Friday, August 13, 2010

Merchandising company Premier Brand pulls out of CWG

Cornered by one controversy after another, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) was dealt another blow on Friday after Games merchandising company Premier Brands pulled out. “We have decided to withdraw as the project has got delayed too much,” said Suresh Kumar, chairman of Premium Brands, leading sports merchandising firm in India. “I will never come forward for any event organised by the Indian Olympic Association,” he said.

HT had first reported (August 10) that the official merchandising and licensing partner of the Delhi Games, Premium Brands, had been threatening to withdraw as the delay in launching the merchandise was causing it huge losses every day.

Kumar said his company got an acceptance letter on May 19 but the contract only after July, after asking for it many times.

“The first lot of merchandise worth R3 crore has been ready for more than a month and is lying in the store room of the OC headquarters,” he said.

He said the merchandise would have yielded R100 crore if launched on time, when the Queen’s Baton Relay entered India on June 24. -“We have already lost out on 80 per cent business,” he said.

Kumar said if the merchandise is launched now, the company will not be able to even earn back its investment. OC spokesman Lalit Bhanot couldn’t be contacted for comments despite repeated attempts.

Apart from the financial loss, the Games will also lose out on the buzz factor. The OC has copyrighted around 50 design elements unique to ‘Games 2010’. The designs have been used of several items, like scarves, coffee  mugs, umbrellas, laptop covers, t-shirts, ties, key-chains, packaging papers, posters, visors and others to build awareness and excitement around the Games.

The project included various initiatives like having a website for merchandising products, opening outlets across the Games venues and stores across shopping malls, 400 schools in NCR, metro stations and the airport. The OC was expecting to earn Rs. 50 crore from merchandising.

CWG supervisory panel soon?

At a time when there are reports of fresh scams every day ahead of the Commonwealth Games the congress core group discussed the issue of forming a new supervisory committee to for the CWG games, say sources.

The core group meeting was held on Friday and attended by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

As per the sources, in the meeting, the core group may have decided to continue with Suresh Kalmadi as the chief of Organizing Committee for now. Also, the supervisory committee is set to be announced soon to look after the arrangements.

Holding the command of the meeting were Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister. They discussed the raging issue of CWG scam in the meeting. It is also believed that the final decision is left on the Government.

Earlier on Friday, the Cabinet Secretary had conducted a Games meeting with all the ministries concerned.

Delhi will deliver a safe Commonwealth Games, federation says

Athletes should not be apprehensive about security at the Commonwealth Games in October despite concerns raised by Australia, the head of the games organising federation said on Friday.

"Security remains a major concern wherever you host the Games, be it London or Manchester," Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive Mike Hooper told reporters.

"When India bid for the Games, the government gave an undertaking to provide a safe and secure environment if Delhi was picked as host. Seven years since then and there is nothing to suggest that they are backing off from the promise."

Hooper spoke two days after Australian Sports Minister Kate Ellis said athletes' safety was the prime concern for her government.

Australian media also quoted a risk management firm saying Delhi was lagging with security preparations.

Since an attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, Pakistan last year, there has been a high alert over sporting events in the region.

The 2009 Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament was shifted to South A frica at short notice on security grounds because it coincided with general elections following the attack in Pakistan.

Hooper added on Friday: "I honestly believe they would deliver on their promise. This country takes security seriously and they have made a massive investment to make the Games safe and secure.

As many as 105 delegates from 19 countries, including Australia, reviewed preparations in the second International Security Liaison Conference in Delhi on July 28 and 29.

In a subsequent news conference, Special Commissioner of Delhi Police Neeraj Kumar said delegates were convinced over safety.

"It was a successful conference where ideas were exchanged and we benefited from the feedback. We have assured them we are on the job and security will be foolproof."

He ruled out any specific threat to the games.

Concerns over corruption, construction delays and a huge increase in costs have caused national angst over the games, which were intended to showcase India's increasing global clout.

50 days to go: Can the CWG mess be cleared in time?

