Sunday, March 21, 2010

Painters Painted games spirit on 200 foot canvas

With nearly 200 days to go before the 19th Commonwealth Games, Delhi on Sunday kicked off the celebrations in the run up to the mega sporting event. Sports enthusiasts, artists and children came together at the India Gate lawns with Games organizers to mark the beginning of the fun and festivities, with kites and colors.

Oblivious to the rising temperature and a scorching sun, nearly 500 painters splashed color on a 200-foot-long canvas to say that Delhi is ready for the Games, at least in spirit. Divya Chandra, a professional painter who had come to the India Gate lawns with her family, said, ‘‘It was so much fun to be painting on a canvas with so many other artists. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as we all were in a mood of celebration.’’

Eminent painters Satish Gujral and Jatin Das were also present to be a part of the celebrations. Gujral made the first stroke on the canvas before others enthusiastically took over. ‘‘There is a great enthusiasm for the Games. There may be so much construction going on everywhere but we should bear the problems now because in the end, we will have so much development in the city,’’ Gujral said.

Suresh Kalmadi, chairperson, Organizing Committee, Commonwealth Games 2010, said, ‘‘It’s great to see so many people turning up. We will have such celebrations every fortnight now. We are already preparing Delhites for the Games and it’s going to be wonderful. We will take these paintings to different stadia now.’’

With the programme being organized on Sunday, many parents grabbed the chance to spend quality time with their children. ‘‘We read an advertisement in the papers about the Commonwealth Games celebration. Since we reside close by in Bapa Nagar, we brought the children here. I am glad, they are having so much fun,’’ said Neerja Joshi, mother of a class V student.

Colors and drawing sheets were provided by the organizers. She added, ‘‘We just came here to see what the celebrations were like. My son knows quite a lot about the Commonwealth Games. It almost seems like a festival now.’’ Four-year old Pooja Gupta, who was engrossed in making drawings, was too busy to even look up. ‘‘I am making a kite,’’ she quickly mentioned.

Though the sun was unbearable, it did not stop many children from coming out in open and enjoy kite flying. Looking up was difficult, so the tiny tots had to make do with holding the strings attached with kites set in air by the organizers. Others collected the red and white kites as souvenirs of the approaching Games.


Call it unbridled enthusiasm. As close to 500 painters came together on Sunday at India Gate, even a 200-foot canvas made up of smaller pieces kept side-by-side was not enough. Such was the excitement that most artists ended up vying for space to give their best stroke. After they were through, many were seen going back to give finishing touches to their work so they could stand out in the riot of colors. ‘‘There were like 10 painters on one canvas. We painted on whatever space we could grab,’’ said an artist who left her name in the centre of her painting. Children spent the morning drawing just about anything. Though there were tables and chairs for the participants, some were so engrossed they just lay on the ground even as their parents fetched them colors, food and water.

Many were seen working on their pieces even after the professional painters had left. A few street children turned up at the venue and got a chance to see what they should ideally be doing in life having fun. Though they came to collect used plastic bottles, some of them stopped to see children their age playing with colors. They had to rush soon but not without taking along a few abandoned kites. That Delhi is trying to be a good host was evident in the messages left behind by the artists. ‘Welcome to India’, ‘Best wishes’, ‘I love India’, ‘We love peace’ painters had scribbled all kinds of messages on the canvas even though they were not given any common theme to paint on.

IGL gas for power generation at Thyagraj Stadium

It’s the first green stadium and come April, it would be able to generate its own power for the upcoming Commonwealth Games.

Delhi government’s Thyagraj Stadium will be getting natural gas from next month onwards, enabling it to become one of the first buildings in the city to be self-sufficient, power-wise. The government, which has tied up with IGL to supply 30,000 square cubic metre (scm) per day to the gas turbines at Thyagraj Stadium, is all set to start generation soon. Said a senior PWD official, ‘‘The power generated would not only take care of the needs of the stadium but after the Games, will support the needs of the city as well.’’

