complex

The Yamuna sports complex has also been badly damaged after the recent rains. The maple wood flooring is a sorry sight and the false ceiling has also been badly damaged. Though repair work is underway, the site's condition is a real cause for concern for the archers and paddlers who will compete here.

Another deadline missed

The Delhi Development Authority will not be able to provide nearly 2,000-odd flats for Commonwealth Games delegates as the flats meant to house them are not yet ready. These multi-storey flats are still under construction in pockets D6 and D7 of Vasant Kunj. This is another blow to the government already mired in allegations of large-scale corruption, delay in execution of several Games-related projects and inferior quality of material used in construction.

The flats, which were to be converted into three-star accommodations for tourists, volunteers and delegates, are nowhere close to completion. The flats should have been ideally ready and handed over to Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) by March 2010 for furnishing. But senior DDA engineers now say it will take “at least four to six months” to complete the flats.

While the structures have been raised, the work on interiors seems to have started recently. In most structures, workers are busy laying the tile floorings and fixing tiles in bathrooms and kitchens. Though internal water and sewer lines have been laid, work is still on to connect them with the main lines in the complex. Basic masonry work like plastering is yet to begin both inside the raw flats and outside the structures.

In a letter to the ministry of urban development, the Lieutenant-Governor and the DDA chairman, the engineers have said they cannot get the flats ready in time for the Games.

The DDA engineers recently held a meeting and were of the opinion that it was not possible to complete the construction by August 31, the date by which they have to handover the buildings to the ITDC.

“If we try and complete the work, we will be putting engineering specifications and codes at bay,” said a senior DDA engineer, requesting anonymity.

The reasons, said engineers, are many. “A large volume of construction workers went back to Bihar for the rabi crop harvesting season in April. This was a major setback. The work at that point in time was at a crucial stage,” an engineer said. According to the officials, of about 8,000 construction workers, only 2500 are available.

Also, two contractors left the project midway in July expressing their inability to meet the August deadline, the officials said.

Doping: the bane of Indian athletics before CWG

Indian sportspersons want to win a medal at home in the Commonwealth Games and in chasing their dream, some of them are cutting corners and taking recourse to illegal means. As the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee is busy meeting deadlines and answering allegations of corruption and
diversion of funds, the stakeholders seem to ignore a ticking bomb that may embarrass the country at the mega event to be held from October 3-14.

The issue is of rampant doping by sportspersons that has left India humiliated at the Asian Games, Olympics and World Championships this decade.

There has been a spurt in sportspersons, including power lifters and bodybuilders, caught for doping in the country with a whopping 101 positive cases detected in the first seven months this year.

According to information provided by the Sports Ministry in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the total number of positive cases in 2009 was 76 while it was 66 and 44 in 2008 and 2007 respectively.

Though one reason for such high detection could be the setting up of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NDA) and the increased number of tests being conducted, the high number of positive cases also indicates the rampant doping in the year of Commonwealth and Asian Games because for each positive test there could be many that have gone undetected.

Power shortage at Games looms over ministry

The good news is that there will be no significant power shortfall during the Commonwealth Games 2010. But the bad news is, the government will still fall short of its power target for the October event. Only about 2,500 mw or one-third of the intended power capacity addition target of 7,100 mwenvisaged for this mega event is likely to be met.

And even this watered down target of 2,500 mw is on thin ice and there is a race against time to meet the deadline. As a result, Union power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has stepped on the accelerator to make sure that at least this 2,500 mw power capacity is in place.

“The minister has asked all agencies to work day and night to make sure that there is no further slippage in the schedule of these (2,500 mw) projects,” stated the minutes of the July 13 review meeting (a copy of which is available with the Hindustan Times) by Shinde.

Coming to the ministry’s rescue, a senior official said, “Even amid these slippages, we will ensure that the electricity needs for the Commonwealth Games are met.”

“The targets were set to push power projects in the name of the Commonwealth Games. But you need to look at the good side of it which is that there will be no shortages.”

While state-owned power major NTPC has announced commissioning of the two units of Dadri power projects, which will make 1,000 mw available for Delhi’s mega event, the completion of the Loni sub-station (critical for evacuation of power) is still pending.

Officials said the Delhi Transco Ltd (DTL) has indicated that land for the substation has been finalised but a part of it is under litigation.

“The DTL is aware of the issue for the past three years and not much seems to have been done.”

However, Delhi Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta has assured that he will look into the matter personally and resolve it.

60 days: Too close for comfort

With just 60 days to go, the Commonwealth Games organisers are making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Corruption charges are flying thick and fast, heads are rolling and inquiries are being commissioned. Amid all this, things like stadia preparation, logistic readiness and the like, the core areas in a giant event like the Commonwealth Games, seem to have taken a backseat. But that may not be the case.

Racing against time, the officials are already moving into the venues, whose finishing work leaves a lot to be desired. Nearly 30,000 volunteers in Noida are being trained in various disciplines to assist the Games officials. And equipment worth crores, is arriving in Delhi to be used in the Games.

