Saturday, October 3, 2009

2010 CWG Preparation: An Interview with Sheila Dikshit

"We are nervous but confident of making up for lost time — if we have lost any. Every person involved is giving his or her best. Multiplicity of authorities does create problems"

The sudden SOS from the Commonwealth Games Federation chief to the prime minister has upped the anxiety levels on the preparations for the event. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit though is confident about the Games being a success. In a free-wheeling interview with Times City, she talks about where she thinks the preparations stand at the moment and where they are headed. Some excerpts from the interview:

Q. How justified are the concerns raised by Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennel in his recent letter to the Prime Minister?

A. We would like to know what the concerns really are. Then either the ministry of sports or we will respond to it. We have not been told what the contents (of the letter) are except that some things are going slow, some things are going fast...

Q. You met Fennel just a few months back. Did he express any such apprehensions then?

A. No, the only concern he expressed to me was about power. It was June-July and there was a power crisis. So, I had assured him that before the Games the Jhajjar and Bawana plants would be commissioned and hence there was no question of shortage or tripping. He had even praised Thyagaraj Stadium. I had asked him to expedite the specifications of the electronic fittings. They cannot be bought before that. This time he didn’t meet me.

Q. Did you feel let down by his sudden letter to the PM?

A. Writing to the PM was perfectly within his rights — if he has some concerns he should express them. The only letdown was leaking a letter written to the PM to the press — even before it reaches the PM. What shall I say...ethical is too strong a word, but you don’t leak letters to the PM of a country.

Q. Is the Delhi government under any kind of pressure — overt, covert, diplomatic — to source some of the professionals who worked on the earlier versions of the Games from abroad?

A. We have got Mr Hooper working very closely with all the agencies which are a part of the preparations. We are working according to the requirements given to us by the Federation. There are some things like the turf, stopwatches etc which will need to be imported — IOA will do it. Even in that Mr Hooper is involved very closely.

Q. You have always been confident about the preparations. It has been several years and yet some projects, like redevelopment of Connaught Place, are still at a nascent stage. What went wrong?

A. I keep asking NDMC all the time about CP and they tell me it will be over by March-April. Work is going on at a frenetic pace.

Q. Could this last-minute panic have been avoided?

A.Who’s panicking? We are nervous but confident of making up for the lost time — if we have lost any. Every person involved in this is giving his/her best. The multiplicity of authorities does create problems, things take longer than they should.

Q. Do you feel some departments/agencies are lagging behind more than others?

A.Yes. We are feeling concerned about Sports Authority of India, about IOA because it has to get the training done, tell us how many guides they need, how many drivers, how many taxis etc. But we keep on talking to each other. We have to be in constant touch with Airports Authority of India also. Our departments say they are all on time except electronics. Thyagaraj, for example, is absolutely there, but till we get the turf, the rest of it cannot be built. Jawaharlal Nehru must also be waiting (for the turf).

Q.Do you really think Delhiites can get rid of the ‘‘rude’’ tag in a year? A.I hope. You know it’s just a sense of indiscipline which needs to be addressed. We will start a campaign for a much more sensitive city. Things, I believe, can change because if this was an inbuilt trait, how come these same people go to other countries and are very different people? What is it that irks you most about Delhiites’ behaviour?

A.The way to look at it is things may be bad but what am I doing to contribute to it — either a solution or a complication. That’s the attitude I would like to develop. My point is we need to sensitise people. Power is short and yet we run ACs when we don’t need them, we know you do not overtake from the left but still do. Or you go zigzagging. When we abide by rules, we save our own lives, cars. We need to look at ourselves and ask what am I doing about this. Unless we develop that mindset, no amount of government efforts will change things.

Q.You had some reservations about the colour scheme decided by IOA and wanted more of green. Is that true?

A. I had no reservations. Pink and purple traditionally go very well together. But I wasn’t sure if pink would go with the Games. I have been saying for four years that this is going to be the first green Games, where eco-friendly norms like conservation and recycling will be adhered to.

Q.What happened to the Blueline phaseout plan?

A.Tatas have started giving the buses. We initially thought we would get about 5,000 before the Games but now it seems it will be about 3,000 plus. We need 570 just for the athletes that we will keep separate.

Q.There was a plan to get ministers to monitor Games projects. What was the need for the order and its subsequent withdrawal?

A.There is no withdrawal. This is merely to tell ministers that somebody should ensure that the matter is brought to the notice of the concerned minister. It’s just about involving people and getting a feedback.

Q.When Delhi first got the Games, you had a vision for the city. How much of that is going to be realized a year down the line?

A. I hope all of it will be there. Let’s see how it comes out because that’s when you will judge us.

Q.Would you say this is your biggest challenge so far as the CM of Delhi?

A. Internationally and nationally it is my government’s biggest challenge. Water or power shortage is not a national or international issue. This certainly is. This is our great opportunity and responsibility too, a very big responsibility.

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