As part of the agreement, IGL will supply 30,000scm per day of natural gas for the 3.5MW gas turbines installed at the stadium, which would be producing power on the principle of co-generation where waste heat from turbine exhaust would be used to run 1,300 TR VAM for air-conditioning. According to sources, IGL has already laid the pipeline to connect to the stadium. The installation of metering and regulating station is almost complete and the gas supply is expected to start in the last week of March, 2010.

PWD officials said the gas supply will start this monthend, with the stadium scheduled to be inaugurated on April 2. The power generated will be more than enough for the consumption of light and air-conditioning of 1,300 tonne for the stadium without any additional cost. This would be through a vapour absorption machine using exhaust gases generated by the turbine. The 3.5MW of power will remain available after the Games.

Thyagraj Stadium has been constructed as per green building concept which includes rainwater harvesting and rainwater use, effluent treatment plant, use of fly ash bricks, heat insulation through cavity walls, glazing with double insulated glass and thermal insulation on roof and wall, conservation of water through use of recycled water for flushing and horticulture and adjustable flow taps with censors and dual knob flushing, solar power generator of 1MW, use of clean fuel i.e. gas turbine type generator sets and heat recovery for use in chillers.

To address the increased demand of CNG in Delhi, efforts are on to commission 55 new CNG stations out of which 21 have been commissioned.

Zero tolerance for Begging in the City

The Delhi Government is gearing up to deal with the problem of beggary in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. While 12 points have been identified as zero tolerance zones, three mobile vans have been added to increase prosecutions and mobile courts are on the job.

The problem of begging came up for discussion during the question hour of the Delhi assembly on Friday. Social welfare minister Mangat Ram singhal informed that the drive to prosecute beggars had been on since October.

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit stressed the need to replace the Bombay Beggary Act. She revealed that the Centre is working on legislation on the issue of beggary for the entire country. But if that takes long, the state government may frame its own law to replace the archaic provisions of the Act.

Delhi’s Invitation to states to participate in Games

As the Delhi government gears up for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, there are plans afoot to take the Games beyond the city. Said Rina Ray, managing director, DTTDC, ‘‘We are in talks with neighboring states to be a part of the Games. We’ve asked them to designate a park or public space in a city and earmark it as a Commonwealth park. On opening day (of the Games), this space would be the ground for cultural events intrinsic to that region.’’

According to Ray, several states have already agreed to come on board though she refused to reveal the names.

That’s not all. Delhi tourism is also planning to hold a mini Commonwealth Games a month before the actual event, which would be targeted at street children as well as those with disabilities. ‘‘The government will tie-up with NGOs to promote these events, which would be held from September 3-14, and will be for children,’’ added Ray. Bal melas, plays, sporting competitions and other events will mark the celebrations.

On day two of Delhi’s first tourism conclave, the department of tourism unveiled a number of plans for the Commonwealth Games. From heritage walks and street markets to public art, night bazaars and cultural evenings, the department plans to make the city come alive, claimed Ray. ‘‘While the budget is yet to be allocated, we have drawn up our plans. We are looking for sponsors for the events too,’’ added the DTTDC MD.

It’s not just ‘Delhi Celebrates’ the Games-focused tourism plan of the Delhi government that will be launched in the next few days however. Come April, Delhi tourism also plans to launch a branding exercise for the city. ‘‘It’s a long term exercise and will promote Delhi as a tourist destination much beyond the Games, which are more of a trigger,’’ added Ray. The campaign, which will have the Indi-pop band Euphoria compose a song as the signature campaign song, will also highlight Delhi’s cultural roots, with the department planning to rope in renowned Sufi singers for the campaign.

‘‘The branding exercise will run simultaneously with Delhi Celebrates,’’ added Ray. The conclave also saw the organizing committee laud the legacy of the Games. V K Verma of the OC claimed that the infrastructure of the city post-Games would help the country win the bid for hosting Olympics Games. DUAC chairperson, K T Ravindran, spoke about tourism’s ability to bridge the distance for the economically backward, making the Games an inclusive exercise.

Said Ravindran, ‘‘The Games can be a revenue as well as job-generating experience for Delhi if the right steps are taken.’’