Five years after the plan to redevelop Connaught Place was finalised, the city's stylish central plaza looks like a war-ravaged zone. And just 50 days remain for the Commonwealth Games. Can this collosal mess be cleared in time?

That's today the Rs 450-crore question - the amount that is being spent, ostensibly for the city's beautification before the Games but which now threatens to become a huge embarrassment for the city, indeed, for India. Who is responsible for this? Not Suresh Kalmadi, in this instance, but NDMC and its parent ministry, the urban development ministry.

New stretches are being dug up in CP and old ones hurriedly filled up. Consider this: work on the three new subways that was begun has been stopped midway and the pits are being covered up only to be reopened after the event. There are pipes, cables and mounds of earth strewn all over, walkways are still being built, and the middle circle is a cavernous pit in many places.

The man who has the answers to questions like why NDMC sat on the plan for four years and started work on a project 19 months before the Games when by its own admission it should take 18-24 months - NDMC chairmanParimal Rai - appears to have gone under the radar. Despite repeated attempts by TOI throughout the day he would not respond to any of our queries.

Still, the questions demand an answer. When it took a full one year to complete the "model" C Block of CP, how did NDMC think it could fix all of CP in just 19 months? NDMC spokesman Anand Tiwari parroted stock excuses - how difficult it is to do work on a "live" street, how the subways could not be readied in time as there was a drainage junction that was discovered in the course of digging, etc.

Well, that it was a "live" street wasn't a state secret before the work was started, nor would a drainage problem have been a mystery if sewerage maps had been consulted. So, what was the tearing hurry to start the work and present the city and the nation with a humungous mess? Couldn't work wait till the Games were over?

This was Tiwari's brave answer: "We could not have waited till after the Games to start work because the two-year contract (with the contractor) is due to expire in June 2011. How could we keep all work for the last six months? And work had to be started because a lot of CP was crumbling. Would you want tourists to see a crumbling CP?"

But would we want them to see a ploughed-up CP? No chance, he assures. CP will be ready by August 31 "plus minus a few days here and there." TOI finds the claims very, very difficult to believe, although it would be the happiest if it were to be proved wrong.

As the skeleton strength of shoppers negotiate mounds of earth and balance themselves on makeshift "bridges" to get from one side to the other, it is indeed difficult to believe the assurances. Specially when of the 16 blocks where work is on, only seven have been completed so far. Only six parking lots outside of the blocks are ready and work on the middle circle road is on.

And what about the extra cost of the go-stop-go pace of work, like with the subways? "It's nominal compared to the scale of the work," Tiwari offers. But he did not give the cost escalation figure, choosing to give instead the total cost of the subway project - Rs 60 crore.

The money is big indeed. The sum allocated is Rs 450 crore, but the entire project cost is estimated to go up to a stunning Rs 860 crore, to be spent over a three-year period. Critics say that the whole project smacks of a contractor-government agency nexus, although there is no evidence yet to prove it.
Tiwari says: "Work began in 2009, as getting permission from government bodies took time. There will be a visible change in CP by August 31. Everything will be in place as far as public convenience is concerned."

Despite having initial plans of constructing eight subways, NDMC got permission to start work on only three of the subways. The three subways - two at Punchkuian Road and another at BKS Marg - have been covered with loose earth and a road will be made over it. The entry and exit points of the subway will be blocked only temporarily and work on the subways will resume after Games. In fact, the road along Punchkuian road will have to be dug up again as the work of creating retaining wall has not been completed.

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, digging will have to be carried out at Punchkuian Road again on the sides again." The openings made for installing escalators at the existing five subways too have been closed.

Organising panel to market CWG sponsorship deals

Sponsorship deals for the Delhi Commonwealth Games will now be marketed by the organising committee, a senior official said, even as Australian firm Sports Marketing and Management (SMAM) accused the committee of wrongfully terminating its services.

“We are not looking to hire any other agency for sponsorships and plan to get future sponsorships through our in-house team,” Lalit Bhanot, secretary general of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (CGOC), told ET.
The committee has a small team of about eight people that will now take up the mammoth task of achieving sponsorship targets for the Games, starting October 3.

