Sunday, August 15, 2010

PM to promise action against corrupt games

After Ms Sonia Gandhi goaded the government leadership to step forward and insulate Congress from attack over corruption in the Commonwealth Games preparations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to promise Parliament firm action against the guilty.

The Congress core committee, which discussed the Commonwealth sleaze at its last meeting, was clear that the government should be seen to be acting against those swindling public funds. The prime minister, who is expected to carry out Congress’ directive, will tell Parliament, probably on Monday, that a thorough probe will be held into the Games deals after its conclusion.

Despite a series of media expose, highlighting corruption in the games preparations, the government leadership had remained a passive observer. Sports minister M S Gill went to the extent of making a ridiculous suggestion that those who have complaints against the Games organisers should use RTI.

Many in Congress feel that much of the embarrassment could have been averted had there been timely intervention by the government leadership. The government also did precious little to ensure coordination among various agencies involved in the Games execution. It also allowed Mr Suresh Kalmadi to have a larger role. “A high-level meeting was held only after Ms Gandhi’s prodding and a decision to set up a high-level panel taken,” said a Congress leader.

On Saturday, the prime minister gave overriding powers to a committee headed by the cabinet secretary to oversee functioning of the Organising Committee. GoM was also empowered to take all necessary decisions for the smooth conduct of the sporting event and refer any matter that may require consideration to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee for a final decision.

On Sunday, the GoM met to discuss the details of the opening ceremony. “Primarily the focus was on delivery of the Games and preparation of the various items required for the opening ceremony,” urban development minister and chairman of GoM S Jaipal Reddy told reporters here.

GoM finalises Rahman’s CWG theme song

The Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Commonwealth Games has finalised Oscar winner A R Rahman’s theme song for the mega event and it will be made public in 10 days, the panel’s head said Sunday.

“GoM has finalized the theme song A R Rahman will give final touches and it will be presented before the people in 10 days,” union Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy told reporters after the two-hour long GoM meeting in Nirman Bhawan.

“The theme song will be the last song of the opening ceremony,” Reddy told a news agency, answering a specific question.

An official of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee said the song would be previewed at 9.45 a.m. Monday.

“The GoM has finalised the theme song. A preview will be held at 9.45 a.m. tomorrow (Monday) at the banquet hall of the Ashoka Hotel,” the official said.

Reddy chaired the meeting of the GoM after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh intervened to take stock of the much-criticised preparations for the Commonwealth Games.

“The Group of Ministers heard a presentation on the theme song by A R Rahman. We discussed the theme song with Shyam Benegal and Bharat Bala, as well as Rahman, and we approved it in principle,” Reddy said.

“The theme song generates excitement and gives the right message. The theme song will be released for the people of India in 10 day’s time,” he added.

Organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi said: “I like the song.”

To a question if there were any concerns about the Games preparations, Reddy said: “No concerns at all.”

“The old deadlines remain, but we must make up for the delay. We did take stock of various matters in the meeting, but we will not go into detail. Yesterday (Saturday), PM gave guidelines and we are absolutely confident about hosting the Games,” Reddy pointed out.

He added that all matters related to the Games were discussed in the meeting. “We are still sticking to all the deadlines. Preparations for the games will be on track,” he said.

The meeting was also attended by Sports Minister M.S. Gill, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and senior officials of the Central Public Works Department, the Delhi Development Authority and the Public Works Department.

The prime minister’s intervention came after unending controversies relating to mega sporting event, beginning in 50 days, caused the Congress leadership to look for more sharp monitoring by the government.

The Congress core group discussed the issue Friday at the prime minister’s official residence and decided that the government should step in a way to ensure no loose ends remain.

Observing that there had been slippages in the time schedules of some of the construction works and deficiencies had also been observed, the prime minister directed the concerned ministries to conduct thorough investigations into all the complaints that have been received of procedural and other irregularities.

The GoM has been empowered to take all decisions necessary for the smooth conduct of the Games and the cabinet will be briefed on the state of preparations on a weekly basis.

Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar has been directed to liaise closely with the GoM to ensure effective coordination among all the authorities concerned.

Games corruption: Sheila talks tough, warns of stern action

Amid allegations of corruption involving Commonwealth Games projects, Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit on Sunday warned that anybody found guilty would face stern action. Under attack for rubbles still piled up across the city in connection with the Games preparations, she apologised to citizens for the "inconvenience".

"Lot of criticism have been there with regard to CWG preparation. If there is corruption we will find out who is responsible and take stern action against them whoever they are -- central government or Delhi government officials or any others...," Dikshit said, after unfurling the tri-colour during the Independence Day Celebrations here. The comments came in the wake of charges of corruption and irregularities in the CWG projects. The Opposition BJP had also alleged that the Delhi government diverted funds meant for welfare of Scheduled Castes to the Games.

"For the last three to four months, Delhiites had suffered due to the construction works undergoing in the city. I apologise to the citizens for this. But if we have to achieve something, then we have to sacrifice..," she said.

The Chief Minister assured that the fortnight-long event from October 3 to 14 will be the finest in the history of the Games despite the controversies surrounding it.

"The event will be finest in the history of the Games. We have to prove that we are not behind anyone. For this the citizens and the government have to work together," she said.

Dikshit has been under attack from various quarters for the delay in completion of key projects worth over Rs 10,000 crore. She had last month set August 31 as deadline for completing all the projects linked to the event.

Various key Games projects, including the Barapullah Nallah elevated road, UP Link road and projects related to street-scaping works, have missed several deadlines and now questions are being raised whether they will be completed before the final deadline of August 31, set by Dikshit.

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