Friday, March 19, 2010

Delhi Come Out and Paint on 21 March

The organizing Committee CWG is holding a painting festival at India Gate Lawns, opposite National Stadium, on 21st March.

The mela has to be started by Satish Gujral along with other renowned artists who will

Games Tourist to have new maps for easy navigation

Come October, your search for a toilet in the middle of a crowded street of Delhi may be over.

Expecting hordes of tourists in the city during the Commonwealth Games, Delhi government’s tourism department is planning to come up with various maps of the city, including one that mentions the locations of public toilets. The government will also issue maps of heritage monuments, shopping destinations, tourist spots, nightclubs and other important destinations in the city.

Rina Ray, managing director of DTTDC, said: ‘‘The maps based on the Metro map have been issued as one stop point of information for tourists. Transport and public facilities are the two most important factors for a tourist, which we are hoping to address through these maps.’’

It’s not the only plan up the DTTDC’s sleeve however. According to Ray, the tourism department will be launching its website soon, even as it continues its training programmes for local guides and tour operators. Ray said: ‘‘We are also looking at providing information on a tourist destination like a heritage monument on cell phones.’’

Basically, information about the monument would be available on the helpline set up by the tourism department, which can be accessed with the monument code. Ray said the helpline number would be prominently displayed at all tourist and public areas.

Ideas like these and others came up at the first tourism conclave organized by Delhi tourism for the upcoming Games. The two-day seminar, co-organized by the CII, elaborated on plans by the Northern Railways to renovate the three railway stations in the city and make them ready by August even as other stakeholders like DIAL, tour operators and hotel owners spoke about Delhi’s potential to attract a large number of tourists during the Games.

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who inaugurated the conclave, was candid about the role that could be played by the private sector in the preparations for the Games. ‘‘When we go to France, US or Australia, we remember the mannerism of people there... (Similarly) Delhi should be a truly civilized city,’’ she said. According to Dikshit, who handles the tourism portfolio, the government is also planning to set up theatres for cultural events to attract more tourists to the city.

Ideas were in fact freely available as the conclave took off. Danseuse Sharon Lowen spoke about making the experience more hands-on for tourists by getting them involved in the activities.

Ramjas Refused to Surrender Land for road widening

The beautification of roads for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games is likely to hit a hurdle on Delhi University campus as Ramjas College has refused to surrender its land for widening of the pavement on Sudhir Bose Marg. The college principal has now written to the lieutenant-governor informing him that the governing body was withdrawing its consent conveyed to the university on November 4 last year.

According to the college governing body, it had earlier agreed to surrender around 565 square meters of its land along Sudhir Bose Marg and another 300 square meters for road widening as there was pressure from the university authorities. The land required was later restricted to just 745 square meters along Sudhir Bose Marg but was again increased to 791.66 square meters in January this year.

The college authorities allege that the land, which belongs to the Ramjas Foundation, is being acquired by the University for the Beautification Project of the MCD without following procedure. The college principal, Rajendra Prasad, said land from no other college located on that road was being taken over. ‘‘UTTIPEC (a nodal agency headed by the LG for clearing all projects related to road and transport) had decided that footpaths were to be widened by reducing the carriageway and not by taking over the college land,’’ said Prasad. He added, ‘‘We were given only a week to give our consent without even letting us know of this decision of UTTIPEC.’’

College staff says that taking away of land outside the building may disturb the students as classrooms will come near the road. Manoj Verma, president, Ramjas Staff Council, said, ‘‘Due to OBC reservations, we are already falling short of space. We are not in a position to give away even an inch of land from our college campus. And since there are plans to make the traffic one-way outside the college, the traffic volume is set to increase.’’ He further said, ‘‘All our old trees along the college wall will also have to be axed.’’

Prasad insisted that Ramjas has been an enthusiastic supporter of Commonwealth Games but now surrendering its land was out of question. ‘‘We have already given our sports ground for construction of the stadium and our girls and boys hostel too. We are also giving our college as a venue for interviews of the volunteers. But acquiring our college land is not required,’’ he said.

