Tuesday, September 28, 2010

31,000 on Facebook path to smooth roads in Delhi

'Dear Sir/Madam, Today I have seen lot many defence cars, with blue and red beacon lights, judges' cars (with justice label at the back) driving in Commonwealth Games lane,' says a Facebook post received by Delhi Traffic Police, nicknamed DTP by netizens.

The mail writer goes on to say: "I don't see any reason (why a) person who is returning from office like us is using the emergency service lane."

The Delhi traffic police Facebook group, within a month of its launch in May, grew to 3,000. Thousands more joined it in subsequent months. By Aug 1, the number reached 17,000. And the figure now stands at 31,000.

"Big jam on NH-8 towards Delhi, especially Mahipalpur red light turn is jampacked..." informs another netizen, Jasdeep Singh.

"Thanks, staff has already been directed to the spot," respond traffic police.

And it is not always the public which airs its views on the traffic police page; the flow of messages from law keepers is also significant. The networking site is also serving as a broadcasting medium for police.

On Tuesday, Ajay Chadha, special commissioner of police (traffic), thanked the public for adhering to the lane regulations imposed on Delhi roads in view of Commonwealth Games-related traffic, with the mega event taking place during Oct 3-14.

The "experience will encourage us to follow the lane driving system after the Games too", he wrote on the Facebook page.

Police officials said the traffic police account on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are growing in popularity by the day and are allowing aggrieved Delhi motorists to air their woes and forward suggestions for better traffic management.

The reply they receive may not always be to their satisfaction but the gratification of reporting a traffic offence is enough for those concerned about their city, said a police official.

The news of Delhi Traffic Police, a law enforcement agency considered by many as frozen in time, going hi-tech and people-friendly by opening Facebook and Twitter accounts pleasantly surprised Delhiites, who now seem to be making the most of the opportunity to reach out to the police.

"It (Facebook and Twitter account) was launched in May by Delhi Traffic Police to electronically connect
with the public, share information and bring about awareness," said Ankit Varshney, a software engineer who follows the social networking sites of traffic police.

"And going by their growing followers, one may deduce that they've been largely successful," he said.

The Commonwealth Games have been one major reason for traffic police to launch its microblogging electronic venture.

On the introductory page, the traffic police says: "Managing traffic in Delhi during the Commonwealth Games will be a big challenge as well as a great opportunity. Delhi Traffic Police cannot possibly succeed without the active cooperation, participation and support of all the citizens."

The home page of traffic police also carries information related to road cave-ins and traffic jams, but, most strikingly, pictures of traffic law offenders.

Shailendra Sharma, an enthusiastic follower of the Facebook group, said: "They listen to the woes of the people and reply instantly and it has become a symbiotic relationship between the law-abiding citizens and the law enforcers."

A feature of the page that has become quite famous over time is the photographs of the traffic law offenders taken by road users. Photographic evidence provides the circumstances of the offence and clear details about the offender, thereby ensuring a quick reaction by police.

"But people can try and use this opportunity to implicate an innocent citizen, or someone against whom they hold a grudge, which can cause unnecessary hassles to that person," points out Ashish Jain, a Facebook user.

Traffic police officials said they don't take evidence, like a photograph, at face value.

Many police departments around the world are similarly trying to connect with the local population through social networking websites.

"Missing car numbers, pictures of wanted criminals can be shared with the public and they can be made part of investigations without them having to reveal their identity," said a police official.

"In the coming days of the Commonwealth Games, more and more people will join the group to remain updated with the latest news and to help traffic police in maintenance of Delhi's roads," hoped Sharma.

Qureshi is 'most welcome' during Games: Krishna

Their talks in New York might not have materialised, but External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has invited his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi to visit India to witness the Commonwealth Games.

Krishna said the Pakistani minister was "most welcome" during the Games that are about to take off in New Delhi.

"Foreign Minister Qureshi is most welcome to come to witness some of the games, it gives us a chance to continue the dialogue," he said.

Delhi is hosting the Games from October 3 to October 14, and the Pakistani sports delegation has already arrived in the capital.

Krishna and Qureshi were both in New York for over a week to attend the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly and a bilateral meeting was widely anticipated.

The meeting, however, did not take place, apparently because India was put off by Qureshi raising the Kashmir issue at several forums there, including the United Nations.

Krishna, finally, told journalists yesterday that a bilateral with Qureshi is not on the cards.

Qureshi, on his part, hinted that it appeared India had changed its mind on the meeting after initially showing interest.

Despite talks in New York not working out, both ministers have also expressed optimism about Qureshi's visit to New Delhi for another round of bilateral talks, which will pick up the threads from Krishna's last visit to Islamabad.

The dates for the next round of talks have not yet been decided.

"I have said in my speech that I have invited Foreign Minister Qureshi to come to India and he has very graciously accepted my invitation," Krishna said.

"I am looking forward to his visit to India so that we can take up from where he left in Islamabad," Krishna said earlier.