It had sacked SMAM for failing to bring $122 million (about `570 crore) in sponsorships by June 30.
But the Australian sports marketing firm has refuted the charge of non-performance, saying that it has raised sponsorships worth more than `400 crore.

In a statement, it said that the organising committee “wrongfully, viciously, abruptly and publicly terminated” the contract.

The company also said that it believes the organising committee terminated its services because it does not intend to honour its financial commitments to SMAM.

It said SMAM has been solely funding its services, personnel and related costs since 2007. “SMAM is legitimately entitled to immediate settlement of all its outstanding invoices, besides its right to further payments and damages,” it said. The organising committee, meanwhile, is still hopeful of roping in its target of 48 sponsors, each paying between `25 crore and `100 crore. So far, it has signed only 11 sponsors including Hero Honda, Coca-Cola, Reebok, Tissot, Agility Logistics, Amity University, Tata Motors, Indian Railways, Air India, Central Bank of India and NTPC.

Estimates panel shocked at stadia expenses

Congress may have defended the government’s preparations for the Commonwealth Games but concerns about financial impropriety are far from allayed.

In meetings of public estimates committee of Parliament, members have raised questions about the astronomical cost escalation for the renovation of stadia and other sporting venues.

Unlike debates and discussions in the House, concerns raised in the committee have been non-partisan. Sources said that members across parties sought explanations from sports ministry officials on why renovation costs exceeded anywhere between double to thirteen times budget estimates. Those who were in the forefront of the attack on the CPWD and sports ministry included Congress and Akali Dal members on the estimates panel.

The renovation work at the Karni Singh Shooting Range in Tughlaqabad included setting up automatic electronic scoring target systems as required by the International Shooting Sport Federation. The target budget for the renovation was fixed at Rs 13 crore. However, the final bill is Rs 169 crore, 13 times more than the budget. It is not just the shooting range that appears to have seen such overshooting of the budget. The cost of renovating the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was pegged at Rs 300 crore and the final cost is now expected to be more than three times over that amount at Rs 961 crore.

Sources said sports ministry officials who were deposing before the committee explained that the increased cost was on account of rise in prices of raw materials such as steel and cement. This explanation don’t appear to have convinced members.

Unconvinced by the short hand explanation, some members are understood to have made comparisons with the costs of the three stadia, including the Thayagraj and Chhattrasal, being renovated by the Delhi government. Members argued that rising costs of raw materials would be as much a factor for the sports ministry facilities as it would be for the stadia under the Delhi government. However, the Delhi government has completed renovating all three stadia at less than the budget estimate. Renovation of two of the stadia has been completed at 50 per cent of budget, the third has been completed at 70% estimated cost.

The parliamentary committee is concerned that the increased costs is hiding gross corruption and financial malpractice. No new structure has been built for the Games, and the only work that has been undertaken has been renovation. Sports ministry officials have been asked to provide an explanation on the cost escalation of each of the sporting facilities.

Meanwhile, BJP has decided to move a motion for suspension of question hour in both Houses on Monday and demand an explanation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the financial improprieties that have come to light, the delays and lack of preparedness for the Commonwealth Games.

Two BJP leaders— Ramesh Bidhuri and R P Singh— also filed a police complaint alleging corruption in organising the Commonwealth Games. They said the fraud was “an economic genocide of country’s wealth”, while lodging an FIR at the Parliament Street Police Station against the Games organizing committee as “taxpaying” citizens.

PIL seeks Kalmadi’s removal

Retired IAS officer Arun Bhatia and 10 other citizens of Pune filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court today, seeking immediate removal of Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi as chairman of the organising committee of the Commonwealth Games. They have also demanded replacement of the committee with a new one to be appointed by the apex court.

Besides Bhatia, the petitioners include Abhijit Tumne, Warje, Indra Bhatnagar, Parade Ground Road, Sachin Pethkar, Paud Road, Akash Jain, Pimple Saudagar, Narender Chugh, Pimpri Colony, Aarti Thacker, Eden Garden, Group Capt D Parulkar (retd), Varsha Park, Major RS Bhatnagar (retd), Parade Ground, Nikhil Joshi, Rajendra Nagar and Akhilesh Yadav, Wakad.

