Sunday, August 22, 2010

Azad terms CWG project sites as breeding ground for mosquitoes in Delhi

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here on Sunday that the dug up roads and unfinished work at the Commonwealth Games project sites were the breeding ground for mosquitoes and leading to the outbreak of the disease in the capital.

Speaking to the media persons on the sidelines of a function on diabetes
here today, Azad said that the combination of heavy rains that lashed the city this year and the debris created due to the ongoing construction for the upcoming Games was proving to be an ideal one to give rise to water-borne diseases.

"Delhi has been dug up at various places because of the Games (Commonwealth Games). After so many years this time it has rained heavily in the months of July and August because of which there is stagnated water at various places and therefore breeding condition for mosquitoes is easily available. More breeding grounds have given rise to more mosquitoes which will eventually target more people, and that is why people ought to be more careful now," said Azad.

Azad, however, said that managing the mega event's site alone will not solve the issue and measures need to be employed to tackle the spread of the diseases such as Malaria and Dengue.

"To stop the breeding of mosquitoes, whether it is the dengue or malaria ones, just managing the venues of Commonwealth Games will not solve the purpose. We need to manage the entire Delhi and its surrounding regions to counter this outbreak," he added.

With only 42 days left for the Commonwealth Games 2010, many of the venues are yet to get finishing touches and the beautification of the Delhi city is also incomplete.

The dengue menace continues as the capital reported 548 cases of dengue in 2007, 1,312 cases in 2008 and 1,153 cases in 2009.

Dengue is transmitted by the bite of an Aedes mosquito infected with any one of the four dengue viruses. It occurs in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Meanwhile, clarifying on the news of four children dying during an immunisation drive in Lucknow city on Saturday (August 22), Azad said that a team from the Central Health Ministry has been sent to the place to probe the matter.

"State teams had reached the spot yesterday only but our team from Health Ministry, comprising of Deputy Commissioner, the Commissioner overseeing the immunisation and a team of doctors, reached Lucknow today by the first flight this morning. They will reach Mohanlalganj and I hope I will get a report from there by the evening and then we will take action," said Azad.

The four children died after being administered measles vaccines, suspected of being spurious, at a health centre during an immunisation drive conducted by the state administration.

Trial on dedicated Games lane conducted successfully

The trial run of the dedicated Commonwealth Games lane was conducted successfully along the 3-km stretch on Lodhi Road here on Sunday. During the conduct of the Games, a 180-km-stretch across the Capital will function as a dedicated lane to facilitate uninterrupted movement of participants and dignitaries.

The trial on both carriageways of Lodhi Road was carried out from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to familiarise road users with the dedicated lane system. “The trial was conducted smoothly. We did not face much problem as commuters followed the directions properly. Also, it being a Sunday, there was less traffic on the road. Indicators and signages had been put along the stretch for the convenience of road users and extra police personnel were also deployed at the intersections for traffic regulation,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Satyendra Garg.

The extreme right lane along the stretch, demarcated by a yellow line, was out of bounds for the general traffic during the trial. “No lane violation was reported,” said Mr. Garg, expressing satisfaction over the public response. Lane violation presently attracts a challan of Rs.100, but the amount would be scaled up to Rs.2,000 once the new rule is notified. “After notification, violators may also be challaned as per the new rule during the trials,” said Mr. Garg.

During the run-up to the Games, similar trials would be conducted on the other stretches along the roads linking the Games-related venues, including the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The general public would be informed about it well in advance for their convenience.

With the arrival of the athletes and other participants, the dedicated lanes would be declared out of bounds for general traffic from September 20 till the conclusion of the Games-related activities.

An intelligence traffic monitoring system, having a network of sophisticated cameras with specific purposes, would be in place at the Games-related venues to monitor and regulate vehicular movement. To help reduce traffic on the roads, the police have requested the public to use public transport, particularly Delhi Metro, during the Games.

Hockey scores in ticket sale

Defying the myth that it is losing fan base by the day, hockey has emerged as the number one sport as far as the Commonwealth Games (CWG) ticket sale is concerned.
As the first phase of the sale nears its end, Australians have taken the lead among foreign buyers.

“As per our data, hockey is the highest-selling sport, followed by gymnastics, tennis and swimming,” a senior member of the CWG organising committee (OC) told DNA.
“At the international level, Australians are grabbing most tickets, followed by New Zealanders, citizens of a few regions in Europe and the US,” the official said.

Around 8,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries are expected to take part in the Games scheduled between October 3 and 14. CWG will feature 17 sporting events, which will be held at six venue clusters and five standalone venues. The government estimates around 1,00,000 foreigners to visit.

The first phase of ticket sale for the mega sporting event was launched around two-and-a-half months ago on June 4, but allegations of corruption have delayed the merchandise launch.

“A total of 1.7 million tickets would be sold across venues. Since June 4, around 1 lakh tickets have been sold. In National Capital Region alone, there are 30 retail outlets selling tickets,” the OC official said.

