Wednesday, August 4, 2010

India should not have bid for Commonwealth Games: Bhaichung

Indian soccer captain Bhaichung Bhutia Wednesday asserted that the country should not have bid for the Commonwealth Games saying that the existing infrastructure was inadequate for hosting an event of such magnitude.

"I don't think it was a good idea to host the Games at this stage. If you look at the infrastructure we have at present, it will only show we are not ready for it," Bhutia told mediapersons here.

Bhutia attacked the central government for bidding for the Games without making substantial effort to improve the nation's sports infrastructure.

"The focus of the authorities should have been on improving the infrastructure. Youngsters should have been provided more opportunities like being sent abroad fortraining. But instead they decided to bid for the Games," Bhutia said.

Citing examples, Bhutia said the only soccer stadium in Delhi was the Ambedkar stadium. "When we go to Delhi, and need some practice, if the Ambedkar stadium is not available, we have to do without a proper venue.

"Similarly, in Kolkata, there is only one synthetic athletic track at the Salt Lake stadium.

"Even in hockey, there are not many Astroturfs in our country. Even a country like Malaysia is better placed to host the Games," Bhutia said.

At the same time the footballer stressed that every effort should be made now to ensure the Games were a success.

However, he commented that the opening and closing ceremonies should not become Filmfare or IIFA Awards-like events. "We have a rich culture which should be projected before the assembled guests," he added.

Turning to soccer, Bhutia said the Asian Cup 2011 could take Indian football to a new era. "We will get a chance to play World Cup teams like Australia, South Korea and North Korea.

"I think it's the right time to experiment. If the experimentation succeeds, Indian football will gain. Otherwise, we will have to start all over again."

No clean chit or unclean chit' to anybody regarding CWG: Cong

With controversy deepening over alleged corruption in Commonwealth Games projects, Congress  virtually backtracked from its remarks giving a clean chit to two Union Ministers and the Delhi Chief Minister and distancing itself from IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi.

"We have neither given any clean chit nor any unclean chit to anybody. We are neither holding any brief for anybody nor indicting anybody," party spokesperson Manish Tewari said at the AICC briefing.

Tewari's comments were significant as they were at variance with those of his colleague Shakeel Ahmed, who had told the party briefing on Tuesday that the integrity of two Union ministers M S Gill and S Jaipal Reddy, who are looking after Games-related works, is "beyond any doubt" while Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit "is also of very impeccable integrity".

He had also said Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi is not there as a party representative but as the Chairman of the Indian Olympic Association.

"Serious charges have been levelled against the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee....As the Chairman, he will reply to them," Ahmed had said.

Tewari's tone was different.
"We are not making any value judgement...if concerns been have raised, they have to be answered constitutionally and statutorily," he said.

He said that Ahmed might have made those comments responding to questions in a certain context.
Tewari said if any decision has to be taken on the fate of Kalmadi, "it is for the Association to take."

The Congress spokesperson said at this point, everybody should step up their efforts and get the job done to fulfil the country's "international commitment" about holding the Games.

"If at all, a post-mortem on the efficacy of Games, its impact on India's image and its building capacity is to be done, it can be done after the Games," Tewari said when asked to comment on Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's criticism of the Games.

Asked about the Opposition's demands for an independent probe into the matters, Tewari shot back saying, "Is the CAG not independent."
He also said that there is "an inherent and in-built mechanism of investigation in the CAG's functioning" and stressed that the process (of investigation) which is going on should be allowed to continue.

Under-pressure Kalmadi says ready for CAG or judicial probe

Cornered by allegations of corruption in the Commonwealth Games' preparations, under-fire Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi has said he is ready to face any CAG or judicial probe into the financial transactions related to the event.

"I, as Chairman of the Organising Committee, am prepared to face any scrutiny by (Comptroller and Auditor General) CAG or even a judicial probe for all financial transactions being reported by the media. All the people found guilty will be punished and brought to book," Kalmadi said in a statement on Wednesday.

Kalmadi's statement came a day after more allegations of irregularities and the Indian High Commission's e-mails being 'doctored' came to light. The Congress party also distanced itself from the Pune MP.

Kalmadi reiterated that the all transactions were carried out by the full approval of the OC's various finance committee and he did not have any individual say on these matters.

"The financial procedures at the Organising Committee are well laid down and transparent. Any proposal that is prepared by the Functional Area Head first gets vetted by the OC Finance Committee which has two representatives of Government of India, and after that it is referred to Finance Sub-Committee, comprising of three Senior representatives of Government of India," he explained.

"Thereafter, the proposals are submitted to the Executive Board for its final approval. Chairman OC, in his individual capacity, does not have any financial powers," he added.

Kalmadi said, nonetheless, he has taken note of the various reported bunglings.

"60 days are left for the start of XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 to be held in New Delhi and 43 days for Games Village to open when about 8000 athletes and Officials from all continents of the world start arriving to participate in the Games," Kalmadi said.