The petitioners have pleaded that a physical audit by an independent agency of the work should commence immediately. “Work measurement and checking compliance to contracted specifications should be done by private engineers and not by those in government employment or retired. This is separate from the voucher audit done by the auditor-general,” they said. The petitioners demanded that records pertaining to tenders, work measurements and expenses about Rs 1 lakh be sealed and placed in safe custody.

The PIL said the scale of corruption, the status of those indicted and their political linkages call for the intervention of the highest judicial body of the land. “In the absence of urgent specific directions by the court to remove Kalmadi from the post of chairman of the committee, not only will investigation be compromised, but India will advertise to the world the invincibility of the corrupt public functionaries,” it said.

They argued that there was no time or rationality in petitioning and pleading with a government to remove its trusted lieutenant before approaching the judiciary. The petitioners and the people of this country have no option, but to knock at the Supreme Court door.

The petitioners pointed out that corruption pertains to lack of transparency in calling tenders, violation of basic tender procedure, established firms not being allowed to bid even after expression of interest on their part, contracts for payment of commission of firms for services in obtaining funds even when the funding came from public sector units and so on. “The physical audit done by Central Vigilance Commissioner showed work was below specifications. Cement strength, for example, failed to meet the prescribed standards. The physical audit is far more effective in such cases than the voucher audit done by the auditor general. Both are necessary,” said the PIL. The petitioners said the contention of Kalmadi that he was innocent because he has no financial powers was quite irrelevant. “What has to be seen is the actual process he set up in the office regarding obtaining and sanctioning of tenders. If he has made notes on files, approved rates and suppliers, it means he is a member of the conspiracy to rob the public treasury,” alleged the PIL.

NTPC may scale down Games sponsorship deal to Rs 20 crore

Country’s largest power producer NTPC is likely to restrict its sponsorship deal for Commonwealth Games to Rs 20 crore, dealing yet another blow to the tainted Games. The organising committee of Commonwealth Games is struggling to tide over the huge funds crunch.

The public sector power major had signed a `50-crore sponsorship deal for the games and has already paid `20 crore. But with the games getting a lot of negative publicity over allegations of corruption and reports that portions of sponsorship money may also be used to pay commission to marketing agencies, the company is having second thoughts about the remaining `30 crore.

“NTPC is a listed entity answerable to its shareholders. We cannot be seen associated with an event that has generated such negativity,” said a senior NTPC official, who did not wish to be identified. NTPC had earlier indicated that it could consider full contribution towards sponsorship if the CWG organising committee gave a written assurance that the payment will be used only for the upliftment of the games.

While the company retains the stand, internally, it has decided to be less visible during the games to prevent its own brand image. “The company board will soon meet to reverse the sponsorship deal for CWG and restrict our contribution to what has already been made,” the official said, adding that internally there was consensus in this regard.

The company has already decided to drop the use of the event logo from all its internal and external communications. It has also sought lesser visibility for the organisation during CWG, except at a few events where India is expected to do well.

NTPC had decided to sponsor the games in December last year when it had entered into an MoU with the organising committee. It had hoped that the `50-crore campaign would help build a strong brand image for the company before an audience that could also be potential business partners for the company. Common wealth countries include Australia, New Zealand, Canada and several other African countries. NTPC has been looking for coal resources and gas deals in some of these countries without any success so far.

NTPC’s hard stance comes as other PSUs such as Power Grid Corporation and the Railways are also thinking of either cutting down the sponsorship money or withdrawing completely.

Some other PSUs, which were earlier planning to link with the games, are now having second thoughts to sign any sponsorship deals.

Suresh Kalmadi stays as chief, but with clipped wings

Short of forcing him to resign as chairman of the organising committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), the government is tightening the noose around Suresh Kalmadi over financial irregularities in the Rs20,000-crore event.

Top officials of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India and several revenue agencies have swooped down on OC offices and are working round-the-clock to scrutinise every file.

