Thursday, May 27, 2010

OC Requested Exemption on VAT and Road Tax for 2000 cars to be procured for Games Duties

Delhi government’s Commonwealth Games tab seems to be constantly on the rise.

Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi has now written to the city government asking for a value added tax (VAT) and road tax exemption for the 2,000 cars that OC is planning to procure for Games duties. The total tab, according to rough estimates, is likely to come to around Rs 30-40 crore not a small amount for a government, which for the first time is experiencing financial constraints and this year, has a cash reserve of just about Rs 200 crore.

Confirming the receipt of the letter, a senior Delhi government official said that the companies with which OC is in talks for these cars are Maruti, Tata and Mahindra. Late on Wednesday night, a meeting was held in which it was decided that the government is ready to give the exemption with the clause that when the vehicles are sold off after the Games, VAT and road tax will have to be paid on the original buying amount. ‘‘We are in the process of drafting the letter and will soon send it to the OC,’’ said an official.

Incidentally, Delhi government’s new rates of road tax are expected to come into force from June 1 and in it the rates have been substantially hiked for bigger cars. This may further raise the tab for the Games vehicles exemption if it is granted.

Delhi government, apart from its expenses on the many infrastructure projects and stadia in the capital which are being constructed/redeveloped for the Games, has several other Games bills to foot. It is going to pick up the tab for the use of DTC’s low floor buses for Games delegates and will also reimburse the corporation the cost of the common tickets for the Games. As per the agreement reached, every Games ticket will come with a free DTC bus or Metro ride to and from the venue. DMRC has told the government that it will not need reimbursement but there is reluctance in the government to saddle the already cash-strapped DTC any further.

The OC had earlier requested for a VAT exemption on the sports equipment that they are buying but no decision has been reached on that yet. The matter, say senior officials, is still under consideration. An exemption has also be granted on luxury tax.

Now New Zealand express security concerns during Games

Despite innumerable assurances by the sports minister as well as the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games 2010, security continues to remain the primary concern for several participating countries. The latest country to voice their apprehension is New Zealand, where the Delhi Games 2010 Queen’s Baton relay visited earlier last week.

Sources say security concerns were on the agenda even as the local Indian and Kiwi community came out to welcome the Baton. Said an official who was part of the team which visited the country, ‘‘Security concerns were definitely the primary issue on the agenda. We had an in depth discussion with local officials as well as the sports and political brass about the security arrangements that India is making for the Games.’’ According to sources, the ‘‘discussion’’ was the focus at even the cultural events that were organized to welcome the Baton. Added the source, ‘‘Both officials and the local media had apprehensions about the security climate and how safe it was to bring athletes to India. We had to detail some of the plans to make them aware of the elaborate arrangements that India is making for the Games.’ The officials said that the local media was especially interested in the security plans.

Incidentally, the New Zealand Olympic Association had raised the issue once before in April this year, right after the bomb scare in Bangalore during the IPL. At that time, NZOA officials had said participation would be possible only after they were satisfied with the arrangements made for the CWG.

Till date, participating countries like Australia and the United Kingdom have risen concerns about security with even some sportspersons like Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice expressing apprehensions about arrangements. Sources say the security issue has been at the forefront in many countries on the Baton route despite the fact that the previous security liaison conference saw the Delhi plans get a thumbs-up. The Commonwealth Games Federation has also shown approval of the security plans of the government for the Games, though it has admitted that there was a need to keep a close look. The next security liaison conference is expected to take place late next month or early-July.

The security issue has been dodging the organizing committee (OC) since the bid for the Delhi Games was won in 2003. The OC as well as the government has often spoken about the arrangements, drawn up by the home ministry and the Delhi police. OC officials say the CGF’s international security consultant has already given approval to India’s security preparedness. ‘‘We have had a number of security briefings for the heads of missions of the Commonwealth countries. At each such forum, our security plans and arrangements have been welcomed,’’ added OC officials.

Battery Operated e-rickshaws to hit Delhi Roads Soon

Drivers will be specially trained, e-rickshaws to have GPS for easy monitoring

Rickety rickshaw rides are set to be replaced by a world-class experience the e-rick is on its way to Delhi. Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is introducing new rickshaws a hybrid between an auto rickshaw and cycle rickshaw that will be fitted with GPS systems.

These will be manned by drivers who will not only speak English but will also be trained to take tourists around the city’s popular destinations.

While 10 of these batteries operated, eco-friendly rickshaws will be seen on city roads by next month, MCD hopes to launch 4,000 of these before the Commonwealth Games. Said an MCD official: ‘‘We hope to replace all rickshaws plying in the city with the new e-ricks. There are a total of 99,000 licensed rickshaws in Delhi.’’

The e-ricks will have space for two to three people and will work as feeder services for Metro in areas like Vikas Marg, Vishwavidyalaya, Chandni Chowk, etc, besides plying near popular tourist sites.

The civic agency has formed a tie-up with a private firm, which will own, operate and maintain these rickshaws. The company is also exporting the e-ricks to England. Said an official: ‘‘ The maximum speed for this vehicle is 25km/hr. Provisions will be made at all MCD parking lots to recharge the battery of these rickshaws. We are also in talks with malls to allow their parking space to be used for recharging rickshaw batteries.’’

The current rickshaw pullers will be hired by the private firm and will receive a monthly salary of Rs 4000-5,000 besides a medical insurance by the company.

E-ricks’ trial runs have already been conducted and according to sources, a ride on the e-ricks would cost Rs 10-15 depending on the distance. Significantly, senior citizens will not be charged for taking its services.

The company will also enter into an agreement to park these ricks at MCD parking sites at night. The firm will get advert i s e m e n t rights from the civic agency in lieu of its service.

Added a senior official: ‘‘The company will pay us a monthly fee per vehicle for putting up advertisements on the new rickshaws. E-ricks will ply in the light motor vehicle lane.’’

Other facilities like LCD screens might be added to the existing model at a later stage to make it more attractive. The entire rickshaw model is recyclable.

These modern rickshaws ply in countries such as England, Australia, China, Canada, Denmark, Italy and Germany.

In fact, e-rick fleets were present at a number of international events such as the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the Expo 2005 in Japan and 2006 Football World Championship in Germany.

Finally Decided - Opening Ceremony to Start at 7 PM on October 3, 2010

The controversy over the starting time of opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games is finally over. In what is a setback for the Organizing Committee (OC) of the Games, the ceremony will now start in the evening after sunset.

The Group of Ministers (GOM) on Saturday decided to start the programme at 7 pm on October 3. TOI had reported last week that the Games’ Organizing Committee (OC) was keen on a 5.30 pm start owing to its broadcast deal, struck in 2008, with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This had been out rightly rejected by the ‘creative group’ comprising Bharat Bala, Shyam Benegal, Prasoon Joshi and Javed Akhtar which is putting together the cultural programmes for the opening and closing ceremonies.

“The GOM had a long and productive meeting. The opening ceremony will begin at 7 pm. It was decided by all of us. There was a pretty comprehensive presentation on the opening as well as closing ceremony by the creative group in charge and we are satisfied with what we saw,” sports minister MS Gill told reporters after the meeting which was also attended by lieutenant governor Tejendra Khanna and chief minister Sheila Dikshit besides OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi.

This decision came a huge boost for the creative group which had earlier told the OC that it was too late to change the plans and begin the show at 5.30pm. The group was worried that any change in the original plan to have it at 7.30 pm would ruin the laser show and the special effects.