South Africa's world champion Caster Semenya pulls out of Commonwealth Games with a back injury

Caster Semenya, the women's 800m world champion, has withdrawn from the Commonwealth Games because of a back injury dealing the event another blow.
The 19-year-old, cleared to compete again in July after controversial gender tests had put her career on hold since she won the world title in August 2009, has suffered serious lower back pain and been uncomfortable in her last few races.

Semenya had an MRI scan earlier on Tuesday which showed an inflammation of the spine and left the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) with no alternative but to pull the medal prospect out of their team.

'It would serve no purpose to have an athlete in Delhi who was struggling with any sort of injury that would compromise performance and it is our medical view that physically and emotionally she would not be capable of doing justice to her talent at an event of this magnitude,' Shuaib Manjra, Team South Africa's chief medical officer said in a statement.

Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy said Semenya's withdrawal was a blow to South Africa's medal hopes at the games but the welfare of the athlete was his organisation's main concern.

'She was one of our athletes that was expected to do well and win a medal,' Reddy said. 'But if she is carrying an injury it would do her no good to try and compete in Delhi because it could impact on her future achievements. We have thus decided to follow our medical team's advice and withdraw her from the team.'

Other high-profile athletes missing from the Games include world champion sprinter Usain Bolt, who said the event had come too late in the year, and Kenyan 800m world record holder David Rudisha, who blamed tiredness for his withdrawal.

The absence of some of the world's top athletes has taken a lot of the shine off an event India had hoped to use to display its growing global influence, rivalling China which put on a spectacular Olympic Games in Beijing two years ago.

Other athletes have pulled out citing health concerns surrounding dirty accommodation in the athletes' village while some have withdrawn becuase of fears over security.

Commonwealth Games CEO under fire for 'lavish' lifestyle

The Kiwi head of the Commonwealth Games Federation has been accused of living it up royally in India, even as the Games preparations were floundering.
Michael Hooper's come under fire from the Times of India for lavish accommodation and tax arrangements.

The newspaper's obtained documents showing taxpayers have been covering the rental cost of his farmhouse for the past few years, and six staff.

The Delhi Organising Committee's also paid the equivalent of more than NZ $600,000 to take care of Hooper's income tax liabilities.

Hooper isn't the only one in the firing line.

Suresh Kalmadi, chief of India's Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, has also been the recipient of backlash.

Kalmadi spent more than a year assuring backers and critics that India could produce a spectacle to rival the 2008 Beijing Olympics, despite the problem-plagued preparations that have included corruption allegations and concerns over the quality of construction amid the scramble to finish before the Oct. 4-15 event.

The Indian government started to reduce Kalmadi's power last month after an audit body identified concerns over tender procedures and inflated costs.

"I am ready to face a judicial inquiry. Hang me if I am found guilty," Kalmadi said in an interview replayed repeatedly yesterday with Indian news channel CNN-IBN.

"But when the games are over, I should get the credit also."

Meanwhile New Zealand Olympic Committee president Mike Stanley says signs are good that the Commonwealth Games will be a success.

Mr Stanley, who made a whirlwind visit to the Indian capital last week after New Zealand team chef de mission Dave Currie raised serious concerns over the city's readiness to host the games, said conditions had improved overall to the point he felt the games were poised to be a success.

"The response of the Indian government has been very encouraging," Mr Stanley told NZPA.

"A lot of work has been done in the games village. Some towers are yet to be completed but there's been a lot of progress inside the village and its environs.

"We have also received confirmation the training venues are available and secure.

The first wave of New Zealand athletes, including the bowls team, wrestlers, badminton players and archers, had arrived and begun settling in amidst raised security.

"The organisers are working through teething problems with the transport system but the accompanying security seems to be place.

"Security was significant when I was there last week but has been boosted and is very visible this week. The New Delhi police seem to be doing a thorough and diligent job."

Mr Stanley backed Mr Currie's decision to lock New Zealand athletes within a "games bubble".

Athletes will be restricted to 'security bubble'

They won't be allowed outside the areas given the heaviest security allocation - the athletes' village, the venues and the transport to and from them.

"It is very appropriate. We have taken a cautious approach and that (policy) may remain for the whole games," Mr Stanley said.

The international zone at the games village would serve to allow athletes to meet family and friends during the event.

He said he could assure families of the athletes that security around the athletes was of a very high standard.

"The New Delhi police are very experienced around this sort of security deployment and we have confidence they can do the job for our athletes.

"Food at the village is very good. The standard of catering is first class."

As for the threat of mosquito-borne disease such as dengue fever, Mr Stanley said not many of the insects had been observed in the New Zealand accommodation but action continued to be taken by the organisers to minimise the risk.

"Our health team is confident any risk can be mitigated by those measures."

He said the Commonwealth Games Federation had been working with the organisers to see appropriate standards were achieved before the opening of the games.

"Everyone is focused on getting everything ready for the opening ceremony.

"Once the games get going, we get these things behind us and providing . . . all the problem-solving is done as things go along, they should turn out to be a very enjoyable and rewarding games for our team."