"During the last week, media has come out with various stories regarding the irregularities in the orders/ procurement etc. of QBR Launch Function at London/Overlays and association of M/S Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM) in obtaining the Sponsorship for the games.

"I have taken a serious note of these reports and appointed a three member committee headed by Mr. Jarnail Singh, the Chief Executive Officer and two members, Mr. G. C. Chaturvedi, Special Director General and Ms. Gurjot Kaur Chief Vigilance Officer of Organising Committee to look into all the details of QBR Launch Function, Overlays and SMAM issues. The Committee has been asked to submit its report by August 5, 2010," the statement read.

The Indian Olympic Association chief was left red-faced on Tuesday when the Ministry of External Affairs said that the e-mails from the Indian High Commission that he made public to justify huge payments to a UK-based firm were 'doctored'.

His back against the wall, Kalmadi has been isolated in the OC as well with some his own colleagues demanding an emergency meeting to discuss allegations of corruption, which have also been highlighted in a Central Vigilance Commission report.

Darbari will go, says Kalmadi, as Ministry checks on 18 complaints

 Under fire for alleged irregularities by officials of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, its chairman Suresh Kalmadi is learnt to have told the government that he would shortly be terminating the contract of OC Joint Director General T S Darbari.

But it transpires that the Sports Ministry advisory to the OC on terminating the services of two top officials is only the latest in a list of complaints — there are allegations of corruption, suspect procurement and irregular appointments — forwarded to the OC.

Kalmadi has also been instructed by the Ministry to get the audit committee of the OC Executive Committee prepare the complete accounts of the “overseas leg” of the Queen’s Baton Relay and submit it for scrutiny.

While the immediate provocation for the ouster of Darbari may be the controversy over the money transfer for services during the Baton Relay, the earlier complaint against him in a case of Kerala Customs — it was first published in The Indian Express — tops the list of 18 alleged corruption and vigilance matters, correspondence for which is maintained in a file in the Sports Ministry.

Some of these 18 complaints have been forwarded to the Ministry by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and some, in turn, have been forwarded to the CVC for further action. Others have been referred to the Government by leaders of Opposition parties and NGOs.

In its “status report” to the Ministry on the complaints, the OC has asked for an extension of deadline until August 10 to furnish replies and explanations in at least five cases.

These complaints specifically deal with the appointment of training agencies, a complaint on appointment of a technology integrator to an “ineligible” firm, procurement of various items at “exorbitant” rates, supply of 3-D Sheras (the CWG mascot), and “excessive” expenditure on the CWG Republic Day tableau — the last is also the subject of a CVC inquiry, an explanation for which was first sought by the Ministry from the OC in March.

Two other complaints — one on “undue favor” shown to Wizcraft (the event management company which bagged the contracts for the CWG opening and closing ceremonies) and the other on alleged irregularities in procurement of surface tracks — have been listed by the OC as “not traceable” in files. Both these complaints are also the subject of correspondence between the Sports Ministry and CVC.

1900 DDA flats for CWG staff still incomplete

Less than 60 days are left to go for the Commonwealth Games 2010, and apart from charges of corruption, the inability to complete housing projects is turning out to be another cause of concern for the government. It is now learnt that nearly 1900 out of 2700 flats, meant to house technical staff of the games, are far from being complete. What's more surprising however is that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which was given the task of constructing those flats seems to have almost given up.

As of now, only 800 flats are ready. And going by current pace of work, the remaining 1900 are likely to remain incomplete. And although the project started as early as March 2008, work picked up pace as late as November 2009. Engineers involved in the project now say that they will not be able to meet the August 31 deadline.

However, when asked the tough question, DDA insists that the project would be able to meet the deadline.

"It's not September 30 yet. How can you say in advance that the work is not complete," says Nand Lall, member, finance, DDA.

An association of DDA engineers has even written a letter to the Urban Development Ministry informing it about the status of the project.

An engineer, on condition of anonymity tells CNN-IBN that engineers working at various sites have expressed their inability to meet the deadline.

"Confidentially, I have asked every engineer whether the project will be complete in the given time. They say it won't be complete," he says.

Another DDA engineer, who was earlier a part of the project, alleges that individual contractors are now being pulled in to complete the work.

"They have cancelled all the previous tenders given to contractors. Now they are releasing fresh work orders worth Rs 20-30 lakh each at four times the actual cost. They are even ready to pay Rs 1.5 lakh for the work that costs Rs 1 lakh only. Still it won't be complete," says the engineer.

Due to security concerns, Delhi Police had suggested that it would be better if the technical staff for the CWG stayed at one place. But possibility of the number of flats being insufficient to house all of the staff members, and the likelihood of they being accommodated somewhere else raises security concerns.