Gill did not reveal whether the march past by the athletes, which is part of the opening ceremony, would start before 7pm. But Benegal, a member of the creative group, revealed that opening ceremony would last two and half hours and include everything.

“The event will include everything, from protocol to other formal things in the (cultural) show,” said Benegal adding that the controversy surrounding the time has been put to rest. “”Why get into it now? There were some issues and they have been resolved. No point getting into those as there are no more problems.”

When asked whether five months would be enough time to prepare for the opening ceremony, another member of the group, Prasoon Joshi said: “India always works hard and surprises people. This time we all will do it.”

Kalmadi also said that the issues relating to the time of the event have been “sorted out.”

It has been, for the time being, but it remains to be seen whether OC’s deal with the ABC will be affected by this decision or not.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vacant Plots to be Developed by MCD for Commercial Purposes

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is planning to make commercial use of vacant plots in areas such as Bhishm Pitamah Marg and GK-II behind Savitri. After the primary health centre at Bhishm Pitamah Marg is relocated, the plot will be developed into a commercial space under public-private partnership.

‘‘The approximate project cost will be Rs 15 crore. The front portion of the building will host a food court or a coffee shop while the rear side would be set aside for finance firms. A two-level parking is also proposed,’’ said an official. He added that the first and second floors can be used as office space or can be given out to shopkeepers. MCD is hoping to earn Rs 200 crore from this project.

The civic agency also plans to develop another plot measuring 2.5 acres in E-block, GK-II near the DLF Center. Said an official: ‘‘At present, part of the land is being used for unauthorized parking while the other half has been encroached. We will remove all encroachments from there and fence the area. We are then planning to put the land to commercial use after carrying out a competitive bidding and consulting the chief town planner.’’

Besides these two plots, MCD has identified plots in 11 prime locations, including a 4-acre plot near Jhandewalan temple, 8-acre plot behind Ghazipur village, plot behind Hanuman Mandir near Baba Kharak Singh Marg, recently vacated Idgah slaughterhouse, a park near Raj Niwas, plot near Tis Hazari. A district-cum-commercial centre will also be built at Raja Garden at a cost of Rs 165 crore.

‘‘A survey was conducted to identify vacant plots in the capital. We have found a number of plots that can be commercially exploited. We are now looking into changing their land use,’’ added a senior MCD official.

A detailed proposal has already been made for Novelty Cinema and tenders have been floated for the same. Last year, the civic agency had identified a vacant plot in Greater Kailash-I and it had proposed to construct a mall on it since it is a prime property.

PWD Renovating Neela Hauz

Neela Hauz, the centuries-old water body at Aruna Asif Ali Marg near Vasant Kunj that was filled up to construct a flyover, may still have some hope for survival.

With the flyover near completion, PWD has started digging out earth used to fill up the water body from a section of the lake. Officials are hoping that within a month after the project is completed in June they would be able to hand over the lake to DDA, which will develop it into a biodiversity zone.

‘‘In the past few weeks, we have dug out about 36,000 cubic meters of earth from under the stretch of flyover that has been completed. The more we dig, the more groundwater comes to the surface. Before work started, we had taken measurements to know the exact depth of the water body. We will dig out mud accordingly,’’ said a senior official.

The flyover work had bi-furcated the lake into two parts one which is currently covered with water plants and the other, which was leveled with earth to facilitate the construction.

According to sources, about 45,000 cubic meters of earth had been dumped into the water body before work started. In addition to that, constant movement of heavy trucks and dumping of malba in the area had choked the lake. The issue was then taken up by NGOs and locals. The L-G intervened and asked the PWD to ensure that the lake was restored to its original state after completion of the project.

The earth being dug out is sent to a nearby farmhouse where the level of land has to be raised. Jyoti Sharma, director, NGO FORCE, who has been pursuing the Neela Hauz restoration matter since work started on the flyover in 2008, said: ‘‘When I visited the site recently, I saw big craters where there had been a solid road till some days back, In those craters, I saw water slowly and hesitantly reclaiming its rightful place. Little by little, section by section, they have started taking out the earth that had filled up the lake. Trucks are lined up during the day and they continuously transport the earth to a nearby site.’’

The work on the flyover started in May 2008 and was scheduled to be completed by September 2009. But due to technical issues, work has been stalled and will now be completed by June.

After that, all the malba in and around the water body will be cleaned up and the area developed into a bio-diverse park along with Sanjay Van that is right next to it.

Delhi Metro Ready for Extra Rush During Opening and Closing Ceremonies of CWG

Jawaharlal Nehru (JN) Stadium, the main venue for the Commonwealth Games, will be fed by two Metro stations JN Stadium and Jangpura on the opening and closing ceremonies. Metro officials said that both stations have been specially designed to handle the huge rush of spectators expected at the stadium on opening and closing ceremony.

Both the stations fall on the Badarpur Metro line that was added to Phase II of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) projected Metro network nearly one-and-a-half years after the rest of the lines were sanctioned. Officials argued that the two stations would provide better connectivity to venues like JN stadium and Dr Karni Singh shooting range.

The two Metro stations, which are located at a distance of about 890 meters, will cater to different entry/exits of the stadium. While the upcoming JN Metro station is located barely 100 meters away from the venue, the second station at Jangpura is around 500 meter farther on the eastern side.

With over 65,000 spectators expected for the opening and closing ceremonies on October 3 and 14, respectively, at JN stadium, more than half of whom are expected to take the Metro, the need was felt to link two stations to prevent crowding.

The main JN Metro station, which is expected to cater to more people due to its proximity to the stadium, has been planned keeping the Games in mind. Spread over an area of about 6,000 sq meters, the station will have 5 entries to make it easily accessible. Inside, the staircases are wider than usual they have a width of 4.25 meters as against the standard 2.4 meters. In addition, the platform and ticketing areas will be connected with four escalators.

This station has been designed to service about 4,000 passengers per minute and about 80,000 commuters per hour. The platforms are more spacious at 1,800 sq meters and the number of Automated Fare Collection (AFC) gates is 20 in comparison to 8 found at other Metro stations. ‘‘We have prepared a special plan for clearance of commuters during the opening and closing ceremony. The train frequency will be increased to ensure fast clearance at the platforms to avoid crowding,’’ said a DMRC official.

During the Games, DMRC will post volunteers at both the stations to guide passengers and LED signages will be put up for information display. There will be extra lighting inside the stations for improved visibility and meetings are being held with Delhi Police and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to provide foolproof security at the stations as well as inside trains. A special control room will be established at JN stadium Metro station from where public announcements will be controlled.

Barapullah Nullah Road to be completed before Games: Kalmadi

Even as doubts are being raised over the timely completion of 4-km elevated road over Barapullah Nullah, Commonwealth Games organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi on Thursday said that the signal-free stretch will be ready well before the sporting extravaganza.

Though it will be the last elevated road project to be completed before the Games, Public Works Department (PWD) officials said that the corridor may be ready by July end or mid-August against its present deadline of June.

The 4-km elevated road over the huge drain has been taken up to provide non-stop connectivity between Commonwealth Games Village and Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, one of the main venues. Nearly 10,000 sportspersons will use this stretch during the Games.

‘‘The project is progressing well and it’s 84% complete. The missing segments across Ring Road near Kale Khan have been installed. The segments across the second crossing over the Lala Lajpat Rai Marg will also be installed by this month end,’’ said a senior PWD official.