Delhi clean-up deadline lapses yet again

THE deadline to bring Delhi's troubled athletes' village up to standard was put back yet again yesterday amid fears that work will not be completed in time for the beginning of the Commonwealth Games.

Despite assurances that frantic repair and maintenance work would be completed by today, organisers have been forced to roll back the completion date to Friday, just two days before the opening ceremony.

It comes as Scotland's team attempt to make do with the standard of their accommodation, amid new reports highlighting a series of outstanding faults in their living quarters.

The embattled Games suffered a further publicity blow yesterday after it emerged that fewer than one out of every eight tickets that have gone on sale for the various events have been sold.

As hundreds of athletes from around the world arrived in the Indian capital yesterday, work was still going on in the athletes' village, where for the past week, concerns have been raised about hygiene and infrastructure issues.

An army of about 4,000 labourers has been working around the clock to ready the site, which was due to be finished last week.

Delhi's chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, admitted that a revised deadline of this evening would not be met, but said she was "confident" the Games would begin on time.

"It will take another two (to] three days. We will be up and ready," she said.

"I went to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and everything is going on fine. Additional workers from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi have been roped in at the stadium."

Athletes from Team Scotland continued with their training sessions yesterday, as new images emerged of problems with their accommodation, including balconies with no railings, and loose electrical wiring in ceiling lights.

Photos taken of their living quarters also revealed leaking air conditioning units and unfinished kitchens, and missing railings in internal balcony areas.

Some bathrooms were also found to have broken windows, which have since been replaced.

However, the team said the focus of its attention was on the upcoming events. A spokeswoman for the group said: "Our athletes are happy and focused on the competition.

"Other countries still have some issues with their arrangements and we are working with the organisers to get it sorted out."

Caroline Brownlie, an Edinburgh-born shooter, said of her accommodation: "It's much better than I expected.

The team who came out before us have done a great job."

The last party of Scottish athletes is due to arrive in Delhi today Originally due to fly out last Thursday, the party of 41 athletes and officials from the rugby 7s, boxing and wrestling teams left Glasgow Airport yesterday afternoon.

Some 850 athletes from around the world arrived in the Indian capital yesterday, including members of the New Zealand, South African and Australian teams.

Meanwhile, tourism minister Kumari Selja admitted that of the 1.7 million tickets available for spectators at the Games, only 200,000 had been sold.

In the week before the beginning of the Melbourne Games four years ago, 1.3 million tickets had been sold.

Ms Selja accepted that the recent negative publicity had contributed to the poor take-up, and hoped more tickets would be sold once the Games began.

Chidambaram takes stock of security arrangements for Games

Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram dropped in at the Delhi Police headquarters here on Tuesday to take stock of the security arrangements for the Commonwealth Games scheduled to kick off on October 3.

During the two-hour-long meeting attended by Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal and the venue commanders, it is learnt that the Home Minister sought from them information about the day's developments on the security front at all the Games-related venues. Mr. Chidambaram also directed the officers concerned to keep him abreast with issues that still remain unresolved.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, the Police Commissioner had attended a meeting chaired by the Union Home Minister to review the situation. “Mr. Chidambaram has been closely monitoring the developments on the ground. He has been holding at least two meetings every day to take stock of various security-related aspects of the Games,” said an official.

Among the crucial problems still being faced by the police is the uploading of data on accredited persons and radio-frequency identification (allotted to the authorised vehicles) onto the central server for the electronic identity authentication of all those entering the secured premises. The police have been verifying the cards manually so far.

According to sources, it is learnt that records of thousands of accreditations have been forwarded by the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee to the Electronics Corporation of India since Monday to be uploaded. However, a large part of the furnished data has been found to be incomplete in many aspects and even improperly presented, defeating the purpose. For instance, in several cases exact names of the accredited persons had not been given. “Since the identity cards would be verified electronically through scanners, essential particulars of the cards must match with the relevant data stored in the system. Any discrepancy would lead to rejection of the cards, causing inconvenience to the card holders,” said a source.

The issue was taken up on Monday during a meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai that was attended by officials of the Department of Telecommunications, ECIL and the Delhi Police.

However, till Tuesday evening the issue was yet to be resolved completely to the satisfaction of the Union Home Minister . A police team was reportedly sent to the Organising Committee office at Jantar Mantar to collect the data late on Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, over 60,000 nanotechnology-based non-cloneable I-cards have so far been distributed among Delhi Police officers and personnel.

More lanes dedicated to Games traffic

As the Commonwealth Games draw nearer and more lanes dedicated for Games-related traffic become operational, the number of people being issued challans also showed an increase with 172 people booked on Tuesday.

“We issued 149 challans and served 23 notices today. There were 65 violations reported from the Southern range and 64 from Central Delhi,” said Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Satyendra Garg.

He agreed that there was more congestion and prosecution because two more routes -- from the Games Village to Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium and Indira Gandhi Sports Complex -- were also opened for Games-related traffic.