Besides that, arrangements will now have to be made to accommodate 2150 technical staff personnel. It is yet another blow to the government which has been saying that this will be the best ever Commonwealth Games.

Kalmadi aide found guilty, may be axed today

An Indian Olympic Association (IOA) panel, which is probing charges of alleged financial irregularities and extravagant spending in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, may ask Joint Director of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CWG OC) TS Darbari to quit.

The three-member panel is looking into various allegations of irregular financial transactions. One of them is against AM films, a little known UK firm that had provided specific services in London, during the Queen's Baton Relay. It was later alleged that the firm was paid 250,000 pounds without any written contract.

CNN-IBN has learnt that Darbari may be asked to vacate his post during Thursday's executive board meeting. He is considered to be close to IOA president and Chairman of the OC Suresh Kalmadi. Darbari's removal could be ordered once the probe report is out.

Sources say the probe panel is likely to blame Darbari for CWG Queen's Baton Relay irregularities in London. It is also likely to ask for the review of conditions of the contract of the Australian Company SMAM.

Darbari is a key face of the OC, and heads important functional areas like revenue, marketing and merchandise. He came under the scanner six months ago when he was accused of smuggling a diamond ring worth Rs 28 lakh from Dubai. He is also considered to be close to many politicians.

Earlier, the Sports Ministry had written a letter to the IOA asking it to remove two top officials including Darbari. The Ministry had asked Kalmadi to sack Darbari because he was being investigated in a customs duty evasion case.

Pressure mounts on Kalmadi to begin cleansing operation

Rocked by allegations of wide-scale corruption, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) will hold an emergency meeting of its Executive Board in New Delhi on Thursday amid indications that a clean-up process could be started. The three-member panel set up to inquire into allegations of corruption against the of the CWG OC will also submit its report on Thursday. Flashback: 1982 ASIAD no different

The meeting was called by the OC's embattled chairman Suresh Kalmadi following a demand from some of his own influential colleagues, including IOA Secretary General Randhir Singh who said the allegations of financial irregularities were "grave".

With the credibility of the OC taking a severe beating with more and more scandals coming out in the past few days, there is intense pressure on Kalmadi to start the cleansing operation.

Kalmadi, who said that he is ready to face any CAG or judicial probe into all the allegations, will have a lot of answering to do at the Board meeting with many of his colleagues pressing for stern action against those guilty.

A top source in the OC said that some members will press for the immediate ouster of Deputy Director General T S Darbari, whose name has figured in the investigations into alleged irregularities into services provided during the Queen's Baton Relay in London.

The Sports Ministry had also sought Darbari's removal ever since his alleged customs violations were first reported in the newspapers.

Kalmadi was forced to call the meeting after some of his top colleagues said the allegations needed to be discussed immediately.

In a letter to Kalmadi, Randhir, who is also the OC Vice-Chairman, said the meeting should be called immediately considering the gravity of the allegations.

"In pursuance to media reports about financial irregularities alleged in the Queen's Baton Relay at the Buckingham Palace, since the situation is grave, the discussion should be held immediately," Randhir had said in his letter.

Randhir was supported by OC treasurer Anil Khanna and IOA vice-president V K Malhotra, who also wanted an immediate meeting to discuss all the unsavoury developments.

Kalmadi's own image has taken a hit after the Ministry of External Affairs revealed that the e-mail from the Indian High Commission he made public to justify payments to a UK-based company was 'doctored'.

Kalmadi met External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and was confronted with the genuine e-mail from the High Commission in UK which did not mention the name of the company, A M Films, which was given a sum of over Rs three crore for providing services during the Queen's Baton Relay in London.

Under intense pressure from the government, the Organising Committee formed a three-member panel to probe the allegations of irregular financial transactions.

The panel comprises Jarnail Singh (OC Chief Executive Officer), G C Chaturvedi (Special Director General- Finance), and Gurjyot Kaur (Chief Vigilance Officer). The Committee will submit its report by Thursday.

A Cover-up job at Connaught Place (CP)

After brazening it out for days over the Connaught Place makeover — which started so late that no one was in any doubt that it won’t be completed by the time of Commonwealth Games — the NDMC has begun a massive cover-up. The sites for the three new subways under construction are now being covered by tonnes of loose earth. The civic body seems to have finally thrown in the spade.

The NDMC claims that the work on constructing the retaining walls for the subways has been completed though labourers working at these sites insisted that no such work had taken place. The civic body wants to resume work after the Games.

In fact, NDMC spokesperson Anand Tiwari is now saying that construction of these subways was never a part of the Games projects. Why NDMC then decided to take up this work before the Games and turn CP upside down is a question no one is willing to answer. Chairman Parimal Rai refused to talk about the CP mess when approached by this reporter.

NDMC had already dug up the premier commercial centre as part of the ongoing facade restoration work, construction of parking, streetscaping etc. In December last year, it was suddenly seized by this idea of upgrading the five existing subways besides constructing eight new ones. Eventually, work was taken up on only three.