He added that segments over two major stretches railway tracks near Nizamuddin station and Mathura Road would also be fixed by June and July. ‘‘Fixing the segments over the railway tracks is a critical task. This has to be done under the supervision of railway engineers and the train movement has to be stopped during the process. The Railways have demanded Rs 110 crore as fee for unscheduled stoppage of trains on operational railway tracks whereas we have offered Rs 56 crore. The issue remains unresolved,’’ another department official.

Sources said that the permission from railways to construct the elevated stretch over its tracks came only last September. ‘‘A project of this nature ideally takes three years for completion, but we are constructing it only in 18 months. At an interval of every 600-700 meters, we have to fix segments over major roads.

We are not executing the project in haste to avoid any risk,’’ the official said. The original deadline for this project is June 2010 but chief minister Sheila Dikshit had asked PWD officials to complete it by March. The present cost of the six-lane project is close to Rs 600 crore. The elevated road takes off from Ring Road near Sarai Kale Khan and terminates at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

A Single ticket for DTC Bus, Delhi Metro and CWG Event

Come October and you can use the ticket you’ve bought to watch the Commonwealth Games for a ride on the Metro or a DTC bus. On Thursday, organizing committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi said that the proposal to have a common ticket for the Commonwealth Games, Metro and DTC has been accepted. ‘‘Anyone buying a ticket for an event for the Commonwealth Games will be allowed two rides on the same ticket on the Metro or the DTC,’’ said Kalmadi.

The decision comes after months of discussions among the three agencies involved in the proposal the transport department of Delhi government, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and OC. The tussle was over the funding for the project, which none of the agencies was willing to foot. Kalmadi, while announcing that the common ticket would be available from June 1 onwards, added that the project was not being funded by the OC. ‘‘The issue has been resolved by the other two agencies. All I can say is that OC is not funding the project, though we will ensure that the common tickets are available from June 1,’’ he said.

Even as senior DMRC and transport department officials said they are unaware of any decision on the funding of tickets, the fact that spectators to the Games will get free rides has been resolved. It is estimated that DTC will spend about Rs 6 crore to 7 crore to ferry spectators free of cost and will spend about Rs 30 crore more for providing a fleet of 574 dedicated buses for athletes, dignitaries, officials, etc. ‘‘DTC will not be able to bear the additional loss and Delhi government will have to bail the corporation out,’’ said sources. DMRC too plans to accept paper tickets from spectators in exchange for tokens for spectators using the Metro. ‘‘The modalities are still being worked out,’’ said a senior DMRC official.

Special bus routes and timetables have been worked out for the 14-day period of the Games where city buses will facilitate movement of people to the Games venues and places of tourist interest.

Initially, the Delhi Government had suggested that it would charge Rs 100 as its share from the OC for common ticketing system for DTC and Metro. Officials said the main purpose is to promote public transport system during Games. Interestingly, the OC had recommended that DTC and Metro provide subsidized or free services to spectators during the Games, a suggestion which both agencies had refused, citing poor economic logic. Sources added that the OC had also refused to support DTC financially on the issue.

Games Ticket to be Available from 1 June, Cheapest will be priced at Rs 50

All the venues may still not be ready but the organizing committee (OC) is gearing up to sell tickets for the Commonwealth Games from June 1. The cheapest ticket will be priced at Rs 50.

‘‘Around 1.7 million tickets will be sold for the Games starting from October 3. These tickets will initially be available only from a dedicated call centre, the Commonwealth Games 2010 website and a few select outlets,’’ OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi said on Thursday.

However, the OC is also planning to make the tickets available in more than 50 outlets of Central Bank and Hero Honda within 10-15 days of the launch of ticket sale.

For those hoping to catch the action live at the stadia, the low pricing of tickets is an added incentive. “These tickets will be available till the start of each event,” Kalmadi said.

OC officials refused to reveal the different price slabs for the remaining tickets. However, sources said they would be available in four slabs, with options for group bookings. The ticket prices would also be different for the various sporting events, with the opening and closing ceremonies at a separate price slab altogether.

OC sources said the maximum demand is expected to be for the opening and closing ceremonies.

After announcing that tickets for the Commonwealth Games will be available from June 1, officials said that tickets for opening and closing ceremony will be most expensive. Both ceremonies will take place at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, which has a seating capacity of 64,000 spectators.

Kalmadi admitted that the OC was trying to ensure that tickets in the lower price range would be easily available, as demand was expected in this category. ‘‘Availability will be the prime concern, as we expect demand to go up once the Queen’s Baton Relay goes through the country, and more people get to know about the Commonwealth Games,’’ added Kalmadi. Ticket sales, though, are primarily expected to be through the call centre set up specifically for the purpose. The tickets bought online by spectators would be changed to physical tickets at the venue before the event. At present, the OC is expecting around 1 lakh inter national tourists. The number of domestic tourists is expected to also go up in October for the Commonwealth Games, say OC officials.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

CWG Games flats to go at market rate at Rs. 15000 per Square Feet

DDA to Sell 700 Apartments in CWG Village at Rs 15,000 per Sq Feet

The rates of the once reasonably-priced DDA flats are getting real. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is talking of disposing of over 700 flats it owns in the Commonwealth Games Village at market prices. According to DDA estimates, the market rate is around Rs 15,000/sqft.

The move comes on the heels of allegations of DDA losing over Rs 89 crore in its bailout package to the Emaar MGF, the developers of the Commonwealth Games Village. According to the latest Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report, the DDA’s acceptance of Rs 11,000/sqft as the buying price for the 333 flats it bought from Emaar MGF as a bailout package, was higher than recommended by its own evaluation committee.

Denying the findings of the CAG report, DDA’s finance member, Nand Lal, said, ‘‘The rates paid by DDA was less than the prevailing rates of that time. It is expected that after the Games, the prices will go up further. Therefore, DDA has incurred no loss as the flats purchased will be disposed of at a much higher price than the purchase price.’’ While Lal refused to reveal what the sale mechanism would be whether through auction or otherwise he admitted the flats would be sold at market rates. ‘‘We will substantially gain from the deal (the bailout package),’’ added Lal.

The market rates agreed by DDA for the Village flats in 2009 when DDA gave the bailout package was Rs 11,000/sqft, which DDA estimates say, has gone up to Rs 15,000/sqft in the current realty scenario. It’s expected to go up further by next year, when DDA will dispose of the flats. The move to sell the flats at market prices is a departure from the norm for DDA, which usually sells its flats at prices considerably lower than market rates. The rates for DDA flats which were sold as part of its latest housing scheme in 2008, ranged from Rs 7.20 lakh-Rs 24.80 lakh for the one-bedroom flats, while the costliest was less than a crore for the three-bedroom flats.

Lal meanwhile denied almost all findings of the CAG report, claiming the rates were agreed by not only its evaluation committee but also officials of the ministry of urban development and the LG office. He also claimed that the allegation of DDA not charging the developer any penalty for over-shooting the agreed floor area ratio (FAR) was premature, as it was charged at the time of giving the completion certificate. Said Lal, ‘‘Once the developer applies for the completion certificate, we shall compute the FAR and charge penalty if it is beyond the agreed figure. It is premature to talk about penalty as of now.’’