The organisers have got barely two months to tidy up. And no one knows it better than them. “We have work remaining but we are not delayed as the venue preparations and other works are happening on time,” said Lalit Bhanot, Secretary General, OC. “All aspects (of the Games) will be taken care of as per international standards”.

The athletes will start reaching Delhi from September 24, but the rooms at the Games Village are still not furnished. The practice area at the Village complex is under construction. The DDA’s assurance of meeting the deadline, August end, seems like a tall order.

Tenders for washing machines, blinds and raincoats etc have been floated only recently, while a caterer for the competition venues is yet to be decided.

“The nitty-gritties of conducting the event are yet to be worked out thoroughly,” said a source at the OC. “It is the backroom arrangements that are yet on shaky grounds.”

The shape of things, as they stand, is making even the high and the mighty nervous. On Tuesday, the Cabinet Secretary, the highest executive authority, went to the Games Village and then to the Yamuna Sports Complex in East Delhi to take stock of the situation. Even the PM is concerned about how things will pan out in the coming days.

Sixty days, that is all the time that the organisers have to get their acts together and make India proud.

Streetlighting not under CWG work

In what appears to be an attempt to cover up widespread corruption in the Commonwealth Games projects also highlighted in the recent CVC report the CBI has denied that the streetlighting project regarding which it has registered a case has anything to do with the Games.

MCD, on the other hand, has claimed that the streetlighting work was part of the Games projects that were to be completed before the sporting event in October.

The investigating agency claimed that CVC's complaint on MCD's streetlighting project was received in February this year. After a preliminary inquiry, CBI has claimed, a case was registered on June 16 against five MCD officials and the managing director of a private firm for causing losses to the tune of Rs 3.62 crore to the government. They were booked under cheating, forgery, impersonation, criminal conspiracy and prevention of corruption.

According to CBI, it was alleged that in response to Expression of Interest, work was issued to M/s Sweka Engineering Works Pvt Ltd. The accused officials DK Sugan, OP Mahla, both superintending engineers; Pradeep Rawat, Rajiv V, both accountants; Gurcharan Singh, clerk; and Bharat Singh, an assistant engineer of MCD, the firm's managing director, and others allegedly tampered the company documents to get the contract.

A CBI spokesperson said, "We have not registered any case regarding a Games project.'' However, an MCD official claimed the work was related to the Games and no action has been taken against the five officials.

The firm's MD, TP Singh, allegedly got the job with the help of the accused officials after quoting the lowest amount for the project. The agency carried out searches and claimed to have seized several documents related to the project.

LG facilitates road widening

Delhi lieutenant governor's office has issued a series of directions to civic agencies and other utilities so that NHAI can expedite the widening of M G Road from Andheria More to Gurgaon border ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

At a meeting held at LG office on Monday, BSES and MTNL were asked to complete the shifting of utilities by August 15. Agencies have informed that they have completed 90% work. Sources said that in response to NHAI's request to get enough space for the widening work, the LG also directed Delhi Traffic Police to make one lane on the stretch available for carrying out work.

"Traffic cops have been asked to prepare a diversion plan and make road-users aware of it well in advance. Similarly, DMRC has been directed to restore road stretches where certain portions have been damaged due to ongoing construction of foot-overbridges,'' said a senior government official.

He added that the forest department has given permission for felling trees for road widening. "Though MCD has removed its toll booths at the border, it is yet to remove hoardings and garbage bins on this stretch. This has been declared a National Highway, so hoardings are not permitted,'' said an official.

The 6-laning of this stretch of M G Road is scheduled to be completed by September.

Kalmadi not in Games organising committee as Congressman

Delinking itself from Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi, the Congress Tuesday said the party MP was not working in the organising body as its representative.

"He (Kalmadi) is not representative of the Congress (in the organising committee) but is there as president of IOA (Indian Olympic Association). Many other leaders are also there including those from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said here.

Asked about the allegations of excess expenditure and corruption in the games projects, Ahmed said the party had also been watching media reports about complaints in the management of games and "it is for the managing committee to explain".

On the diversion of funds for the Commonwealth Games, Ahmed said the party was "very surprised".

He said Sports Minister M.S. Gill, Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit were leaders of "impeccable integrity" and recalled Dikshit's statement that her government should be judged after the games.

Asked about some games projects being under the scanner of the Central Vigilance Commission, he said that the law will take its own course.

Ahmed said that allegations against the organising committee were not levelled at any individual.

Asked why he was not defending Kalmadi when he had defended party ministers, Ahmed said he knew his ministers as a partyman but he was not involved in the organisation of the games.

Both the BJP and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Tuesday alleged corruption in the preparations for the games.

"There are reports of corruption in tendering process, about heavy advances having been given and non-fulfilment of tender conditions," senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde said, adding that the government had not taken any steps yet to act on the complaints of corruption.

"Action should be taken against those responsible for corruption, he said.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said that upgradation of stadiums for the Commonwealth games had cost far more than the improvements done in stadiums in various parts of the country.