CWG to get another 700cr more for meeting rising cost

After the budget for conducting the Commonwealth Games was more than doubled from Rs 767 crore to Rs 1,670 crore just three months ago, the event is to receive another Rs 700 crore for ‘‘outlays’’ — an innocuous-sounding word essentially meaning furnishing.

Even as the Cabinet is set to consider the huge hike on Friday, the jump does not include expenses such as upgrade of sporting infrastructure, security, roads and bridges and various civil works aimed at beautifying the city. The total cost of the Games is estimated to be over Rs 10,000 crore, even though this does not include the bill for a part of airport modernization and Games-related Metro projects.

With the Games, scheduled for October 3-14, nearing rapidly, the government has had to put up with a sharp escalation of costs in order to ensure the prestigious event is staged without a glitch. But even as it races to meet deadlines, the Rs 700-crore jump is hardly an insignificant increase given that it is related to ‘‘soft’’ infrastructure like facades, furniture and design elements.

The Suresh Kalmadi-led organizing committee has been under fire for slipping on deadlines.

Going Through The Roof?

Rs 5165cr: Original total cost of Games projected in 2006, including cost of civil and stadium infrastructure as well as training

Rs 10,000cr: Total cost now estimated, which does not include projects like airport modernization and Games-related Metro work

Rs 2,050cr: Budget for Delhi government work alone, which includes a few stadiums but is chiefly related to roads and bridges

Rs 6,200cr: Estimated cost of renovating existing stadiums and constructing new ones as well as conducting the 2010 Games

Kalmadi clout ensures more flow of funds

Even as the Cabinet considers the huge hike on Friday, officials monitoring preparation for the Games have repeatedly expressed the apprehension that the rush to ensure timely completion could see budgets going haywire.

With national pride at stake, the government would have little option but to fork out more funds even as oversight suffers.

The PMO was forced to intervene and put in place a team of officials headed by a CEO after the Commonwealth Games Federation warned that Delhi was slipping on deadlines. But Kalmadi is still seen to be in the driver’s seat and the man behind major decisions.

Some surprise has been expressed over plans to hire furniture from foreign suppliers which is to be shipped out after the Games are over.

Given Kalmadi’s ability to have his way, there is not much doubt that the proposals will sail through. Another indication of the Congress MP’s clout came by way of his being named a secretary to the Congress parliamentary party executive recently.

The initial estimates in 2006 for the Games as a whole had been a little more than Rs 5,000 crore. This had included Rs 1,000 crore for the Games Village, Rs 1,700 crore for venue infrastructure, Rs 1,300 crore for civil infrastructure and Rs 300 crore for training the Indian contingent. Only recently, the budget for the Delhi government was raised to Rs 2,050 crore for its work alone, which includes a few stadia but is chiefly related to roads and bridges.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Body scanner Installed at IGI on a trial basis

Passengers looking forward to flying out of IGI’s upcoming terminal (T3) can expect more than just exposure to global standards. In a first for Indian airports, the government has decided to install the controversial body scanner on a trial basis.

‘‘The ministry is considering installing body scanners at IGI on a trial basis once the new terminal is commissioned,’’ aviation minister Praful Patel told Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

The technology promises foolproof security checks by producing an image of a passenger’s body for security men to check for hidden objects.

Technology for body scan not yet finalized

T3 is scheduled to be inaugurated in the first week of July and fully operational soon after that. Since body scanners have raised serious issues with many questioning the alleged breach of privacy and health impact of radiation, aviation minister Praful Patel added a word of caution.

Patel said the government is yet to finalize the type of technology to be deployed as the proposal is still in initial stages. ‘‘Appropriate safeguards and certification for privacy and health issues will be incorporated,’’ he said.

After Delhi, Mumbai could be the next airport to get these scanners. Airport operators in India are themselves unsure about the privacy issues being generated by body scanners. Apart from that, they are also unsure of the health impact of the exposure of radiation to frequent fliers.

‘‘We have our reservations. But being a sensitive security issue, we would like the government to address all concerns sensitively. Our intelligence and security agencies have advocated deployment of body scanners at airports and we will do as told,’’ said an airport operator on condition of anonymity.