Delhi Police is Grappling with the Problem of Creating a Centralized Security Clearance

Delhi Police is grappling with the problem of creating a centralized system to provide security clearance to thousands of officials, athletes and other supporting staff at over 50 Commonwealth Games venues.

"There will be multi-department interaction during the Commonwealth Games. Police personnel and officials from civic agency, ministries, departments including those in charge of cleaning and upkeep of the venues would have to be given access. There is a need of a system to identify such men and allow them the entry," a senior Delhi Police official said.

Official sources said a number of personnel from civic agencies Municipal Corporation of Delhi and New Delhi Municipal Council, Sports Ministry, Culture Ministry, central paramilitary forces, private supporting staff for catering and house-keeping work among others shall be frequenting Games venues.

Delhi Police Commissioner Y S Dadwal, who has been interacting with members of his departmental technical committee on the matter, is the nodal officer in-charge of security matters.

Authorities are considering the idea of issuing security cum identity passes which will provide limited and graded access to officials and staff.

Delhi Police has already carried out a security audit of all the Games venues. According to the information given on CWG website the 17 sports to feature in the Games will be held at six venue clusters and five stand-alone venues in Delhi.

Besides, 26 new training venues are being constructed for the Games for different sports. Apart from this, 16 training venues are being upgraded.

Delhi Police has also made a crisis management plan to deal with any contingencies including fire, stampede and terror attacks at the Games venues.

Delhi Police is on a heightened alert against the possibility of terror attacks during the Games.
Sources said the Delhi Police, which is the first line of defense at Games venues, does not as yet have any data on the number of such employees or officials who shall be coming to the venues.
"We are coordinating with different departments including several ministries, civic bodies and central security agencies as to how we can address the issue. Providing daily passes to such officials will not be possible," the official said.

Commonwealth Games will be held from October 3 to 14 in the national capital.

Lakhs of domestic and foreign visitors including athletes, media persons, security officers and dignitaries will be coming to attend the event. Other than this, hundreds of supporting staff shall be providing various services during the event.

6 Delhi Monuments to Get Upgraded Facilities

Thanks to the forthcoming 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, tourist amenities at six of Delhi's most popular monuments are getting upgraded.

Monuments including the Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, Qutab Minar, and Safdarjung Tomb will all get much needed, improved tourist amenities such as drinking water, toilets, cafeteria, and souvenir shops.

Other monuments, such as the Old Fort, Sher Shah Gate, Khairul Manazil Mosque and Safdarjung Tomb, have also been illuminated. In total, 46 monuments are to undergo uplifting and preservation works in time for the Games.

SAFAR Received praise from United Nations

A pollution monitoring system developed by Indian scientists has come in for praise from the United Nations as an important step to ensure clean air during the Commonwealth Games.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialized agency of the UN, said the System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) will serve as an example within India, South Asia and globally.

Aimed at managing air quality, it has been developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.

“The WMO recognizes SAFAR as a very important activity in the region and will make all efforts to get international visibility for the project,” L. Jalkanen, head of the WMO’s Atmospheric Environment Research Division, wrote in a letter to SAFAR project director Gurfan Beig in March.

The UN recognition holds significance as some athletes have hinted at skipping the Games, as they fear that Delhi’s air is unsafe to breathe.

Scientists at IITM are elated and confident that the system will help in ensuring clean air during the Games, dubbed as the first ever Green Games.

“SAFAR will make India one of the few countries to take a big leap in environmental research,”

“The system will tell us the quality of air at a given moment and also what it will be 24 hours later, thus alerting people and helping them avoid immediate exposure to unhealthy air.”
SAFAR will provide information on air quality on an hourly basis and forecast pollution levels 24 hours in advance through wireless color digital display panels located at 11 key points in the city during the Games.

“On any day, if the pollution level is high, the Delhi government might order closing of shops or reducing traffic flow,” Indian Meteorological Department director Ajit Tyagi told .

Only a few developed countries have the technical know how to use such a system. It was used during the Olympic Games in Beijing and also at the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
The Indian capital is among the most polluted cities in the world. Its major problem is an ever-growing number of cars, three- and two- wheelers, which occupy a staggering 75 percent of the road space, although only 20 percent of the commuting public uses them.

Delhi has over five million vehicles and another one million come to the metropolis from towns in the national capital region in adjoining states.

China had a tough time battling air pollution during the Olympic Games last year and there are doubts whether Delhi can be as effective as Beijing in enforcing traffic curbs, raising emission standards and stopping Games’ construction work well in time to improve air quality.

SAFAR will provide air quality levels in a four-kilometer stretch around the Games village and other major venues. Instruments like ozone and carbon monoxide analyzers and real time analyzers for various other pollutants would be used for collecting the data.

The system will provide details about oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, black carbon and benzene present in Delhi air.

“Exposure to the pollutants will affect human health, increased respiratory symptoms, heart and lung diseases, allergies being some of them,” said Beig.

SAFAR’s inputs will greatly help in identifying the major sources of air pollutants and recommending measures to help improve the air quality.

Indians proudly welcome Games baton in New Zealand

Auckland’s Indian community welcomed the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010 Queen’s Baton in New Zealand at a small ceremony and a relay run at the Manukau Square

Though an appeal was made for twenty runners to participate in the ceremony, far more turned up and proudly carried the exquisitely designed baton around the square in a relay run. A diverse range of people children, youth, middle age and the elderly from various Indian communities participated in the run.

Speaking at the event, Jagmohan Bhanot, the Organizing Committee’s Officer on Special Duty for Communications said this year’s Games would be the biggest and best ever and outlined the preparations.

A whole new world class terminal was being built at New Delhi’s international airport for the occasion and would be inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on July 7, he said.

The renovated Jawaharlal Nehru stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies besides other sporting events like boxing will be held has also been completed along with five other major sporting venues. The Games village was also complete, he said.

Some 40,000 rooms were being readied to receive over 100,000 guests expected to arrive from all over the world to watch the games and dedicated subcommittees for nearly every aspect of organization were geared to make the Games successful and memorable he said.

Speaking to Indian Weekender exclusively the previous evening, Mr Bhanot allayed fears of security that have been expressed in the New Zealand media. He acknowledged that there was a concern about security and it needed to be strengthened. But countries had sent in their representatives for security audits and leading nations had found them to be satisfactory, he said.

“There is no truth that there is fear in any quarter about the safety at the Games. The UK has announced last week that it will send its largest ever contingent and Australia has said it has reviewed the arrangements in India. Chef de Missions of the 71 participating countries were in Delhi last month and have announced that after reviewing security arrangements they are fully satisfied,” he added.

He also clarified any doubts raised in the media from time to time about the facilities being ready on time.

“There is no question of that happening,” he said, pointing to the rapid progress made in completing the sporting and other infrastructure including the new airport terminal and refurbishment of hotels in the past few months.

Mr Bhanot was in the country as a representative of the Games Organizing Committee. MP Kanwaljit Bakshi, Deputy Indian High Commissioner Kunal Roy and several community leaders were also present at the event that was organized and coordinated by Sunil Kaushal of ANZ National Bank.

The Commonwealth Games' Queen's Baton began its 170,000 km journey around the world’s Commonwealth nations when the Queen handed it over to the President of India Smt Pratibha Patil at a ceremony in London on October 29 last year.

It reached New Zealand on Monday as part of its journey through 71 countries. The baton will conclude its round-the-world run when it re-enters India through Pakistan at the Wagah border on June 25 and continues on its last leg of 20,000 km through the states of India. The Commonwealth Games begin in Delhi on October 3.