Said an NDMC official: ‘‘The three subways — two at Panchkuian Road and one at BKS Marg — have been covered with earth and a road will be laid over it. Work will be resumed after the Games. It will not cost us anything extra as the tender is valid for one-and-a-half years.’’ The approximate cost of upgrading the subways and constructing new ones was estimated to be Rs 20 crore.

Experts are now apprehensive that filling the subways with loose earth might lead to road cave-ins during the Games but NDMC rules out any such possibility, insisting the work is being done ‘properly’.

Said Tiwari: ‘‘NDMC will take up subway work along the middle carriageway of the Outer Circle after Games with work having been completed at the two ends.’’

However, the president of New Delhi Traders’ Association, Atul Bharghav, told TOI: ‘‘No work was started on the subway opening up near the Panchkuian Road.’’ Plans to construct the fourth subway at Chelmsford Road was abandoned after initial digging.

Meanwhile, NDMC has also closed most of the openings made for installing escalators at the existing five subways. According to the civic body, the five subways — Janpath, Parliament Street, Super Bazar, Baba Kharak Singh Marg and Kasturba Gandhi Marg — will be ready for use by the Games.

‘‘Drainage barrels are coming in the way of the escalator work. We will, however, try to install escalators in two subways,’’ said Tiwari. The main objective of the upgradation work at the existing subways was to install escalators in them. It seems highly unlikely that even one of the five subways will finally have escalators.

Said Bharghav: ‘‘We are just glad that this mess is finally over. At least things can return to normal.’’

Road from Mahipalpur to IGI runs into hurdle

Once upon a time it was a Commonwealth Games project, then the project deadline shifted to 2014-15.

Now, the very feasibility of the Mahipalpur-IGI road widening project is under a cloud thanks to a tussle between Delhi government and the green lobby over the 550-odd trees that will need to be sacrificed for the project.

Long resigned to the fact that the plan which was meant to decongest the alternate route to the international airport will not see the light of the day before the Games, chief secretary Rakesh Mehta has now formed a committee comprising officials of the environment department, DDA, NHAI and environment experts to see whether it is possible to finish the project without cutting the trees or if a third route to the airport may be worked out. Traffic to the airport stands at an estimated 60,000-70,000 vehicles per day and there are projections that this may touch a lakh in some years.

Sources say a meeting presided over by the chief secretary on Wednesday turned stormy after some environment experts present in the meeting put up a passionate appeal against cutting the trees on the ground that the trees were ‘‘hundreds of years old’’ and cutting them would mean irrevocable damage to the environment. With no side ready to concede defeat the only option left for Mehta was to refer the matter to a committee.

Rs 42cr Games gains for Jamia: Practice venue ready

The Rs 42-crore Jamia Sports Complex, which will be used as a practice venue for table tennis and rugby during the Commonwealth Games, was inaugurated by minister for youth affairs and sports Dr M S Gill on Wednesday.

Spread over an area of 2,000 square metres, the complex houses an indoor stadium and has rugby facilities. Gill said after the Games, the complex will be used by students of the university. ‘‘I am happy that in the name of CWG we have given this facility to Jamia. I don’t know how many tourists will come for the Games and how many facilities will be used, but I think it’s worth the money spent as the complex can be used later. The renovated hostel rooms will be in top condition for at least 10 years,’’ said Gill.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by chief minister Sheila Dikshit, former India cricket captain M A K Pataudi, managing director of RITES V K Agarwal, secretary sports, government of India, S Khullar and vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia Najeeb Jung.

Modelled after the rugby stadium of Melbourne CWG, the complex was dug up to 60 centimetres and then filled up with two special layers of sand. The grass was imported from the US.

The earlier multi-purpose hall was refurbished and upgraded to a table tennis and badminton stadium. The renovation included changing the roof and flooring, reinforcing the walls, improving the facade, air-conditioning, lighting and acoustics etc to bring it up to international standards.

There’s also a combined services complex which has been merged with the existing multi-purpose hall. It has facilities such as changing rooms, a fitness centre, venue coordinators’ room, athletes’ waiting lounge, stores for playing equipment, meeting and briefing room, physiotherapy and massage rooms, medical room, cafeteria and ice bath.

Dug up roads, corruption charges and incomplete projects notwithstanding, Dikshit said the CWG infrastructure in the city was the best in the world.

‘‘All the stadiums have been built as per global standards. We have transformed Delhi into a world-class city. After the Games, the city will wear a completely different look. The development which would have otherwise taken half-a-decade has been condensed to just 2010, saving four unnecessary years,’’ said Dikshit.

HC no to PIL that’s Games salvage plea

At a time when most of the construction activities due to the Commonwealth Games are courting controversy, the organisers can heave a sigh of relief.