He said Games lanes leading to Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range, Thyagaraj Sports Complex, R. K. Khanna Tennis Complex and Siri Fort Sports Complex would be opened for some time on Wednesday in addition to existing restrictions.

The restrictions imposed on entry and parking of vehicles around Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium from Tuesday also went off well, according to Mr. Garg. Commuters unaware of the new restrictions were seen being guided by traffic police personnel deployed around the stadium. No buses or heavy vehicles were allowed to enter Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium road.

Meanwhile, the State Transport Department also issued a notification regarding commercial vehicles in and around Delhi from September 30 to October 15. It prohibits the entry, plying and idle parking of heavy, medium and light goods vehicles from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on 84 roads including NH-8, Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road, Aurobindo Marg, Nelson Mandela Marg, Aruna Asaf Ali Road, Thimmaiah Marg, Shankar Road, DBG Road, Rani Jhansi Road.

It also imposed peak hour and 24-hour restrictions on entry, plying and idle parking of HGVs, MGVs on certain roads.

Delhi Traffic Police will launch a volunteer programme for Commonwealth Games on Wednesday wherein Delhiites would be allowed to assist traffic policemen in different parts of the city. These volunteers would be handed over their kits and begin working along with the traffic police from Thursday, said Mr. Garg.

The volunteers would not have the power to prosecute offenders, but would assist traffic policemen stationed at various places in the city.

Sania Mirza's family confirms she will stay at Games' Village

The family of the Indian tennis star Sania Mirza today dismissed as rumours the buzz that she may not stay at the Commonwealth Games Village in New Delhi.

While the international stars have started coming to Games Village, the latest buzz at the sprawling athletes' facility was that Indian tennis stars Sania and Mahesh Bhupathi may not stay there.

It was said that Sania mightprefer staying with husband Shoaib Malik -- a former Pakistan cricket captain -- and Bhupathi may stay with fiance Lara Dutta, a Bollywood actress.

When contacted, Sania's father Imran said she will surely stay at the Games Village.

"She will check in to the Village with the rest of the team," Imran said.

Sania had recently come here along with Malik.

Bhupathi could not be reached for comment.

Tennis will make its debut in this edition of the Commonwealth Games, sheduled to begin on October 3.

Over 3,100 athletes in Delhi for CWG

Over 3,100 Indian and foreign athletes have arrived here for the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games. Around 850 athletes arrived Tuesday.

Canadian Susan Nattrass, a six-time Olympian and seven-time world trap shooting champion, was among the athletes who arrived Tuesday. She has two silver and three bronze medals in the Games to her credit.

The Jamaican contingent comprising Allodin Fothergill (men's 400 metres), Lerone Clarke (men's 100m), Oshane Bailey, who held the No.1 position for 100 metres at the Reebok Grand Prix in 2009 and Ricardo Cunningham, an 800 metres specialist has also arrived, an Organising Committee press statement said.

Also in Delhi is the Australian women's hockey team, winners of three Olympic gold medals, five World Cup titles, three Commonwealth Games medals and 12 Champions Trophy

Malaysia had 93 more athletes and officials coming in, the largest contingent Tuesday. These athletes will participate in archery, aquatics, cycling, gymnastics, badminton and weightlifting. Northern Ireland, New Zealand, England and Australia were among the countries whose athletes arrived this day.

Gill, Kalmadi meet Prez, invites her to be chief guest

Union Sports Minister M S Gill and Commonwealth Games Organising Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi on Tuesday met President Pratibha Patil and invited her to be the chief guest at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games.

"The President has accepted the invitation", a Rashtrapati Bhavan press release said Tuesday evening.

Under a compromise reportedly reached between New Delhi and London, Prince Charles will declare the games open while President Patil will say 'let the Games begin'.

Gill and Kalmadi met Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and invited her to be the chief guest on Sunday when the sporting extravaganza begins.

Later while introducing the Games mascot Shera to the President, Kalmadi said "the stadiums are all complete. They are world class. Games are on track."

Kalmadi said that despite some criticism about the Games Village, he had spoken to many athletes and they have expressed their satisfaction about it.

British tennis player Bloomfield to skip CWG due to injury

England  tennis player Richard Bloomfield is the latest to join the growing list of players pulling out of the crisis-hit Commonwealth Games after failing to recover from a back injury.

Bloomfield, rated as England's fifth-best tennis player, opted out of the quadrennial event on Monday, after failing to regain full fitness from a long-term back problem which he aggravated during a tournament in France earlier this month.

Josh Goodall will replace the 302nd ranked Bloomfield in the Delhi-bound England tennis squad, which also has Sarah Borwell, Ross Hutchins, Katie O'Brien, Ken Skupski, Anna Smith and James Ward.

"I'm so disappointed to miss out on the Commonwealth Games. I was really looking forward to representing my country, particularly given this is the first time tennis has been part of the Games.

After his inclusion, Goodall, said "I'm so excited to have been selected. It's always the greatest honor to represent your country and I can't wait to get out there.