Unlike previous batons, this one, designed in India, is a hi tech piece of equipment that has elements that change color according to the flag colors of the host country that it is visiting guided by a GPRS device. It also has a camera and a voice recorder capturing events around the world.

The Auckland Indian Association is also hosting the public viewing of the Queen Baton (today) Tuesday, May 18, from 4-6pm at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre, Auckland Indian Association, 145 New North Road , Eden Terrace, Mt Eden, Auckland

For more information on the Delhi 2010 Queens Baton Relay and to keep up to date on the Batons progress please visit

LCD Boards to Flash Air Quality Data across the Capital from July

Delhiites can now literally know the air they breathe. Come July and LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) boards across the capital will flash hourly data about air quality. These will also give a forecast 24 hours in advance.

Scientists from the Pune-based Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) have prepared an emissions inventory for the Commonwealth Games. It will prove crucial in managing air quality during the Oct 3-14 event.

The inventory has been prepared using data - number of vehicles, industries, shanties, hotels and restaurants and other sources - collected from near Games venues and the Games Village after a two-month long exercise.

About 250 students from various colleges in Delhi participated in the exercise between February and March. Students, equipped with Click Counters, were positioned at 106 traffic junctions around the venues during the period.

"For air quality management, we need to know the number of vehicles that use the roads around the Games venues on an average basis daily. We found that at each junction 10,506 vehicles crossed per hour during peak hour while 3,037 vehicles crossed during non-peak hours," Gufran Beig, a scientist with IITM's System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), told IANS.

Scientists have also collected emissions data from 70 slum clusters, 881 hotels and restaurants, 5,000 industries and other sources around the Games venue.
The data will act as a baseline emissions inventory for air quality management model SMOKE (Sparse Matrix Operator Kernel Emission).

It is a computer model where data like vehicle numbers, wind speed and humidity will be keyed in and the information will forecast the pollution level 24 hours in advance. The real-time data will help predict air quality 95 percent accurately.

Explaining how the generated data will come handy for air quality forecasting, Beig said: "If on a particular day it is found that pollution level is high, we will recommend to the Delhi government to shut some industries or divert traffic near the venues."

The IITM will put up 16 outdoor LCD boards and six indoor display boards across the capital. There will be different color codes for the level of pollutants - oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, black carbon and benzene - in the air.
"At a specific time if the level of particulate matter or black carbon in the air is high, the display board will show red and if it's normal it will show green. By seeing the color codes people will easily come to know about the air quality," Beig said.

SAFAR will provide information on air quality within a four-kilometer radius at 11 places around Games venues on an hourly basis.

Some athletes have hinted at skipping the Games as they fear that Delhi's air is unsafe to breathe. But the Games organizing committee says it is committed to ensuring clean air as the event have been dubbed the first-ever Green Games.

The organizers are confident that the existing traffic density can be reduced drastically by providing quality public transport by way of more Metro lines and green buses.

The Indian capital is among the most polluted cities in the world and the ever-growing number of cars, and three- and two-wheelers occupy a staggering 75 percent of road space, although only 20 percent of the commuting public uses them.

Delhi has over five million vehicles and another four million come to the metropolis from towns in adjoining states in the National Capital Region (NCR).

The Games organizers are keeping their fingers crossed hoping the scientific methods to improve the quality of air in the capital will succeed.

Amity Institute of Physiotherapy to provide 200 Doping control Officials for 2010 CWG

Doping Control Programme (DCP) is a major initiative of Organizing Committee, Common Wealth Games 2010 Delhi, which falls in compliance with the World Anti- Doping Code, CGF- Anti Doping Standard and the accompanying international standards. The OC CWG Delhi 2010 and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) are responsible for conducting the Doping Control programme during the Games.

For successful execution of DCP, Doping Control Department requires over 447 control officials for the Games and Amity University is the only University in NOIDA /NCR which has been selected by OC to provide over 200 National Doping Control Officials from amongst its students.
Today, the initial phase of screening process, which is a three day general training started with the first batch comprising of 72 students from Amity Institute of Physiotherapy (AIP) and Amity Institute of Forensic Sciences at Amity Campus, Sector-44, NOIDA.

The screening process will have three stages namely "General Training on Doping" (amalgamation of theoretical and practical components), "Role Specific Training" (one day training which will be conducted in July, 2010) and "Venue Specific Training" (one day training which will be conducted in August, 2010), and subsequently, based on their performance in written examination, the students will be certified and registered as "National Doping Control Officials"

The training session started with an informative presentation by Dr. Prerna Bali-Director Training, DCP who apprised the students with the mission, vision, values and the role of OC during CWG Delhi 2010; 35 functional areas under OC and competition venues and non- competition venues of the games.

While presenting his views during a session on "Doping Control Induction", Dr. Munish Chander -DDG (Doping Control), OC CWG highlighted various anti- doping organizations functioning across the world and the objectives of the training programme.

Talking about the reason behind the growing use of prohibitive substances during the games, Dr. Chander said that the athletes face a lot of pressure from society, their coaches and their country during the International Games, where even a millisecond counts in attaining name, fame and money. Therefore, the athletes resort to prohibitive substances to enhance their performance. Dope Control is very important from legal and ethical point of view. WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) has made it mandatory for all the participating nations to sign WADA code, which is the core document that provides the framework for harmonized anti-doping policies, rules and regulations within sports organizations and among public authorities.

Highlighting the training objectives and the benefits accruing from the same, Dr. Chander said, "the training programme aims to develop skills and knowledge for the Doping Control Program for CWG and evaluate and identify suitable candidates for training as Doping Control Officials.
The certification will be valid for two years, after which a person has to go for one day refresher training to continue the certification. On the completion of the training module, the successful candidates will become Certified Doping Control Officials, which is an International level accreditation and will become a member of National Anti- Doping Agency"

Nigerian Athletes to have Cuban Coaches for 2010 CWG Preparation

Sports Minister and National Sports Commission chairman (NSC), Ibrahim Bio and Cuban ambassador to Nigeria, Elio Savon Oliva, last weekend, reached an agreement to bring Cuban coaches to help groom Nigerian athletes for the 2010 Commonwealth Games October in New Delhi, India.

The coaches are expected to arrive in the first week of July and join in the camp of Nigerian athletes. They are to handle athletics and boxing.

Bio, who is desirous of making an impression on the Nigeria sports scene wants the Cubans who are very strong in athletics and boxing to collaborate with Nigerian coaches to improve on the two sports, which Nigeria has potentials, but due to lack of development, these talents have wasted away.

"We are looking forward to having the Cuban coaches. In the past they have been helpful to our athletes,” said an official of the NSC.

The agreement is part of bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Cuba. And in the past Cuban coaches have come to Nigeria to help groom Nigerian athletes

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Plans to Curb Pollution before 2010 Games

Delhiites may have to pay more for parking during the Commonwealth Games. Chief minister Sheila Dikshit, on Saturday, chaired a high-level meeting to devise ways to bring down pollution levels in the city during the Games. The measures will include an intensive drive to check pollution levels for all vehicles, inspection at the border for vehicles coming into Delhi from outside, increase in parking charges to discourage use of private vehicles, enhancement of public transport by integrating Metro with other modes and closing schools, colleges during the 12-day sporting extravaganza.