Some airports globally have started using this controversial scanning system and at present ask only suspicious passengers to go through them. If such passengers decline to be subjected to the scanner test, they are not allowed to board aircraft.

London Heathrow, for instance, deployed body scanners soon after a Nigerian national managed to board a Detroit-bound aircraft from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport with explosives strapped on him last December. Schiphol has body scanners and France and Italy could also use this technique at their airports. The West has worked out an interim code for security men that mandate passengers will not be asked to pass through body scanners on the basis of gender, race or ethnic origin. India will now have to devise its own code of conduct.

Street side dhabas to be shut before Games

In a move that will hit the livelihood of lakhs of people and completely change the city’s street-food culture, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has started removing all illegal dhabas as part of an antiencroachment drive before the Commonwealth Games. There are an estimated 20,000 dhabas in the city, of which 70-80% — around 14,000 to 16,000 — are deemed illegal.

N K Yadav, MCD health officer, said a special drive against roadside eateries had been launched. ‘‘Deputy Commissioners of all 12 city zones have been asked to remove encroachments on public land. Illegal dhabas are part of the drive. Removal of these dhabas has nothing to do with the HC order.’’

In 2008, Delhi high court had asked the civic agency to remove all eateries operating on encroached land within 30 days from October 16 of that year. In response, MCD had said that it would come up with a policy for such eateries.

Under the new policy, the civic agency said it would start issuing licences to dhaba owners with legal establishments. In addition, kiosks and stall owners could also get licences issued by MCD. Since most of the existing dhabas function from public land, MCD says removing these illegal eateries is part of its anti-encroachment drive.

The MCD had also claimed in 2008 that it would carry out a survey to determine the number of illegal dhabas in the city. This was never conducted.

MCD’s press and information director Deep Mathur confirmed the move. ‘‘The illegal dhabas are liable to be removed without serving any notice on them as they are considered encroachments. MCD can only issue licences to eating houses which have a covered roof. We have been told to remove all encroachments before the Commonwealth Games.’’

Dhabas in no hurry to quit If Shut Lakhs To Lose Jobs, Many Their Favourite Eating Joints

The MCD has started removing all illegal dhabas across the capital as part of their anti-encroachment drive before the Commonwealth Games. These dhabas provide livelihood to lakhs of workers and offer a quick bite to all classes of people. These eateries earn anything between Rs 3,000 to Rs 15,000 a month and employ up to 12 people.

Dr Amit Prakash from LNJP Hospital was out enjoying a meal at a dhaba near the hospital on Tuesday afternoon. He said: ‘‘We all live in the hostel and depend on the dhabas for our daily meals.’’

Areas like ITO, which have a concentration of offices, have numerous illegal eateries which are very crowded at most times. While MCD officials visit the area every few weeks, dhaba-owners usually get away by paying a bribe or closing down the place for a few days.

Recently, however, MCD officials asked the dhaba owners to stop functioning altogether from the area citing government orders. Said Baljeet, who owns a parantha stall at ITO: ‘‘I do not have a license as MCD refused to issue one to me. Many of us are functioning without licenses. A few days ago, an MCD official asked me to shut my stall saying the government had asked them to remove all encroachments.’’

Other dhaba owners too have been asked to go. But like Baljeet, they say they will carry on functioning as they have to earn a livelihood. Said Trilok Singh, who owns a tea stall at ITO, ‘‘We were asked to move as our stall is located near a drain and MCD said that they needed to carry out improvement work in the area.’’

Officials in the south zone also confirmed that the drive was on in their area. Most of the dhaba owners who have a license have set up their own seating space — not allowed under the rules — and also have a small set-up for making chapatis beyond the space allocated to them. Some of them have taken a tehbazari licensee, which is given for selling items that do not require cooking, but are operating an eating joint.

Under the rules, legal roadside eateries should have running water and proper ventilation, the kitchen should be kept clean and all vessels should be covered to avoid contamination. Further, the food items should be kept far from waste matter and a high standard of personal hygiene maintained by workers. This hardly seems to be the case in reality.