"The Commonwealth Games are such a huge deal within world sport and to have the opportunity to compete at a major multi-sport event and be in the company of some of the biggest names in sport is a fantastic opportunity for me."

Bloomfield is the eighth British athlete to have pulled out of the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Earlier, world triple jump champion Phillips Idowu, 1,500m defending champion Lisa Dobriskey and Christine Ohuruogu opted out of the Games for varied reasons.

If that was not enough, four British cyclists -- Geraint Thomas of Wales, Peter Kennaugh of the Isle of Man, and Ian Stannard and Ben Swift of England -- have also decided against travelling to Delhi, citing fears over sanitation at the much-criticised Games Village and safety issues.

Delhi HC asks Games organising committee to preserve documents relating to Queen's Baton Relay

The Delhi high court today asked Commonwealth Games Organising Committee to preserve all documents pertaining to the Queen's Baton Relay on a plea by suspended official M Jeychandren seeking appointment of a local commissioner to examine the relevant papers relating to the sports event.

The court also sought a response from the top brass of the Organising Committee, including its chairman Suresh Kalmadi, on the defamation suit filed by Jeychandren seeking Rs5 crore in damages for "destroying" his professional record.

Justice Sunil Gaur issued notices to Kalmadi, OC's secretary general Lalit Bhanot also Mike Fennell, chief of Commonwealth Games Federation(CGF), besides 14 other OC officials and sought their response by January 4, 2011.

On August 5, OC had suspended Jeychandren, TS Darbari and Sanjay Mahindroo following charges of questionable selection process and payments to AM Car and Van and AM Films for their services during the Baton Relay function in October 2009 in London.

Filing an application before the court, Jeychandren claimed he had no role in the controversy over payments to these companies. "I had no role except to follow instructions of the OC and done the process for release of payments after due sanction".

On his plea for appointment of a local commissioner to examine the documents relating to the event, the court did not pass any order but asked the OC to preserve them for the court's perusal.

Demanding Rs5 crore in damages for "harassment, humiliation and immense mental agony" to him and his family members, Jeychandren sought the court's order for his immediate reinstatement as OSD (Revenue).

The suspended official said he was never told of any charge of irregularities against him nor was he given an opportunity to explain before the internal committee set up by the OC.

He also alleged that the action by the OC was violative of the principles of natural justice and arbitrary.

The former Indian Railway Account Service (IRAS) officer of 1981 batch has claimed he was not involved in the decisions regarding AM Films, which had kicked up a major controversy.

"I was made out to be a culprit of irregular dealings relating to foreign exchange with the aforesaid firms without any basis, logic or justification", the petitioner claimed.

It has been alleged that Darbari and Mahindroo had actively pursued the payments for AM Films, and Kalmadi and Bhanot had signed on various documents regarding the payments.

Concern over 40,000 northeast women hired for CWG services

An estimated 40,000 women from India's northeast were recruited by various escort services for the Commonwealth Games, sparking fears that a vast majority of the women could be engaged in a prostitution racket in New Delhi during the 12-day mega event, rights groups and a minister said here Tuesday.

We are indeed worried with girls from the northeast, numbering somewhere around 40,000 recruited by various agencies, luring them of good money and job opportunities... it has all the possibilities of being engaged in an organised prostitution racket, Hasina Kharbih, chairperson of Impulse NGO Network, a rights group working in rescuing women trafficked from the northeast, told IANS.

According to inputs with the Impulse NGO Network and the Meghalaya government, gullible girls from the eight northeastern states, including Darjeeling and Siliguri in West Bengal, were wooed by smart operators by putting out newspaper advertisements - promising lucrative remuneration and good assignments during the Games.

It is not just girls from Meghalaya, but across the northeast who were being recruited. We have alerted and appealed to the public to be vigilant, to keep us informed in case they have any information on such a racket, Meghalaya Social Welfare Department Minister J.A. Lyngdoh told IANS.

We don't have concrete details or information, but then we are apprehensive.

Questions are asked as to why northeast women are preferred by escort services.

"Northeastern girls are generally fair and have good features and are fluent in English and hence in demand, Kharbih said.

"Today northeastern girls are in demand in the flourishing prostitution racket in cities like Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, and even Bangalore and Pune, another rights leader said.

Most of these women, trapped by organised rackets, come from middle class families.

"Seedy operators also scout for good looking girls from poor families. We have come across and rescued girls in the past belonging to families living below the poverty line who were sold to the traffickers," Kharbih said.

The Northeast Support Centre Helpline, a New Delhi-based NGO, too is apprehensive about such a design.

We are extremely concerned with thousands of northeast girls lured by placement agencies for the Games and our fear is that they might be misused and fall into wrong hands, said Madhu Chander of the Helpline.

We appeal to all student leaders of the northeast based in New Delhi to look out for girls from the region already trapped in this dirty racket, she added.

Potpourri of Indian culture at Games opening ceremony

Dances, drums, music, yoga, textiles...The sights, sounds and colours of India, encapsulating 5,000 years of the country's culture, are set to mesmerise at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) opening ceremony Oct 3 and the creative team behind it says they are ready and waiting!