The Delhi high court on Wednesday refused to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking direction to the Centre to avail assistance from technocrats for timely completion of Commonwealth Games projects.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justice Manmohan dismissed the PIL filed by lawyer Amitabha Sen seeking empanelment of a body of technocrats.‘‘The court cannot interfere in the construction activities related to the Commonwealth Games... It is not in our domain and we decline to interfere in the matter,’’ the bench said.According to Sen, the PIL sought to place before the court various suggestions on how the construction work could be completed in time. He advised to include Delhi Metro Rail Corporation chairman E Sreedharan, the brain behind the engineering marvel Konkan Rail, in the body.

‘‘There are enough Sreedharans in the country. With the games beginning in just 59 days, the country’s prestige is at stake and many projects are far from completion,’’ the petition argued, seeking high court’s intervention to form a panel of technocrats and monitor its work.

Early birds will find trailing venues

Yet another embarrassment seems headed the organising committee’s (OC) way. As per international norms, athletes are expected to start coming to Delhi from the middle of September, and they will presumably expect that the training venues are ready when they arrive.

For the majority of athletes, the training venues will be the most important and oft-visited site after the Commonwealth Games Village. The fact, however, seems to have escaped the authorities. Construction agencies admit that many of the training venues will be ready only by August-end or beginning of September — if these new deadlines are kept — barely days before athletes start arriving.

According to officials in the sports ministry, the pace of work at many training venues is considerably lagging behind. For instance, the complex coming up in the Commonwealth Games Village — dubbed as the practice venue — has been exclusively built on international FOP (field of play) guidelines. Here, athletes will be able to practice for the swimming, athletics, weightlifting and wrestling events. However, the ground reality is rather grim, with the construction still under way.

While the swimming complex is still to be finished, work in the indoor hall, the venue for weightlifting and wrestling, is also limping along. Insiders admit that the earliest by which the venue is expected to be ready is end-August. A senior DDA official said, ‘‘We had changed the contractor mid-way through the construction, in November last year, due to continued delays. That led to further delays.’’ Incidentally, both weightlifting and wrestling events are medal events for India.

The situation is no less grim in Shivaji Stadium, where the FOP hasn’t even been laid yet. It’s a practice venue for hockey, and one of the few venues that was the Delhi government’s responsibility. However, the parking bay here is still a distant dream, with the NDMC having barely started on the facility block that is to come up in the stadium. Sources claim if the venue is finished by August-end, it will be a miracle.

Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has been equally lagging behind in work at its other training venues in Siri Fort and the Yamuna Sports Complex. While the former has facilities for tennis, swimming, badminton and squash, the latter will be the training venue for swimming, gymnastics and hockey. At Siri Fort, both the tennis and swimming training venues are behind schedule while at Yamuna Sports Complex the gymnastics and swimming training facilities are proving to be the obstacle.

Across town, the Saket Sports Complex, training venue for badminton, is in no better shape. Ironically, the training space in Delhi University is also lagging behind — a surprise considering DU’s competition venue was one of the few that was ready on schedule for handover to the OC. Here, the Polo Ground (athletics) as well as the wrestling venue in SRCC are the ones lagging behind.

Officials claimed the reason why training venues have been behind schedule was because the handover of these was more relaxed than the competition venues. OC officials are now counting on not too many sportspersons arriving early.

On cost-cutting drive, OC wants more DTC buses

Having allegedly spent Rs 10 lakh to hire a treadmill, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) is looking for ways to cut cost. And what better way to do so than to cut expenditure on the opening and closing ceremonies.

According to sources, the RFP (request for proposal) for hiring transport providers on a turnkey basis to ferry artistes performing at the opening and closing ceremonies has been shelved. The OC has now asked the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) todo the job.

A senior OC official said, ‘‘Originally, we had decided to hire a transport vendor for providing turnkey solution for transportation of artistes and performers from around Delhi to Jawaharlal Nehru stadium for the rehearsals and also the main events. An RFP had been floated for this in July. But that was later cancelled as we have decided to use DTC to ferry the performers.’’

Sources said the decision was based on various factors, including escalating costs and lack of adequate funds for the job. ‘‘Since DTC will be used to ferry athletes, it was felt that for performers too, the buses of the corporation would be ideal,’’ said the sources. Interestingly, while DTC sources claimed that the corporation would be providing the services on the basis of a financial package, OC officials said financial details were being ‘‘worked out’’.

Earlier, the OC had announced that all those buying tickets to the Commonwealth Games events would be allowed a free ride on the DTC as well as the Metro. However, the financial implications of this announcement are still being sorted out between the DTC, Metro and Delhi government.

The DTC will also be putting into service over 500 buses, which will be used to transport athletes. A DTC spokesperson confirmed that the corporation has agreed to provide buses to the OC to ferry over 7,000 artistes expected to take part in the opening and closing ceremonies. ‘‘A total of 145 buses will be pressed into service to ferry the artistes to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and back.