Delhi government’s transport department will intensify pollution checking drive in September and October this year.

One of the major causes of air pollution in the city is vehicular emissions which are expected to rise during the Games with traffic volumes going up considerably. In addition to over 60 lakh vehicles registered in Delhi, another 10 lakh vehicles come into the city from outside everyday. Dikshit reportedly held the view that the number of vehicles coming from other states should be minimized while the Games are on.

The government will also contact chief ministers of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to intensify pollution checks in their states. Any polluting vehicles found entering Delhi will be forced to return. Of this, a major chunk is comprised of trucks moving on inter-state routes which use Delhi as transit. The government plans to expedite work on the Western Peripheral Expressway to ensure that it is completed before October 2010. With this, curbs will be put on the entry of non-destined vehicles. The traffic police will strictly enforce no-entry timings set for movement of commercial vehicles in the city and the cops could look at restricting the movement of light goods vehicles (LGVs) during the day time as well.

The civic bodies suggested use of readymade stack parking to accommodate more vehicles during the Games and deploying ex-servicemen as parking contractors.

Different modes of public transport are being integrated Metro and buses will have 43 changeover points before the Games. The government is also planning to create dedicated lanes for non-motorized vehicles. MCD officials said that they had started a pilot project on Bhishma Pitamah Marg and SPM Marg and agreed to streamline the process by making design changes on a 170-metre stretch near JLN stadium. A suggestion was also made to shut down coal based power stations like Rajghat Power Station while the Games are on.

MCD Conducted Demolition Drive in Karol Bagh

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) conducted a demolition drive in Karol Bagh on Saturday. The civic agency has been removing encroachments on public land in areas like Paharganj and Karol Bagh etc which have a huge concentration of guesthouses and hotels to develop them into tourist hubs before Commonwealth Games.

‘‘MCD managed to get back around 1,500 sq meters of land in Karol Bagh on Saturday. We started the drive around 11 30 am. We removed encroachments from Pusa Road roundabout till Rattan Puri Chowk. We evicted scrap dealers from the MCD land opposite the petrol pump. Meat and fish shops were also removed for violating tehbazaari rules and regulation.’’ These shops were sealed earlier this year for violating tehbazaari norms and their licenses were also cancelled. They were de-sealed later after the tehbazaari holders gave an affidavit in court that they would remove the unauthorized structures themselves within 15 days from de-sealing of shops. However, they did not remove the illegal structures even after more than three months from the date of de-sealing.

The MCD was also supposed to demolish jhuggi clusters at Rattan Puri Chowk but they had started shifting from the government land themselves.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Visa Services to Speed Up – Rupees 1000 Crores Allocated for the Plan

In a major relief for legitimate travelers and visa seekers, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Thursday approved modernization and up gradation of immigration services as one of the Mission Mode Projects (MMP) to be undertaken by the home ministry under the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).

The project titled Immigration, Visa and Foreigners Registration and Tracking (IVFRT) is expected to help develop and implement a secure and integrated service delivery framework which makes life easy for legitimate travelers even while strengthening security. The total cost of the project is approximately Rs 1,011 crore.

‘‘Of this total project cost, Rs 132 crore is proposed to be spent during April 2010-June 2011 (Phase-I) with the remaining amount of Rs 879 crore earmarked for Phase-II (July 2011-September 2014),’’ said a statement issued by the government.

The National Institute for Smart Government (NSIG) was selected and tasked with the responsibility for generating a comprehensive e-Governance solution for the immigration, visa issuance and foreigners’ registration and tracking functions, and to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR).

The DPR has been finalized by NSIG in consultation with the ministries of home affairs and external affairs, Department of Information Technology, Bureau of Immigration and National Informatics Centre (NIC).

‘‘An elaborate list of services have been included in the DPR for streamlining and integrating visa, immigration, and foreigners registration and tracking process,’’ added the statement.

The services identified for inclusion are drawn with a focus on security, facilitation and enablement. Drawing from the global best practices and benchmarking, requisite service levels have also been indicated in the DPR.

This MMP has global outreach since the scope of the project includes 169 Missions, 78 ICPs (Immigration Check Posts), 7 FRROs (Foreigners Regional Registration Offices), and FROs (Foreigners Registration Offices) in the State/ District Headquarters. The implementation of this MMP is to be done in phases and the entire project is targeted to be completed by September 2014.

CWG Costing Public Money Hard – Games Cost Escalated by 2160% in 7 Years

From Rs 150cr to Rs 3431cr, the cost of constructing and renovating stadiums and training venues has escalated by 2160% in 7 years

For any recent price hike, the government seeks refuge in only one reason fund crunch for the Commonwealth Games. Even as Delhiites may be paying a price for the sporting extravaganza, the government has failed to curb escalating costs of the Games-related projects.

A look at the funds spent for the construction and upgrade of stadiums and training venues indicates that the Games are proving to be an expensive affair. The works saw a cost escalation of 2160% over seven years from a meager Rs 150 crore to a whopping Rs 3,431.4 crore.

If stadium costs have gone through the roof, beautification projects too seem to have taken a toll. Estimates show that hundreds of crore have already been spent. The fact sheet on infrastructure and beautification projects for the Games released by Housing and Land Rights Network on Thursday shows that India’s bid document for the Games budgeted Rs 7.5 crore for beautification. But now even one beautification project is costing more than Rs 7.5 crore. For instance in August 2009, NDMC announced plans of planting 10 lakh saplings at a cost of Rs 23.2 crore to add color to the Games venues.

Beautification is not only incurring financial cost but also a human cost. ‘‘Slums are being demolished without any rehabilitation plan. Homeless are being evicted and beggars arrested. Livelihoods of hawkers and vendors have been taken away. The public has been inconvenienced due to digging of the streets and pavements,’’ the report points.

While beautification has cost the government a huge amount, work at non-competition venues to is proving to be costly. ‘‘The Commonwealth Games Village is being constructed by Emaar MGF at a cost of Rs 1038 crore. In May 2009, the DDA announced a Rs 700crore bailout package for Emaar MGF, the first such bailout for a realty company,’’ the reports adds.

Add to it the rent CWG Organizing Committee pays for its headquarters in central Delhi to NDMC. ‘‘The budget for rent for the OC Headquarters Rs 5.6 crore per month which was not accounted for initially, is reported to be Rs 175 crore,’’ the factsheet states.

However, the report doesn’t dwell much on infrastructure projects related to the Games though some figures are highlighted. ‘‘Initially, Rs 770 crore was earmarked for development of infrastructure. The state, however, allocated a Rs 1189 crore to enhance, expand and upgrade city infrastructure. A CAG report in 2009 estimated the cost of creating venues and infrastructure and operational expenses at Rs 12,888 crore,’’ the fact sheet states.

Releasing the report, former Delhi high court chief Justice AP Shah said: ‘‘Delhi, of late, has seen a spate of demolitions and evictions. In some cases, evictions have been carried out in the name of beautification projects. The urban poor are being deprived of their rights.’’