"Everything is going fine. The rehearsals are on in full swing, everything is ready - the stage, the sound and lightseverything is installed and we are ready. The ceremony will be a grand cultural display of Indian culture and will not give anyone a chance to complain," Viraf Sarkari, director of Wizcraft International Entertainment, told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

The opening ceremony of the Oct 3-14 will have a total of 7,000 men, women and children putting up as many as six different performances.

The ceremony has been divided into six segments - Rhythm of India, Swagatam, Tree of Knowledge, Yoga, Great Indian Journey and A.R. Rahman's rendition of the CWG anthem, informed Bharat Bala, who is among the creative team for the event.

Rhythm of India will be a blend of different drums from India and will involve around 1,000 drummers creating a symphony.

Popular singer Hariharan will then sing a welcome song, which will be a cocktail of Hindustani, classical, Carnatic and folk music, and around a 1,000 schoolchildren from the capital will perform on it.

Following this would be the Tree of Knowledge, "based on the tradition of the "guru-shishya", says Bharat Bala.

"There will be 1,000 Indian classical dancers performing bharatanatyam, kathak, mohiniyattam, manipuri, kathakali and the likes with stalwarts like Sonal Mansingh and Bharti Shivaji, Pandit Birju Maharaj and Raja and Radha Reddy. It will be a perfect depiction of Indian classical tradition," he added.

Next will be a "unique segment" featuring over 1,000 yoga performers, followed by the Great Indian Journey, which will give a glimpse of rural India with the help of 1,500 performers.

Popular set designer Omung Kumar said: "A train has been made with bamboos. It is almost 600 ft long. It is like a complete Indian bazaar and will show people from all walks of lifeIt is not a swanky train, it is very Indian, very rural," Kumar told IANS.

The first 10 minutes of the Games opening ceremony will exhibit the rich textiles and traditional crafts of India. To be shown in the first segment, it will showcase the rich heritage, art and craft of handloom weavers and artisans of India.

The crescendo to the grand, two-and-a-half hour ceremony will be brought by Oscar winning composer A.R. Rahman. He will be singing the Games anthem "Jiyo Utho Badho Jeeto", and will also render his award winning number "Jai Ho" and his most popular number "Maa Tujhe Salaam".

Bharat Bala says there is elaborate choreography for the last segment that would involve a huge number of performers.

"I hope ultimately everything comes out well thanks to the 10,000 people who have worked day in and day out to make this event a success," he said.

To project India's secular culture, azaan, will be a part of the background score at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games. A qawwali soundtrack, props on the celebration of Eid and Mughal monuments will also be shown.

There will be other attractions at the event too, including the Rs.40 crore aerostat that will be multipurpose, with video content being projected on it. The projections will include animation and graphics.

The costumes for the event have been designed and arranged by Anna Singh, Serath Narendra and Delhi-based designer duo Ashima-Leena.

Organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi had said: "CWG will be better than Beijing Olympics".

But Sarkari says he doesn't want to compare the two events.

"We would not like to compare our ceremony with the opening of the Beijing Olympics. India is so full of colour and culture. The event in Beijing was very technicalhere we will show the human sidewe will show what India stands for. The CWG opening ceremony will show a potpourri of Indian culture in one night."

Tata Motors using four CNG hybrid buses at Commonwealth Games in Delhi

Tata Motors will send four of its CNG-electric hybrid low-floor Starbuses to the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) for public use during the upcoming Commonwealth Games. The automaker claims that this is the first time hybrid buses of any sort will be used for public transportation in India. In addition, Tata will supply the DTC with a fleet of 600 non-hybrid CNG-powered buses to ferry famous athletes and delegates to the games.

Tata Motors' managing director of India operations, Prakash Telang, commented on the significance of the bus trials and offered gratitude to the government of Delhi, stating:

The CNG- Electric Hybrid Tata Starbus is a result of Tata Motors' advances in alternate fuel technologies, including electric vehicles. We are grateful to the Government of Delhi and the DTC for giving us this opportunity of showcasing hybrid buses in the city of Delhi during the Commonwealth Games. We will eagerly look forward to the feedback of the DTC and passengers.

Tata envisions the CNG-electric Starbus as an ideal intra-city transporter and hopes that the bus' performance and fuel economy improvements can convince municipalities that CNG-electric is the future of mass transport. But before CNG-electric takes over, natural gas refueling stations must dot the globe and that might take a while. Hat tip to Mohan!

CWGs left-over work will be done by Oct 3: Dikshit

Not giving any deadline for completing work left on Commonwealth Games projects, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Tuesday promised that all venues and the Games Village will be ready before the mega event begins Oct 3.

Work at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium and the Games Village besides other venues will be over and everything will be in place before the commencement of the Games on October 3. There are tiny things only left and that will be done, Dikshit said on the sidelines of a function here.

Speaking about the ongoing work in the capital with just five days to go for the Games, the chief minister claimed that work continued till the Games inauguration day in other countries as well.