The routes and other logistics are being worked out,’’ he said.Special arrangements will be made to ensure their security, the DTC spokesperson said. The service will be provided on a payment basis, the spokesperson claimed.

CWG: Only games, no sport

The Holy Lord, a last-minute miraculous falling in place of things, a big stick, generous money flow and the rare coming together of the ‘world famous in India’ babudom will probably scrape us through the Commonwealth Games (CWG). The tragic, ‘unHindi’ movie ending to the tale is that India is unlikely to emerge the undisputed winner even if she successfully manages to wave off the last athlete into the final departing flight of an A-380 from the hopefully still swanky T3 terminal.

But why then would India still be a loser ? The answer will be clear to those who saw the organisation of CWG in the country as the opportunity to start transforming the way India works. CWG presented India the great opportunity to overhaul its urban work processes and the way its big cities live and grow. This was the big takeaway from the Games. More flyovers, stadiums, wider roads and better pavements are the body, not the soul.

By now, we know that many big athletes will be skipping the meet. But then, they were just an excuse to begin with. The idea was to use the event to transform the Capital into a modern, organised city that announces to the world that it is prepared to receive, assimilate and make fruitful use of the influences and investment that a fast-growing country like India will attract. The lessons of Delhi could then have been applied to other big and emerging cities.

The way Delhi has gone about it shows how we have, once more, failed to catch the proverbial bus. Hopelessly-delayed construction projects show how the city has failed to adopt modern project management practices and technology that monitor and ensure timely execution of projects. It is absolutely clear that local bodies will continue to face delays in project execution even in works they undertake after the Games are over. So, did the city become efficient? Certainly not.

This was also a golden opportunity for the Delhi government to reorganise, revitalise and rework its arms — get various urban municipal bodies in sync with each other’s plans and projects.

CWG was the just the perfect excuse to make our municipal bodies self-sustaining, citizen-friendly urban development centres. Without that, post-CWG, one arm of the Delhi government will continue to cut up a new road built by another arm to implement a project local people will find little use of. And, all of them will continue to beg the government for money for salaries even in 2011 and thereafter. Did we create a sustainable, mutually-beneficial municipal ecosystem ? Doesn’t seem so.

The software industry has given the country the image of an efficient, low-cost executioner of hi-tech projects. The Nano, on the other hand, has surprised the world with extraordinary innovation at a low cost. But Delhi has failed to imbibe the spirit. Ballooning Games bill is only indicative of how inefficiently money has been spent on projects with low RoI. Have we ensured that future projects in the city will balance development needs with aesthetics, environment friendliness and with cost? You know the answer.

The callousness towards public safety is an indicator of another task left unaccomplished. Dug-up roads, with pedestrians and traffic jostling for space is indicative of the current municipal mindset. Do we really implement city projects in a way that it doesn’t affect the ecosystem of the rest of the city? Have we institutionalised the process that lets us successfully integrate an existing, living, breathing city with the growth needs of a decade later? I wouldn’t even venture near answering that.

Will illegal constructions stop? Will there be a structured response to labour migration into the city? Can we now swiftly respond to natural and manmade calamities? Can the Capital boast of something as basic as 100%-sanitation toilets? Should the city need these big, expensive jumps every few years or should it be able to stealthily add capacity each year? And, a question no one is really asking: will the CWG imbibe the culture and spirit of sport among young Indians? To be fair, answers are not a resounding no, but, not many are likely say an emphatic yes either.

Finally, if creating physical infrastructure was the sole objective of the games, has Delhi developed enough to easily hold an equally-big global meet? Will some organiser in some part of the world tell thousands of participants and hundreds of thousands of delegates that, hey, let’s hold our meet in Delhi? Let alone that, is Delhi prepared for the next Auto Expo?

Aiyar demands Asiad-like special panel for Commonwealth Games

There is considerable unease in Congress over the government’s failure to intervene despite piling up of evidences pointing to lack of preparations and transparency in organising the Commonwealth Games.

The warning signals from ministers who handled the portfolio were routinely ignored and organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi was given a free run. Rajya Sabha member Mani Shankar Aiyar, who handled the sports ministry in UPA-1, on Wednesday gave vent to his anger and demanded the formation of a high level committee to ensure a “clean and successful” event.

“Let us have a high-level apex committee to which all the agencies including the organising committee will be responsible. We may still get a clean Game and a successful one,” Mr Aiyar told reporters outside Parliament. Mr Aiyar also drew the attention to the way other nations hold similar sporting events.

“The Australian government had set up a high-level committee during the Sydney Olympics. What was done at Sydney Olympics was done by the Indira Gandhi during the Asiad 1982 when a Special Organising Committee was set up with Buta Singh as chairman and the Cabinet passed a resolution through which all the concerned ministers were empowered to give sanctions. Then a back bencher called Rajiv Gandhi who happened to be the son of the prime minister was inducted into that Special Organising Committee. He brought along with him a number of young and dynamic people. Between them they organised the Games where there was no scandal and it was a total success,” he said.