The CWG finance committee headed by the Union finance ministry’s expenditure secretary is looking into all contracts and payments. A committee headed by cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar is keeping the prime minister(PM) posted on the developments.

Since the Games are barely six weeks away, the Congress high command is disinclined to change the chairman of the OC. The core committee of the party met on Friday, but took no decision on the issue. Rather, by leaving the issue with sports minister MS Gill, the party virtually washed its hands off the issue. In a way, it is up to the PM.

Urban development minister S Jaipal Reddy, who is the chairman of the group of ministers (GoM) on the CWG, has advised the PM that no useful purpose will be served by removing Kalmadi. He is also opposed to creating an oversight committee propounded by some Congress leaders, saying this should have been done long ago, not now.

He blamed the very structure of sports federations in the country and said far-reaching reforms are necessary. Reddy told DNA the GoM is not an empowered group of ministers.

The Congress has decided against putting Kalmadi in the dock because it doesn’t want to give ammunition to the opposition.
Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said in Bhopal that there is no need for Kalmadi to resign as “no case has been filed either by the CBI or the CVC against him”.

Kalmadi was elusive throughout the day, except for making a cryptic remark to a TV channel: “I am not hiding, I am doing my work.” In reality, he was being grilled by sports ministry and finance panel officials.

We are proud of Games Village

Amid all the cynicism surrounding it, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) is proud of the Games Village and believes that it will serve as a “home away from home” for the athletes and officials.

The OC claims that every care is being taken to provide maximum comfort to the athletes at the Village, situated adjacent to the spectacular Akshardham Temple on the Yamuna banks. “Everything a person needs will be found within the premises – from luxurious sleeping to basic needs like a toothbrush or a shaving kit,” says Games Village Additional Director-General Ashok Kapur.

Nearly 8,000 athletes and officials are expected to stay in the Games Village, which has 34 residential towers comprising 1,168 AC apartments, from mid-September to the end of the mega event. The main dining hall, with a seating capacity for 2,300, has the facilities to serve around 22,000 meals daily. “The comprehensive menu will contain dishes from all the six zones of the Commonwealth. At the same time, the menu will be designed to meet the cultural, religious and nutritional needs of the athletes,” says Games Village Director Maneck Kotwal.

Mr. Kotwal says that about 97 per cent of the Games Village is ready from the estate point of view. “Twelve of the 34 towers have already been furnished, with only minor fittings to be sorted out,” he says, adding that all the towers would be ready by August-end.

Facilities like prayer rooms, a polyclinic, retail shops, a bank, a post office, a general store, a hair saloon and a tour and travel office will be in place to meet the day-to-day needs of the athletes.

The OC claims that for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Games a training area has been included within the confines of the Village. The Village will also offer a taste of the country's cultural heritage. Several cultural programmes have been scheduled to showcase Indian music and dance, while interactive live craft demonstrations by artisans and handicraft stores will promote Indian folk art and traditions. The Village will get top priority as far as its security is concerned. Delhi Police and the NSG commandos will be responsible for securing the place. A team of 88 paid staff and 460 volunteers will look after its planning and operations .

Rs 2,000 fine for driving on Games lane

The government will invoke special provisions in the law in a bid to ensure that no vehicle encroaches into lanes earmarked for the exclusive use of athletes and delegates during the Commonwealth Games. Those caught driving in the Games lane will have to cough up a fine of Rs 2,000 and could have their vehicles impounded.

The prosecution will be carried out under section 115 of the Motor Vehicles Act, which pertains to the "power to restrict the use of vehicles". The law provides that the state government or an agency authorised by it can prohibit or restrict the movement of vehicles on a specified area or road. The section invites a penalty of Rs 2,000, which is substantially higher than what the police would otherwise charge for lane violation (a fine of Rs 100).

The move follows concern in the government that other vehicles would drive into the dedicated Games lanes being created on numerous stretches, especially on roads that are narrow.