Citing the example of demolition of a night shelter in Pusa Road, he said: ‘‘Leaving people to die in open sky on a cold night is the grossest violation of human rights. The right to shelter is as important as the right to livelihood.’’
Splurging On Sports

The Infrastructure Story

Initially, Delhi government had earmarked Rs 770 cr for infrastructure development
But, later it allocated Rs 1,189cr for the sector

On August 3, 2006 Delhi finance minister AK Walia said that the infrastructure budget would be Rs 26,808cr

2009 CAG report put estimated cost of creating venues, infrastructure and operational expenses at Rs 12,888 cr

On March 10 this year, the govt said that Rs 13,350cr was spent in the past three years on infrastructure

Price Of Beautification

India’s bid document for Games budgeted Rs 7.5cr for city beautification

But the government is spending Rs 344cr on it

In August 2009, NDMC announced plans to plant 10 lakh saplings for Rs 23.2cr

Streetscaping on Lodhi Road and Jagannath Marg to cost Rs 18.55cr and Rs 3.40cr (approx) respectively

Games costs up 1575% since bid: NGO audit

While hosting a mega sports event, some escalation in costs is understandable as new projects get added and the scale of the show is expanded. However, in the case of Delhi’s Commonwealth Games, official cost estimates have gone up by a whopping 525% since the city won the bid in 2003? Unofficial assessments put the escalation at 1575% more than 15 times the original estimate according to an independent report released on Thursday, which predicts the Games will leave a “severe financial legacy”.

India’s bid document for the Commonwealth Games in 2003 estimated the cost of hosting the event at Rs 1,899 crore. After several revisions the estimates now range from an official figure of Rs 10,000 crore to an astounding assessment of Rs 30,000 crore by independent experts.

These figures were put together in a ‘white paper’ on the financial and social cost of the event titled, ‘The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?’ released by former Delhi High Court chief justice A P Shah.

Another Assurance from the CM - CWG projects to be completed on time

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit Wednesday said that all Commonwealth Games related projects will be completed well before the event starts here Oct 3.

“All the projects will be completed well before … (time),” she said at a function here.

Diskhit appealed to the people of Delhi to contribute to the event’s success. Her remarks followed concerns that several Games projects are running behind schedule.

Having a Bad Reputation on Catering Services IRCTC now to Cater in CWG 2010

It is really an irony that the very catering corporation which is always accused of serving stale food in railways and not maintaining proper quality standard in their catering services in various trains including Rajdhanis has now given responsibility for catering in 2010 commonwealth games.. Read the full story below

IRCTC a PSU got the deal to cater in the Common Wealth Games Venues this time around. “IRCTC will offer catering services to sportspersons and team officials as per their dietary requirements during the Games,” an official of IRCTC said. The organizers have started the committee to watch over the catering services.

Starting October 3rd the PSU will start catering. The cost of the entire contract was Rs. 12 Crore. A website will soon open to sell tickets for the event. The IRCTC will have regular meeting with nutrient experts to ensure the food matches their standards.

The IRCTC is organizing special trains to watch the event in more than 60 stations. The Queen’s Baton Relay will pass along the stations.

The 14 coaches will be promoting sports, the youth, the IT in spirit of the Commonwealth Games.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation is part of the Indian Railways and is issuing tickets for the event and other feature online and at their offices across the country The Company provides catering, online ticketing and tourism services at their offices. Tickets can be cancelled before the departure times of the trains.

Online Tickets can be cancelled at various computer reservation counters across the country.
Tickets must be cancelled with a letter to the Manager of Operations.

General Manager/Operations, Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation,
9th Floor, Bank of Baroda Building, 16 Parliament Street, New Delhi – 110 001.

RAC tickets can be cancelled Rs. 20/- per ticket. An AC ticket costs Rs. 70/-, Executive Class Rs. 60/-, AC Tiers 2 and 3 costs Rs. 40/- as cancellation charges.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Games Panel Satisfied with Current Preparation Level

It may have been the last visit by a full coordination commission, but it doesn’t mean the end of the Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF) close monitoring of the Games preparations by Kalmadi and team.

The three-day trip by the commission ended on Wednesday with CoCom chairperson Austin Sealy claiming to have seen a lot of ‘‘important achievements’’ and ‘‘congratulating the OC for already achieving revenues set by the Melbourne Games in 2006’’. Buried beneath the bonhomie, however, was the fact that the Co-Com will continue keeping a close watch this time, in smaller teams? The continuing delay in the delivery of the main venue, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, as well as the need to have a ‘‘cohesive operational and decision making system’’ within the organizing committee may have been the reason.

The final report by the Co-Com in fact, is mixed. While on one hand, the CGF appointed commission was effusive about the sponsorship deals in the offing for the Delhi Games and even praised the OC for work in the areas of technology, volunteer programme, ticketing, and infrastructure put in by the Delhi government for transport, water and power, the Co-Com was vocal about their ‘‘concern’’ in continuing delay in delivery of key venues. Admitted Sealy, ‘‘These delays have a knock-on effect and hamper the organizing committee’s planning and implementation for final overlay, staff training, rehearsal, and simulation.’’

In fact, the delay prompted Sealy to add, ‘‘It is imperative that everything be done to accelerate works.’’ It wasn’t just the constructing agencies, however, that feature in the Co-Com’s list of concern. Advocating an integrated and cohesive operational system, the Co-Com also advised the OC to establish clear lines of communication, decision making authority and responsibilities at Games time, as it ‘‘remains a challenge’’ at present. OC head Suresh Kalmadi preferred to downplay the Co-Com’s continued monitoring, claiming the smaller team was on the ‘‘request’’ of the OC for further guidance.

It wasn’t all bad news though. The commission lauded the OC for progressive improvement in the various test events that have taken place already. It also said that while security was a ‘‘key challenge’’, the CGF was working closely with the OC, police and the government, to monitor all Games security arrangements, and has assigned specialist consultants to work on its behalf.

The on-going face-off of Kalmadi with the sports minister also featured in the interaction, with Sealy hoping that ‘‘distractions’’ would not take the focus away from the Games. Of course, Kalmadi’s fishing for information at the interaction on how long both Sealy and CGF president, Michael Fennel’s tenure has been (25 and 30 years respectively), may have put paid to that particular hope.

Delhi Cops Got a Robot to Detect and Defuse Bombs

Delhi Police has procured a mini remote-operating vehicle (MROV) which will be used in Bomb finding and defuse operations.

The MROV, which came at the whopping price of Rs 90 lakh, is the first of its kind robot bought by Delhi Police. It primarily helps to detect and disarm hidden bombs and explosives, instead of sending in a human to do the same job, but it is also capable of much more. The robot has been imported from Canada and can be remote controlled within a radius of 500 meters. ‘‘The MROV, which weighs 65 kg, can also drag a weight of 113 kg. Therefore, without risking the life of another human being, it can drag a human body out of a combat zone,” said a senior police officer.

Delhi Police bought the robot ahead of the Commonwealth Games as an added safeguard. Joint commissioner of police (northern range) Karnal Singh said, ‘‘The robot will be useful in bomb-scare situations. This is why we bought one for Delhi Police.” The robot, which has arms and shoulders, has four night-vision cameras fitted on it. It can also operate underwater and over rough terrain. One of its four cameras is a zoom camera. The MROV moves at a maximum speed of 8 kilometer per hour and a minimum speed of 3 kilometer per hour. It can also climb heights and can be used in a mounted position, to say aim a water cannon down at a rioting mob.

The MROV is weatherproof. It can also be used in rescue operations where it might otherwise have been dangerous to send in a human rescuer. But it is not fire-resistant, added an official. The machine, added the official, has a SWAT (special weapons and tactics) feature since it can be used to fire a weapon or water cannon after it has been mounted. The feature helps agencies when they do not want to risk the life of a policeman or a soldier.