Let the Commonwealth Games & insulated fun begin!

It won’t be just games during the Commonwealth, there will be fun too. The tourism ministry may be just expecting around one lakh tourists at the time but other wings of the government anticipate that they will indulge in heavy-duty extra curricular activities with locals, men, women and gays.

Agencies like the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in collaboration with Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) and Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Task (HLFPPT) believe in keeping things bare.

Taking “Athiti Devo Bavah” to an orgasmic high, they’re gearing up for a whopping five lakh acts of sex to be indulged in daily during the period and for as safely affordable price as Rs 5. However, the activities would be dignified, safe, free from exploitation and respect the base(ic) rights of all parties concerned.

It will all be quite above bed, er..board, not sleazy or shady. MoS tourism Sultan Ahmed told Parliament on Wednesday, in reply to a question on what steps the government planned to “forestall sex-related” tourism at the CWG, that all activities of the sort would be conducted in consonance with the code for “safe & honourable tourism.”

The code the minister earnestly assured the questioning MP was being adopted primarily to encourage “tourism activities.” However the code, which would be “adopted voluntarily” would respect basic rights of tourists and local residents like dignity, safety and freedom from exploitation.

Ironically, that particular questioning MP and former minister, Mani Shankar Aiyar, is known more for shooting from the hip, quite often without a safety net himself. Minister Ahmed also informed him that in view of the Commonwealth Games 2010, a workshop of “all stakeholders” was organised on July 23 to “sensitise them on various aspects of the code.”

Commonwealth Games: Little-known cos given big overlay deals

The controversial and lucrative overlay contracts for the Commonwealth Games were won by obscure Indian entities with little experience handling such large projects.

The overlay deals for temporary infrastructure, totalling more than Rs 600 crore, were awarded to four contractors, three of whom had Indian partners. The fourth, Nussli India, is a unit of a Swiss company.

Among the Indian companies sharing the overlay pie is D Art Furniture Systems, which, in partnership with the UK’s ESG Arena, won deals worth Rs 93 crore. Its website describes D Art as a supplier of furniture but Praveen Bakshi, a director, said the company is now an interior-decorating outfit. Its role in the overlay contract, he said, is to arrange local logistics and Customs clearances.

Mr Bakshi is listed as a director along with Sanjay Malhotra and Taruna Bakshi in documents filed with the Registrar of Companies (RoC). He claimed a turnover of Rs 13-15 crore for D Art in the last financial year.

The organising panel, whose chairman is Congress politician Suresh Kalmadi, has hired overlay items such as treadmills, chairs, refrigerators and umbrellas at abnormally high rates, raising suspicions of corruption in the deals with the Delhi 2010 Games just two months away.

On Wednesday, the panel said it will be buying treadmills, not renting them. Secretary general of the panel, Lalit Bhanot, said at a press conference that the bidding process for procuring equipment was carried out in a transparent manner.

On Monday, this paper first reported that the exercise machine was being hired for Rs 9.75 lakh for just 45 days while a top-end treadmill could be bought for Rs 7 lakh, causing indignation.

An Indian company that is part of the consortium that won the biggest overlay contract is Deepali Design and Exhibits, founded by Vinay Mittal, the nephew of BJP’s ‘tentwallah’ Sudhanshu Mittal. It partnered with Hong Kong’s Pico Global Services for contracts worth Rs 231 crore.

AK Saxena, joint director general for overlay at the organising panel, said the net worth and experience criteria for qualification to bid applied only to Indian companies. “There was a clause that all the foreign firms would have to take on Indian partners,” he added.

Mr Saxena defended some of the freakishly expensive deals saying the items were for the use of professional athletes and could not be compared to household products.

Kiwi Olympic body chief dismisses fears over Delhi Commonwealth Games

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has dismissed fears over whether or not the Commonwealth Games will be held in Delhi in October or not.

Reacting to reports of alleged corruption surrounding the games, as also concerns about security and venue readiness, the New Zealand Herald quoted NZOC secretary general Barry Maister as saying that he was not concerned with all the negative talk.

Maister said the New Zealand Olympic Association still has high hopes about Delhi being a unique and positive experience.

Maister's comments came as the chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee and Indian Olympic Association chief, Suresh Kalmadi, on Tuesday set up a three-member panel to probe the money scam trail to the United Kingdom.

The panel includes Jarnail Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Organising Committee, Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010, G.C. Chaturvedi, Special Director General- Finance, and Gurjyot Kaur, Chief Vigilance Officer of the OC.

The Committee would look into the issue of money being paid to the UK-based AM Car and Van Limited and the Ministry of External Affair's contention about the letters issued by the Indian High Commission in the United Kingdom.