Tickets are being sold category-wise and sport-wise. There are separate rates for opening and closing ceremonies — the least priced ticket is worth Rs1,000, while the top ticket is for Rs50,000.

OC has resorted to “controlled selling” of tickets “to give as many people as possible the chance to watch the Games”, the official said.
“There are no deadlines and the sale will continue at the venue box office till the end of the Games. The second phase of selling tickets is expected to start later this week,” he said. In phase-II, retail outlets will be opened in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Pune and Hyderabad.

OC has also kept non-revenue seats.

“There will be 5,75,000 non-revenue seats. OC officials are not getting any passes and there is no concept of VIPs and VVIPs. Only athletes, Games family and media will get passes,” the OC official said.

Ticket-holders will be able to avail free transportation on Delhi Transport Corporation buses and Delhi Metro.

Game on: Vilasrao Deshmukh vs Suresh Kalmadi

Vilasrao Deshmukh’s decision to not allow public sector undertakings to sponsor the Commonwealth Games has been lauded in the state government. The politicians say Kalmadi deserved to be shown his place. In fact, a section within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is loyal to energy and water resources minister Ajit Pawar, is also sending congratulatory notes to Deshmukh.

They recall how Ajit (dada), in the last assembly and Lok Sabha elections, was forced to reconcile with Kalmadi after NCP president Sharad Pawar’s intervention. Though he puts politics aside while explaining his decision — it would be unfair to get PSUs to release funds into the corruption-tainted CWG - Deshmukh’s supporters are quick to point out how he has finally got even with Kalmadi.

A senior leader said, “When Deshmukh was the chief minister of Maharashtra, AICC general secretary Margaret Alva, MPCC chief Prabha Rau and Kalmadi had joined hands to work at cross purposes against Deshmukh.”

Rain dampener on conservation work

Agencies a worried lot as lime plastering on the monuments has been washed away by rains

Incessant rains and the resultant waterlogging have undone a lot of the conservation work on monuments before the Commonwealth Games over the last week.

Even as the Capital received around 200 mm of rain over the last five days, fresh coats of lime plaster on many monuments were washed away.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the State Department of Archaeology, which are sprucing around 60 monuments for the Games, now find themselves in a tight spot. Landscaping work being done around monuments have also received a setback.

Conservationists at the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), who are carrying out the conservation work for the archaeology department, said they had been having a tough time over the last one week. “Lime plastering takes a longer time to set on the surface of monuments, and at least two days of exposure to the sun is required. But with heavy rains lashing the city, we have been finding it difficult to undertake any plastering work,” an INTACH official said.

“Humidity is also high, which has made the setting process difficult. Though work in the interiors of the monuments is still being carried out, plastering work on the exteriors has been hit hard. When rains lash at fresh coats of plaster, they get washed away. Even plastic covers haven’t been of much use,” he added.

However, A G K Menon, Convenor, Delhi Chapter, INTACH, seemed optimistic. “The rains have been playing spoilsport, delaying work on the monuments. However, we expect to finish all the conservation work in time for the Games. We had an August-end deadline for wrapping up work at the sites, but this is most likely to be pushed to the beginning of September now,” he said.

Of the 14 monuments that INTACH has been working on, monuments like Makbara Paik and Phoota Gumbad (inside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium) have turned out to be the worst affected. Some monuments such as an unnamed tomb in Lodhi Gardens had to be repainted thrice over the last few weeks.

The ASI, which has more monuments to work on than the Archaeology department, also expressed similar concerns. Largescale restoration work at sites like Tughlaqabad and Siri Fort were also adversely affected.

Special task force to rein in traffic violators

In order to enforce lane discipline, specially on the dedicated Games lane during the Commonwealth Games, Delhi Traffic Police will deploy 100 specially trained traffic cops pulled in from all districts. These 100 men will be part of a Special Task Force (STF) which was formed on July 8.

Inadequate manpower, absence of technical gadgets and habitual traffic violations by Delhiites prompted Delhi Traffic Police to form the STF.

The STF, which has 20 men at present, has already set an exemplary record in managing traffic and curbing violations on roads at places like BRT corridor, railway stations, market areas among others.

"They are in general traffic police uniforms and are normally patrol on police bikes or vans. But their nature of policing is different," said Ajay Chadha, Special CP (Traffic). "They are merciless to the traffic norm violators and do not settle for less at all," he said.

"The STF has been formed to handle problems that cannot be managed by the general traffic policemen. It was the need of the hour to make enforcement stronger wherever possible. The STF's 20 members presently function on day-to-day assignments. They get special assignments each morning and patrol the assigned areas. But during the Games the STF's strength will be increased by at least four to five times the existing strength. They will patrol the Games lane to enforce lane driving," he said.