The cops, however, don't have the powers to prosecute under the special provision and require a go-ahead from the state government. "We have written to the transport commissioner to invoke the special provision so that we can prosecute vehicles for violating the Games lane. It was felt that the normal fine would not be deterrent enough," said Ajay Chadha, Special Commissioner of Police (traffic).

Sources in the transport department revealed that the request will be acceded to and the provision will be in force before the Commonwealth Games in October. With key projects like Intelligent Traffic Signals (ITS) not coming up before the Games now, traffic management is a major cause for worry for the cops. It's felt that major roads such as Sardar Patel Marg and Kamal Attaturk Marg, which even on normal days are choc-a-blok with traffic, would turn into major bottlenecks during the Games if one of the two lanes is reserved for Games vehicles. "If there is just one lane for all the normal traffic to flow, motorists are bound to flout the rules and stray into the dedicated lane. A heavy penalty is the only deterrent," sources said.

Though the traffic police is planning trial runs for dedicated Games lanes from next week, officials said that there will be no prosecution to begin with. "The idea is to first sensitize people to the new rule and educate them about the lane markings and discipline. In subsequent weeks, the prosecution will start and will be followed very stringently during the Commonwealth Games," said an official.

Merchandising company Premier Brand pulls out of CWG

Engulfed in a spate of corruption scandals, the Commonweath Games organising committee was on Friday dealt another blow with merchandising company Premier Brands pulling out of the mega event.

The official merchandising and licensing partner of the Delhi Games, Premier Brands had been contemplating to withdraw as the delay in starting the process is amounting to huge losses every day.

"We have decided to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games as the project has got delayed too much," chairman of Premier Brands Suresh Kumar said.

"The contract to produce the merchandise was signed on 19th May with a minimum profit guarantee of 15-20 percent, which could have been around seven crores."

"But it got delayed by around three months and if I consider the 15-20 percent profit margin, it will come down to around 3 crore where as I am investing 13 crores. I can't effort to incur such huge loss," he added.

The launch of the project was originally scheduled for 24th June when the Queen's Baton Relay entered India through the Wagah Border.

The project included various initiatives like having a website for merchandising products, opening outlets across the Games venues and stores across shopping malls, metro stations and the airport.

Merchandising is an integral part of big-ticket sports events around the world, and is usually one of the primary techniques to earn back the money that has been invested in infrastructure and the conduct of the event.

Merchandising for the 2008 Beijing Olympics had started as early as three years before the Games.

Even 2012 London Olympics' flagship store and online sales have already started although it is still two years to go.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar on Friday held a meeting with all the ministries concerned with the Games to take stock of the preparations.

Chandrasekhar had been visiting the Games venues for the last few days to oversee the preparations for the 3rd-14th October event.

Bio-toilet, electronic toilet: Delhi civic body's new experiments

The MCD today launched two new eco-friendly toilets built with innovative technologies on an experimental basis and said it may install some such units near the Commonwealth Games venues after examining all aspects.

Mayor Prithvi Raj Sawhney inaugurated a bio-toilet at Nigam Bodh Ghat parking area on Ring Road and an electronic ladies toilet near Kudesia Park in Kashmere Gate.

Both the units have been installed free of cost by two private agencies and the civic body will take a final decision on installing more such toilets after ascertaining the feasibility and other aspects, Sawhney said.

In the bio-toilet, manufactured by CBS Technologies based on technology developed and approved by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the sludge and faecal matter is decomposed in a pit using bacteria to convert them into methane and water, which was discharged in a soak pit outside.

"The toilet is maintenance-free, does not need sewage system. After bacteria recharge, they re-generate on their own and after that recharge may be needed only after six months," MCD Remunerative Cell chief Amiya Chandra said.

Company officials said the technology minimises odour and the water generated can be used for gardening. Already 100 such bio-toilets are in use at various army locations. In these units, sceptic tanks are not required.

Municipal commissioner KS Mehra said such units can be installed in areas where open defecation is rampant. "We will also decide if these toilets can be placed near Games venues," he said. Other officials said the units can be used in slums and JJ (jhuggi-jhopri) Colonies.