The appointment of the panel came as members of the Rajya Sabha were permitted to have a limited discussion on the diversion of funds from the Commonwealth Games to parties abroad by Deputy Chairman K. Rahman.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader D. Raja called on the central government to step in immediately to take charge of the games management given the controversy surrounding it. He said what should have been the pride of the nation, was becoming a national shame, and a matter of international ridicule.

Prithviraj Chavan said the government is apprised of the controversy surrounding the games preparations, and committed that within a week, it would come back to the house and its members on the issue of the diversion of funds.

Kalmadi meets Krishna, seeks to clarify CWG's stand on UK money scam

Earlier on Tuesday, Kalmadi, who is at the center of an alleged corruption scam linked to the Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi from October 3 to October 14, met External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to clarify the Commonwealth Games stand on the UK money trail.

The controversy emerged over charges that a UK-based firm AM Films is being used as a conduit for siphoning off tens of thousands of pounds that have been sanctioned by the government for the smooth conduct of the games.

While Kalmadi has claimed publicly that the protocol division of the Indian High Commission in London cleared the firm to do business with the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, the high commission and the Ministry of External Affairs have denied giving any such sanction.

The Indian Sports Ministry has asked Kalmadi to remove his close aide T.S. Darbari from the CWG Organising Committee, compounding his problems further.

Darbari is currently the Deputy Department General of the Games panel and has come under the scanner after reports emerged about his association with AM films, a little-known UK firm that was paid lakhs of pounds by the CWG Organising Committee for its "services" during the London leg of the Queen"s Baton relay.

Investigations have revealed that AM Films and its sister concerns are suspect business entities that were paid 2,50,000 pounds without any written contract.

The company had faced liquidation in July 2010. A day after getting the liquidation notice, its director Ashish Patel resigned from his post. The liquidation notice was later withdrawn after the company gave an explanation.

Even its sister organisation, AM Car and Van Hire Company filed for liquidation in July 2010.

AM Films is currently facing a probe by UK Customs and Revenue Department.

Media reports claim that the money trail leading to UK is key proof of the rampant corruption in the Commonwealth Games 2010.

Kalmadi has called a meeting of the Commonwealth Games Executive Board on August 5 to discuss the allegations of corruption on a demand of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

PM asked to intercede to save Commonwealth Games

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been asked to intercede to save the Commonwealth Games to protect the country's honour and prestige before the global community.

The appeal was made to Congress MPs, who attended a sub-committee meeting of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Tuesday, after a series of media disclosures on alleged financial regularities in the construction of venues and purchases of equipment for overlays.

According to a OC source, some members attending the meeting presided over by Independent Rajya Sabha MP Tarlochan Singh, told Congress MPS Rajiv Shukla and Vijay Darda that they should request the prime minister to come to the defence of the OC and appeal for the country to rally around the organisation "for the sake of national honoour and pride".

The members felt that the prime concern now is to see the Games are conducted in a manner befitting the country's status in the 53-member Commonwealth of Nations and if there is any truth in the charges the guilty can always be brought to book once the Games are over.

Another member suggested that the best way to get to the truth is for the government to depute two of its senior officials immediately to check the OC records and come clean on all allegations.

One of the MPs suggested that the OC should form a panel of spokespersons to brief the media on a regular basis to scotch all "rumours and innuendos" circulating as "facts."

A senior government official attached to the OC briefed the committee on the actual tender procedures and the firms hired to supply state-of-the-art equipment. He said all the proposals and tenders were scrutinised and vetted by at least three committees, which all have government nominees on them, before they are cleared by the Executive Board of the OC.

Under-pressure Kalmadi says ready for CAG or judicial probe

Cornered by allegations of corruption in the Commonwealth Games' preparations and isolated within his own party, under-fire Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi on Wednesday said he is ready to face any CAG or judicial probe into the financial transactions related to the event. "I,as Chairman of the Organising Committee, am prepared to face any scrutiny by (Comptroller and Auditor General) CAG or even a judicial probe for all financial transactions being reported by the media. All the people found guilty will be punished and brought to book," Kalmadi said in a statement.

Kalmadi's statement came a day after more allegations of irregularities and the Indian High Commission's e-mails being 'doctored' came to light. The Congress party also distanced itself from Pune MP.

Kalmadi reiterated that the all transactions were carried out by the full approval of the OC's various finance committee and he did not have any individual say on these matters.

"The financial procedures at the Organising Committee are well laid down and transparent. Any proposal that is prepared by the Functional Area Head first gets vetted by the OC Finance Committee which has two representatives of Government of India, and after that it is referred to Finance Sub-Committee, comprising of three Senior representatives of Government of India," he explained.

"Thereafter, the proposals are submitted to the Executive Board for its final approval. Chairman OC, in his individual capacity, does not have any financial powers," he added.

Kalmadi said, nonetheless, he has taken note of the various reported bunglings.

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