Such things do happen, but I can assure you that everything will be in place before Oct 3 and we will host the best ever Games, she added.

To a question on reports of theft at the Games Village, Dikshit advised the delegates and athletes visiting the city to lock their rooms. "I would suggest to keep the rooms locked," she said.

Chidambaram reviews CWG security, advises alertness

With just four days to go for the Commonwealth Games here, Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Tuesday reviewed the security arrangements with top officials. Delhi Police have stepped up vigil by cautioning the public against hidden explosive materials in public places. Home ministry officials
described Chidambaram's meeting as a "routine internal meeting".

"The security scenario in the city and across the country in the run-up to the Games was reviewed again. Plans for the 'Games mode' security, likely to begin October 1, was finalised," a senior official told IANS.

The meeting was attended by Home Secretary G.K. Pillai, chiefs of the Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing and other security agencies and senior ministry officials dealing with the CWG security and internal-security, sources said.

After the meeting, Chidambaram took a round of the 24X7 control room for the Games, set up in the North Block building itself, they added.

The Delhi Police made announcements through the public address systems at bus stations, market places and railway stations asking people to be vigilant about any hidden explosive materials in public places.

"Our bags and luggage were checked by the police," Ram Narain Meena, a passenger who arrived at Sarai Kale Khan bus station from Alwar, told IANS.

As the police enforced the CWG exclusive lane travel system for the Games participants and personnel, commuters were delayed in several localities in the city.

"The delays are increasing on National Highway 24 near the Games Village day by day. I took 80 minutes instead of the usual 40 minutes for a 20-km car journey from Ghazipur to Gole Market," said Ravi Shankar, an employee of a private firm.

Since Monday, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) were deployed in Delhi skies to detect aerial intrusions as Army helicopters hovered over the Games Village to provide protection to the 63-hectare campus, which has begun to house athletes for the Games to be held Oct 3-14.

About 7,000 athletes and officials from 71 countries and territories will participate in the CWG, the biggest sports event to be hosted by India since the 1982 Asian Games.

Games umpire is ready for Delhi

CONCERNS over the condition of facilities at the Commonwealth Games have been cooled by a bowler who will be centre stage in Delhi.

Jim Irwin MBE is heading out to the Indian capital to umpire the bowls competition, but despite all the reports of sub-standard living conditions in the athletes village, the Cardross man has no fears ahead of flying out on Thursday.

Only last week a part of a walkway from the athletes village to the main stadium collapsed and a section of the roof at one venue caved in.

And it was feared athletes from Scotland would be forced to delay their departure to the Games because the accommodation was deemed not fit to live in.

But Jim, 61, said: “[The umpires] have been well looked after.

“We are going to a nice hotel and we have no problems at all.

“We just need to do what we are supposed to do.

“I am not going for a holiday — we have been told it is going to be fifteen-hour shifts and I am going there to work.

“At the World Championships in Ayr we were the first there in the morning and last out at night and Delhi will be no different.

“I don’t think the Scotland team will have any problems and I don’t think the management would take them somewhere that is sub-standard.

“To be honest, we won’t know about anything until we get there but all the umpires are very happy and some have even went out early to see the Taj Mahal and see all the sights.”

Jim, who is a member of Dumbarton Bowling Club. will fly out early on Thursday and will spend two weeks in Delhi overseeing bowls events and he is excited about the opportunity.

Zeeshan to lead Pakistan men's hockey team in CWG

Experienced defender Zeeshan Ashraf has passed a fitness test and will lead Pakistan in the Commonwealth Games hockey tournament in Delhi next month.

Ashraf is at the helm of a 16-man squad that also includes Kashif Javed, who also managed to pass a fitness test ahead of the team's departure for the Indian capital which will host the Games from Oct 3.

The team will leave for Delhi Sep 29.

Pakistan's chief selector Hanif Khan said Tuesday that after observing the performance and fitness of players during the European tour the selection committee has finalised the team. He said the Pakistan team has the capability to reach the victory stand at the Commonwealth Games.

Ten teams are taking part in the hockey event starting from Oct 5. Pool A comprises of Australia, Pakistan, Malaysia, India and Scotland, while pool B has England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. Pakistan will play its first match against Scotland on Oct 5, second match against Malaysia on Oct 6, third match against Australia Oct 9 and fourth match against India Oct 10.

Classification matches and semi finals will be played Oct 12, while final and bronze medal matches will be played Oct 14.

Former Olympian Khawaja Muhammad Junaid will be the team manager, Michel Van Den will be the coach, Ahmad Alam and Ajmal Khan Lodhi will act as assistant coaches.

Pakistan squad: Zeeshan Ashraf (Captain), Muhammad Imran, Muhammad Irfan, Waseem Ahmad, Muhammad Rashid, Fareed Ahmad, Shafqat Rasool, Rehan Butt, Shakeel Abbasi, Abdul Haseem Khan, Muhammad Waqas Sharif, Muhammad Rizwan, Muhammad Umar Bhutta, Imran Shah, Muhammad Tauseeq and Muhammad Kashif Javed.