Delhi Police said they will impart training to their personnel to operate the MROV. The robot has been bought through a tender, which means the company will also be responsible for annual maintenance of the machine.

Test event for CWG held in Chennai

Even as the CWG 2010 organizers are racing against time to meet deadlines to deliver all stadia for the Commonwealth Games in time, the test events for the Games, which were supposed to be the barometer for the preparedness of the marquee event, are leaving a lot to be desired.

The Siri Fort Complex, which hosted the Asian badminton championships last month, was to host for the Asian squash championship scheduled from April 21-May 5, but the event was eventually held in Chennai as the Siri Fort complex was not ‘completely ready’. With the purpose lost, the Squash Racquets Federation of India is now planning to have a test event after the venue is ready in June.

“The calendar of the events is decided earlier, so the dates cannot be changed. The venue was not fully ready, so we decided to hold the event in Chennai. It will be ready by June. We may hold a test event after that,” said Srivatsan Subramaniam, secretary general, Squash Racquets Federation of India (SRFI). National coach Cyrus Poncha revealed that the decision to shift the event to Chennai was taken sometime in January. “We were not sure about a few things. So we decided to change the venue in January. The stadium is virtually ready now. It will be complete very soon. We will definitely have something (test event) then,” he said.

Meanwhile, top Indian players sounded unperturbed and are focused on doing well in the coming events.

“It doesn’t really matter where we play. We as professionals have to play at different places but I hope that it is finished on time,” said Dipika Pallikal, ranked 38 in the world. India’s top-ranked squash player, Saurav Ghosal, who lost in the semifinals of the championships, sounded satisfied with his performance and hoped that a test event would happen before the CWG.

“I played really well except Monday. Though I am disappointed, I am not getting bogged down and am looking forward to playing better in the coming tournaments. I am not sure what these guys are working on but getting to play at the Siri Fort complex before the Games would certainly help,” Ghosal said.

Judges Visit Various Games Sites And Queried Games workers of their Problems

Amid allegations that laborers working at the Commonwealth Games sites were living in ‘‘inhuman conditions’’, the judiciary has taken up the task of sensitizing these laborers about their legal rights. Nine district court judges are visiting the construction sites over seven days to interact with laborers and find out about the problems they have been facing.

About four lakh daily wagers are engaged in Games related construction. Their plight was highlighted after a PIL filed by Peoples’ Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR) in Delhi high court alleged that they were housed in ‘‘crowded hovels’’ with no protection during winter, no power and filthy or no toilets.

The week-long programme started on May 1 by Delhi Legal Services Authority (DLSA) in collaboration with the Delhi government’s labor department targets all the construction sites where daily wage laborers and migrated laborers are employed. ‘‘Each day, one of the nine secretaries, who are also judicial officers in the district courts, visits the sites and interacts with laborers. Our basic idea is to make these people aware about exploitation at work and the remedies available. We are also providing them with free legal aid,’’ said Gautam Manan, project officer of DLSA.

Taking a cue from the report submitted by an HC-appointed four-member committee a few months back, which said that workers at Games-related construction sites were not being paid minimum wages and worked overtime for no extra money, judges are making an effort to inform them about minimum wages for men and women prescribed under the law.

So far, the judicial officers have visited the Akshardham Games Village, IGI Airport site, DRDO Lodhi Road, etc. Workers were also told about insurance schemes of Delhi government available to them. DLSA also plans to hold a special labor adalat on May 8 at Karkardooma court complex. All pending labor law cases will be disposed of here. ‘‘We have received requests in about 70 cases, which will be dealt on that day,’’ added Manan.

Tussle between Delhi Metro and MCD Made Advertisement Firms Worry

The stand-off between MCD and Delhi Metro over sharing of advertisement revenue has taken a twist. Ahead of tendering for the booking of advertising spaces on two new Metro routes Inderlok to Mundka and Qutub to Gurgaon the association of outdoor advertisers has demanded that they be told about the legal position of the advertisements.

According to Mukesh Gupta, general secretary of the Delhi Outdoor Advertisers’ Association, their clients get notices from the civic body for advertising on DMRC structures, if an advertisement is not approved by a designated MCD official. ‘‘Why should we suffer? We book space through proper tendering and payments,” said Gupta. MCD had recently issued notices to companies whose unauthorized displays were found on display on DMRC structures for payment of charges to the tune of Rs 18.5 crore.

While DMRC maintains that it can use its premises for advertisement purposes, the MCD says otherwise. ‘‘The contention of DMRC is factually incorrect in the sense that land under DMRC possession belongs to MCD,” claimed a senior MCD official. When contacted, a DMRC spokesperson said actions taken are as per law.

The MCD has also issued warnings to all oil companies over unauthorized displays on the premises of petrol pumps and CNG stations.

Barapullah elevated stretch to join on UP link road

The drive from Mayur Vihar I to the CGO Complex in south Delhi might soon take as little as 15 minutes. The public works department (PWD) plans to extend the under-construction elevated stretch on Barapullah Nullah that connects Sarai Kale Khan and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium up to the UP Link Road, which is being upgraded to six lanes.

PWD officials said the elevated stretch that takes off from the Ring Road would now be extended till the UP Link Road. ‘‘Unless that happens, the huge public investment on the elevated road will remain highly under-utilized. But the work will be taken up at a later stage after the Commonwealth Games,’’ said a senior PWD official.

The 4-km elevated and signal-free stretch on Barapullah Nullah will also be extended up to INA so that commuters get direct connectivity to AIIMS and Dilli Haat. Officials said the elevated road will take some load off the critical stretches only if it is extended on both ends.

‘‘Once we extend the link till Trans-Yamuna, the volume of traffic on the Nizamuddin Bridge will reduce and consequently the congestion between Sarai Kale Khan and Ashram Chowk will also be contained to some extent. Though the extension of the 6-lane elevated road towards east Delhi will be an expensive affair, it is required so that the project serves the purpose,’’ the PWD official said.

The elevated road over Barapulla Nullah will provide seamless connectivity between the Commonwealth Games Village near Akshardham temple and J N Stadium to approximately 10,000 players during the sporting event. The present cost of the project is close to Rs 600 crore. However, questions are being raised whether providing a shorter route to commuters would address the problem of congestion on city roads.

Leading Sports Administrators Accused Gill of Eroding Their Autonomy

Painted into a corner by the sports ministry’s order that limited their term in office and set a retirement age of 70, leading sports administrators of the country on Monday hit back with vengeance, accusing sports minister M S Gill of making ‘‘brazen attempts’’ to erode their autonomy and demanding that Gill be the first to retire as he himself was over 70 years old.

The who’s who of Indian sports administration, many of whom has clung to their posts for decades, got together and went on a bashing spree while claiming there was total transparency in the sports administration in the country.

The congregation had Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi, judo federation chief Jagdish Tytler, badminton president V K Verma and archery boss Vijay Kumar Malhotra, besides former minister K P Singh Deo and MPs like S S Dhindsa, Tarlochan Singh and B P Baishya. They took turns to rail against the ministry order before the media. They did not stay back to field questions claiming they had an important meeting.

Football coach Houghton quits

National football coach Bob Houghton has put in his papers, All India Football Federation sources said. He quit on April 30, although his contract runs till India’s Asian Cup outing in January 2011. He apparently took the decision after his spat with AIFF general secretary Alberto Colaco, the sources said