The electronic ladies toilet has an automatic payment collection system and the user will have to put a Rs 5 coin into a slot to open the door. There will be pre-flush system and automatic flushing in case the user does not do it.

"The unit is linked to GPRS facility for remote access of its working condition. It will also issue an alert if the user is inside for over 20 minutes, which will help prevent vandalism and ensure safety," a representative of the company Dea Celera Electronic Devices said adding, the technology is supported by Department of Science and Technology.

The mayor said both kinds of toilets have been set up on an experimental basis and MCD will have to decide where to install such units after examining all aspects. "Now these have been installed free-of-cost by the companies. We will take a final decision on replicating the models only after study. We can set them up near Games venues," he said.

He felt that the Rs5 charge for electronic toilets is too much and said it can lowered if required.

Top MCD officials also inspected the use of microbes to treat the water of a nullah in Kudesia Park, which is aimed at doing away with the foul smell.

BJP to move adjournment motion on Commonwealth Games

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Friday said it would move an adjournment motion in both houses of parliament Monday to demand a discussion on the alleged scam in Commonwealth Games deals.

‘We have been consistently raising the issue in both houses (of parliament) for so many days and surprisingly the government is silent on the huge corruption in Commonwealth Games deals,’ BJP leader Gopinath Munde told reporters here.

He said the BJP has decided to move ‘an adjournment motion in both houses Monday seeking suspension of the question hour and a discussion on the issue’.

‘Neither is the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) nor is UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi speaking on the issue,’ Munde said, adding that the government should take a decision and inform parliament about what they are doing.

He said the opposition was not satisfied with the replies of Sports Minister M.S. Gill and Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy.

‘Ask them any detail and they would say they don’t know. They have crossed all the limits. Somebody should take the responsibility. The government is trying to push the issue under the carpet,’ he said.

Kalmadi to stay, cabinet secretary to monitor CWG

With the Congress Core Committee scheduled to meet on Friday evening to discuss the Commonwealth Games (CWG) preparations and the controversies surrounding it, Congress circles indicated that the party was veering round to the view that Organising Committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi should not be immediately replaced.

An All India Congress Committee (AICC) office-bearer told IANS that the "high command was coming to the conclusion that the focus should be on conducting the Games properly rather than changing horses midstream in the light of some media reports".

However, he said better coordination of the preparations and the Games conduct is likely to be ensured by delegating the task to Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar as the nodal official.

"The cabinet secretary is already actively involved. He has been monitoring the preparations and updating the prime minister about the progress in the construction works and other arrangements for the Games," the AICC official added.

What apparently has prompted the Congress high command rethink on Kalmadi is that senior leaders have told party president Sonia Gandhi that there are "political motives behind the corruption campaign against the Organising Committee".

It has also been pointed out that the opposition, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its Delhi unit, wants to "defame the Congress over the issue".

The AICC office-bearer said that the BJP wanted to target several Congress leaders other than Kalmadi through the controversies.

"They want to start with allegations against Kalmadi and extend it to other leaders, including (Delhi Chief Minister) Sheila Dikshit, (Sports Minister) M S Gill and (Urban Development Minister) Jaipal Reddy. We saw it in parliament (during the discussion on the Games preparations)," he said.

"The BJP, which has been defeated in three consecutive assembly polls in Delhi, is desperate. They want to weaken Dikshit and the Congress through the Commonwealth Games controversies," the AICC leader said.

Friday's Congress Core Committee meeting will be attended by Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony and P Chidmabaram and the political secretary to the Congress chief, Ahmed Patel.

Sources told IANS that Patel and other party leaders have briefed Sonia Gandhi in detail on the controversies about the Games that had begun surfacing during the two weeks since July 25 when she and son Rahul Gandhi were away to the US to attend to her ailing mother.

Rahul Gandhi had also been updated on the allegations against Kalmadi and his aides, party sources said. In fact, a section of the Congress leaders wanted Rahul Gandhi to be part of an oversight panel on the Games.

However, Rahul Gandhi's aides have advised him not to take up any official position in the Games Organising Committee, Congress circles told IANS.

back to top