The issue of diversion of funds meant for Dalits to Games projects was raised Tuesday in both houses of parliament by the Bahujan Samaj Party and opposition members.

Scandal Adds to New Delhi’s Woes

The dire buildup to the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi has deteriorated further, with the organizing committee urged to fire two senior officials amid a brewing corruption scandal just two months before the opening ceremony.

The Games’ organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi had already ordered an emergency executive board meeting for this week when local media reported he’d been asked by India’s Sports Ministry to remove his director general T.S. Darbari and deputy director general Sanjay Mohindroo.

In a letter to Kalmadi, Sports Secretary Sindhushree Khullar asked Kalmadi to take action after the names of the two high-ranking organizing committee members figured in the investigations into “alleged irregularities” related to the Queen’s Baton Relay in London, the Press Trust of India reported Tuesday.

“Matters such as the UK payments and alleged customs inquiry against Darbari raise questions of probity and integrity,” Khullar wrote in the letter published by the PTI on Sunday . “They tarnish the image of the Games and adversely affect its credibility.”

The organizers have been under pressure for more than a year since it became apparent that delays in construction meant none of the venues would be finished before deadline.

With infrastructure projects around the city also well behind schedule, the Indian capital is involved in a race against time to be ready to host the Oct. 3-14 Games — the biggest sporting event in India since the 1982 Asian Games.

India’s Central Vigilance Commission has issued a report highlighting concerns regarding building practices and potential problems surrounding the certifying of the work.

PTI reported that the sports ministry had asked for Darbari’s removal from the organizing committee’s revenue and marketing units in February due to a customs matter, but Kalmadi had rejected the request.

On Saturday, Kalmadi faced a news conference to reject allegations of wrongdoing in the organizing committee’s payments to a small London-based company for services including car hire, portable toilets and road barriers during the launch of the torch relay in London last October.

“I am deeply pained by totally unfounded and baseless allegations,” Kalmadi said, adding that he planned to start defamation action against a television station over the accusations.

Kalmadi has reportedly called an emergency meeting for Thursday to discuss the corruption allegations at the behest of leading officials, including Indian Olympic Association secretary general Randhir Singh, who described the situation as “grave.”

The Commonwealth Games Federation has asked for clarification following the release of the negative report by the Indian government’s anticorruption watchdog and signs that some venues are already showing signs of construction faults.

“Certainly it is of concern and if there are immediate works that need to be done … they must do it in the next 60 days,” CGF chief executive Mike Hooper was quoted as saying.

But he stressed that the organizers should be “concentrating on delivering the Games.”

He later told Australian media that there were no contingency plans if a games venue was deemed unsafe.

“The answer is no at this stage,” Hooper told the Australian Associated Press. “I don’t want to pre-empt whatever report we may get because that’s speculation we don’t need.”

BSP walks out over Dalit funds for Games

Alleging that funds meant for Scheduled Castes had been diverted by the Delhi government to the Commonwealth Games, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MPs Tuesday walked out of the Lok Sabha.

Soon after the house re-assembled at 11.40 a.m. following an adjournment, the BSP MPs created an uproar.

BSP's leader in Lok Sabha, Dara Singh Chauhan, alleged that Rs.750 crore meant for the welfare of Dalits had been diverted by the Delhi government for the October Games.

"There is a loot of money in the name of the Commonwealth Games," Chauhan thundered and demanded a discussion.

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav supported the BSP and said the house should discuss the issue.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the allegations were based on media reports, which he said were baseless. "No fund has been diverted," Bansal said.

However, the BSP MPs continued their protest and stuck to their demand for a discussion Tuesday.

Speaker Meira Kumar said the issue could not be discussed Tuesday as there would be a discussion on price rise.

Protesting the ruling, Chauhan led the BSP MPs and walked out of the Lok Sabha.

CWG corruption: CBI files case against MCD officials

The CBI has registered a case against some MCD officials and a private firm for alleged irregularities in a street lighting project undertaken by the municipal body ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

Official sources said the case was registered about three weeks back under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act among others.

The CBI move comes after the Central Vigilance Commission wrote to the agency to register a corruption case against some MCD officials in connection with irregularities in a tender issued for a Commonwealth Games project worth several crores.

CBI sources said while the project for upgrading streetlights along 105 km of city roads was not exclusively meant for the Commonwealth Games, it was to be completed by the beginning of the sporting extravaganza.

The sources alleged that the contractor (private firm) who had got the job after quoting the lowest amount for the project was later allowed to change the figures to earn more profit. This was done after manipulating the tender documents, they said.

However, the exact amount of total profits made by the contractor could not be ascertained but officials believe it may run up to several crore.

The CVC has found serious discrepancies like award of works at higher rates to bidders, poor quality of construction and grant of work to ineligible agencies in different Games-related construction works being carried out by various departments in the capital.

As per the assessment report prepared by CVC's Chief Technical Examination Wing, large-scale procedural violations, including corruption, have been noticed in 16 projects.

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