"Special powers will be given to them to issue challans to the traffic violators under Motor Vehicle Act 115. Under this special Act, one will have to pay a minimum R2,000 for any kind of traffic norm violation on the dedicated lane. They will also be empowered to impound vehicles," Chadha added.

The latest achievement of the STF is its haul of 116 vehicles from the 7-km stretch of the BRT corridor (Khanpur Depot to Moolchand) on a single day on August 16 and issuing challans of R1,000 each for dangerous driving under Motor Vehicle Act 184, which is normally exercised for commercial and heavy vehicles and also vehicles running at high speed.

"We have seen that issuing challans of R100 for traffic norm violations hardly made any difference. A softer and friendly stand by our men did not bring much relief to the public when it comes to using roads," said a senior officer of Traffic department.

1,700 fans, 1 tender, 0 bidders

Though it's cool outside these days thanks to the incessant rains, the men in uniform who will be on duty protecting the city during the Commonwealth Games are having sleepless, sweaty nights. The reason can be summed up in two words: Pedestal Fans. In its preparation for the Games, Delhi Police
has acquired Doorframe Metal Detectors and has a lot of sniffer dogs, the rest is yet to come or is still in the tendering process.

In such a situation, Delhi Police has a gargantuan task on its hands—that of providing the thousands of central reserve forces coming to the city with a good night's sleep and some respite at their respective positions. With just 41 days left for the Games, the task seems almost impossible.

On August 19, Delhi Police floated the tender for pedestal fans once again. The technical bid is to be opened on August 31. But so far, no one's bid for it.

The Delhi Police has to hire nearly 1,700 pedestal fans. But due to the order's size, they are having problems getting bidders. "We have to hire 1,700 pedestal fans till October 20 for the reserve forces. The fans will be kept at the camps where the troops will stay and at other CWG sites," said a senior police officer requesting anonymity.

The Delhi Police had floated a tender earlier, too, but couldn't find bidders who could handle such an order. "We are yet to go through the bids. The order will be given only when they match the specifications. The order is big and that is why it is taking time. But we are sure we will manage before the Games," added the officer.

The Delhi Police has a long list of requirements and criteria, which is also causing the delay. "Each firm which comes to us will have to submit a sample of the pedestal fans with the tender for inspection. The firm will have to bear the cost of damage that may occur due to storm, fire, rain, natural calamities or any other unforeseen circumstance. No hiring charges shall be paid for the period for which the pedestal fans are not used," added the officer.

It's a dream come true: Nirupama

She has not been at the biggies for six long years but Nirupama Vaidyanathan, 33, has just walked into the Indian tennis team for the Commonwealth Games.

If you're surprised, even shocked, that this is happening in ‘Sania land', you must hear the story of this strong woman, the former Indian No. 1 who has just returned from the US.

For life had been one long, rough road for Nirupama — now Nirupama Sanjeev after her marriage — and the hard lessons which have strengthened her mentally will come in very handy on her comeback road to big tennis and to India.

Nirupama, former World No. 139, has not lost any of her charm. She believes that she still has the power and the guile to upset even a top player on her best day.

Great to be back

“It feels really great to be back, playing for my country. It's a dream come true for me. I am hitting the ball much harder. And, I can tell you for sure that my game has certainly not gone down,” said Nirupama, the first Indian woman to figure in a Grand Slam (Australian Open 1999) in the open era.

How did she manage her comeback? What motivated her? “I did not really plan a comeback because I had a rough pregnancy,” said Nirupama, about the hard time she had about four years ago.

“I was one of the high-risk patients, but if I have come back from all that and if I am going to play for India then it shows how tough I am mentally.

“My big aim was to hit the top 100 bracket, which I could never do. I was 139 when I left tennis. But, I would still call it an achievement because I was able to do that with minimum resources and under tough conditions,” said Nirupama, who landed in Coimbatore, her home city, from the national camp on Saturday.

Balancing act

She now has to do a fine balancing act, to spend hours on court and with her little daughter Sahana.

“I am not overdoing it while practising. I want to keep myself injury-free at the moment. I don't want to push to the maximum but will use my experience and play the game accordingly,” said Nirupama, who is also the Head Pro of the Konkai Swim and Racquet Club in the US.

“I am confident about my tennis. I am much fitter now and my mental toughness is equally solid.

“I really do not know what the selectors have for me, but I am prepared for the task.”

Not for pro Tour

But Nirupama, who runs an academy in the US and played in a local tournament there last year, is clear about one thing. “I don't want to go back on the pro Tour because my family life is more important to me. I am part of the camp for the Commonwealth Games and may even play the Asian Games.”

She has plans for talented Indian girls. “I would like to help women's tennis in India. All the players in the camp are really good.”

Having a senior is also a good thing for the other girls at the national camp.

“I am not old, I guess. I am just trying to be one of them. We are all working pretty hard,” said Nirupama

One just hopes, the Commonwealth Games opens a new chapter in Nirupama's life.

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