Delhi Metro gains from traffic jams, fewer buses

Over 15 lakh people used the Delhi Metro in a day to escape the huge traffic snarls on key roads with some fast lanes dedicated to the movement of Commonwealth Games athletes and in view of fewer and overcrowded buses, an official said Tuesday.

The Metro recorded a ridership of 1,556,563 Monday, surpassing the Sep 6 figure of 1,444,023, a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesperson said.

Of all the lines, the Metro's corridor connecting Dwarka's Sector 9 with Noida City centre recorded the maximum ridership at 562,646, followed by the Jahangirpuri-HUDA City Centre (Line 2). Line 2 witnessed a footfall of nearly 531,337 through the day while Line 1 from Rithala to Dilshad Garden recorded a ridership of 288,276.

The spokesperson said that Metros ridership is set to reach a record high in the coming days with the opening of the Airport Express Link and the Central Secretariat-Badarpur stretch and also due to the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games.

The total ridership of Delhi metro has been consistently increasing for the past three months, showing a nearly 44 percent rise. The ridership was around 10 lakh in May earlier this year.

Currently there are over 130 trains in operation on five lines of the metro with a new train being added on the system every 10-15 days, the spokesperson added.

The Delhi Metro trains make over 2,300 trips, over a nearly 138 km-network.

Long lines of traffic were seen in the city as the traffic police enforced the dedicated lanes for Commonwealth Games-related vehicles and forced over 1,500 Blueline public transport buses off the road, leading to a shortage of buses.

Over 1,500 Blueline buses plying on 132 routes, mostly passing through central Delhi and near the Games venues, were taken off roads from Sunday till Oct 16 to ease traffic congestion.

Delhi under heavy security blanket against aerial threats

Ahead of Commonwealth Games, the city was on Tuesday brought under a heavy security blanket to defend it against any aerial threat like rogue aircraft, microlights or balloons.

Apart from security personnel manning observation posts for unidentified aircraft, UAVs and para gliders, the IAF will also place fighter jets such as the front line Sukhois and MiG-21 Bisons at nearby air bases to deal with any eventuality such as a hijacked plane or a fast flying aircraft.

Two Unmanned Aerial Vehicles of the IAF will hover over Delhi at 6,000 to 10,000 feet altitude on all days of the CWG from October 3 to 14.

The IAF, official sources said here today, will be the lead agency in the air defence of the city with agencies from the Home Ministry and Delhi Police supporting the effort to secure the CWG from any threats from the skies.

"We have put in place a comprehensive air defence over a 60-km radius in Delhi with the IAF leading the security forces comprising of Home Ministry agencies and Delhi Police.

"The holistic air defence plan will cover all conceivable threats be it hijacked planes, low-speed and high-speed aircraft, para gliders, balloons, unmanned aerial vehicles and aero-models," sources said.

While the IAF will place its anti-aircraft surface-to-air weapons such as Pechora, OSA-Ak and Igla, its fighter jets and armed helicopters will be based in ready mode at Bareilly, Sirsa, Adampur and Srinagar to provide combat air patrol.

IAF's Mi-17 helicopters would be on stand by for casualty evacuation, apart from its Chetak and Cheetah helicopters carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance flights.

Other security agencies, including the Delhi Police, will be spread out across the city to man observation posts and they will take a decision on further action including shooting down any threat.

The Army's air defence guns and medium machine guns too would be deployed during the period, they said.

"The IAF has trained the Delhi Police personnel over the last three months in aerial observation and interception activities to observe, report and target the sub-conventional threats in urban areas.

"We have also put in place a joint network of IAF and Delhi Police for better coordination," the sources said.

The air space over Delhi would be a no-fly zone for all unscheduled aircraft during the CWG for which the Aviation Ministry has already issued guidelines.

Also, the radars of IAF and the Airports Authority of India would be manned 24 hours during the games, sources added.

The security agencies have also organised mobile observation posts all around Delhi, which, sources said, would be the first line of air defence.

Maruti hands over green vehicles for CWG

Indian car market leader Maruti Suzuki Tuesday said it has handed over the first lot of environment-friendly cars to the Delhi government for use during the Commonwealth Games (CWG).

The cars, which include two Hybrid SX4 cars and one electric 'Eeco' multi-utility vehicle (MUV), were handed over to Delhi Transport Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely.

"Maruti Suzuki is happy to be associated with the Commonwealth Games national initiative through these vehicles," said Shinzo Nakanishi, managing director and chief executive of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

The company will provide a total of 14 future technology vehicles as demonstration fleet for the games, including 10 Hybrid SX4 and four electrical 'Eeco Charge' vehicles.

According to the company, the development of these vehicles has been taken up as a part of the government's and Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers' (SIAM) coordinated National Hybrid Propulsion Programme (NHPP) and High Energy Density Battery Development Programme.

The company recently launched five of its car models like Alto, Estilo and WagonR with factory fitted CNG engines.

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