Monday, August 30, 2010

PM Instructs Staff to Double Efforts

With 34 days left for the Commonwealth Games, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday visited the centerpiece Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the venue of the opening and closing ceremonies. He asked officials to ‘‘redouble their efforts to quickly complete’’ the work as people ‘‘expect a spectacular’’ opening to the mega event.

Accompanied by sports minister M S Gill and Commonwealth Games organizing committee chairperson Suresh Kalmadi, the prime minister was shown various facilities at the complex, including the field of play, media facilities, VIP box, stands for spectators. He was also apprised of security and other arrangements.

Said B K Chugh of the CPWD, ‘‘The PM discussed a number of issues with senior officials at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, from traffic to security and other matters.’’ CPWD officials admitted the PM also discussed delay in construction work. Said a senior CPWD official, ‘‘Officials present were asked to ensure that the work was on schedule, especially with little time left to complete the job.’’

‘‘The prime minister said it was a beautiful stadium and he urged all concerned authorities to redouble their efforts to quickly complete whatever works remained,’’ noted a statement issued by Prime Minister’s Office.

Manmohan Singh reached the bowl-shaped stadium around noon to take stock of the venue. ‘‘He was at the stadium for 25 minutes and spoke to officials about Games preparedness,’’ said an official.

The prime minister’s visit to the stadium also came two days after Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit confirmed the August 31 deadline for completion of all Games-related projects would not be met. She said the city, however, will be ready at least 15 days before the Games start from October 3, ‘‘provided the sun shines and rain stops’’.

Games Merchandize in Market this Week

A month after the scheduled date, the organizing committee (OC) is still claiming that merchandise for the Commonwealth Games 2010 will be available ‘‘soon’’.

On Sunday, senior OC officials said merchandise would be unveiled for the Delhi Games ‘‘within this week’’. Said a senior CWG official connected with the merchandise function, ‘‘The difficulties with Premier Brands the company manufacturing the merchandise for OC has been resolved. We expect the products to hit the market this week.’’

The decision to launch the products ranging from T-shirts, caps, wrist bands and other memorabilia to home furnishings comes after months of delay in launching the merchandise. The launch was to take place on July 15, which was delayed to the first week of August. But this deadline too could not be met.

Sources said the decision to launch the products had been decided for August 6-7, but got cancelled at the last minute. On August 13, the company which had been selected to manufacture the merchandise, Premier Brands, pulled out of the deal, citing the delay which it claimed made it impossible for it to make any profits. However, on August 28, in an executive board meeting, the deal with PBL was revived, said OC officials.

Sources said products worth Rs 3 crore had already been manufactured by PBL, which makes the launch of the merchandise possible. Officials connected with the merchandising operation admit the last two months leading up to the Games are crucial, not only in terms of revenue for the OC but also to drum up enthusiasm and public interest in the Delhi Games.

Incidentally, products bearing the CWG logo have already started appearing in many markets. Shopping havens like Janpath and Sarojini Nagar can be seen selling T-shirts and other apparel bearing the Games logo in numbers but the products are not endorsed by the OC.

Shivaji Stadium to miss games deadline

After the Central Vista, it seems to be the turn of Shivaji Stadium to miss the Commonwealth Games 2010 deadline. The stadium, which is being built by New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), was to be part of the list of practice venues for athletes who are expected to start arriving from September 23. However, organizing committee (OC) officials say the facility is not even near completion. ‘‘As of now, we are not taking a call on Shivaji Stadium. We have already lined up other venues in case the stadium is not completed on time,’’ admitted Lalit Bhanot, secretary general, OC.

Earlier last month, Central Vista where the finals of the archery event were to take place was taken off the list of venues for Delhi Games 2010. Reason: late start of work. In fact, preparations for the event, which involved setting up temporary structures, had not even started. The finals were then shifted to Yamuna Sports Complex the competition venue for archery.

In case of Shivaji Stadium, NDMC claims the stadium is being rebuilt for legacy purposes. However, with only a part of the stadium expected to be handed over to the OC, the fact is that the stadium was to be the training venue for hockey. This was revealed by the ministry of youth affairs and sports, which has the stadium listed on its training venue schedule.

Anand Tiwari, NDMC spokesperson, claimed the civic agency had only been asked to hand over parts of the stadium to OC. Said Tiwari, ‘‘A major portion of the stadium building is for legacy purposes. Only the field of play, ground floor and the technology room is to be handed over to the OC by mid-September and we are working on it.’’

OC officials claim even if the stadium is not complete on time, it will use the premises of other competition venues for training purposes. The stadium, which had been intended for hockey practice and as a swimming arena, will now be replaced by Major Dhyan Chand Stadium and SP Mukherjee Swimming Pool Complex. With not even the structure of Shivaji stadium near completion, it seems the stadium will not be ready for practice sessions. Said a senior NDMC official, ‘‘There is a lot of work to be completed, and the field of play is yet to be ready.’’

Incidentally, Shivaji Stadium is not the only training venue to be lagging behind. Both Delhi Development Authority (DDA) training venues Yamuna Sports Complex and Siri Fort complex are still to be completed.

Two Cyclist Injured During Event

The capital’s first brush with an international road cycling event touted by many as a trial run for the Commonwealth Games on Sunday ended with cyclists lambasting the quality of the track. Rubble lying in and around the cycle track in Connaught Place made cycling difficult. To make matters worse, thick dust affected visibility. Two cyclists even suffered injuries fortunately, only minor ones.

‘‘One cyclist fell down near LIC Bhawan in Connaught Place. His cycle hit the pavement while he was practicing. The impact was such that the rim of the front wheel got distorted. The other cyclist got injured as he fell down while trying to overtake another participant. His cycle skidded due
to the rubble,” said sources.

Akil Khan, managing director of ID sports, the event’s organizing body, confirmed the injuries. ‘‘One of them was treated in the tent and the other one, a professional, had to be taken to the hospital for treatment,’’ said Khan.

The capital hosted its first international cycling event on Sunday. It saw participants from 10 countries including South Africa, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Holland and Belgium and was flagged off by CWG organizing committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi. But things went rapidly downhill almost immediately thereafter.

Almost all participants complained of uneven tracks and faulty cycles. Said Arran Brown (South Africa), the winner of the international-elite, “The bollards (barriers) put in the middle of the road kept falling. Due to this, it became very tough for us to maintain high speed. Also, there was rubble lying on the road at places.”

Sherin from Philippines had to quit the race due to a flat tire. He complained, “I was leading the race in the first lap, but my tyre burst. It hit a small sharp rock on the track. The organizers should keep such things in mind. No one provided me with a spare tyre, although they were carrying spare tyres.’’

Another problem witnessed during the mega event was that people could be seen criss-crossing the road even as the race went on. With the subways in Connaught Place closed for renovation, impatient pedestrians could be seen flouting traffic rules in front of
the policemen and crossing the road or the circuit. Stray dogs were also seen on the cycling track.

Apart from the international elite race, there were four categories of cycling contests which included the national elite ride (50 km), junior ride (5 km) and corporate ride (25 km). The cyclothon which began at 7am and ended by 12.30pm, was flagged off from Parliament Street. It covered Patel Chowk, Janpath, Rajpath, Vijay Chowk and Connaught Place. While OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi flagged off the event, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit was present to award the winners. Dikshit did not speak to the media. Talking about the preparations, Kalmadi said, ‘‘We can trace any defects in the management by keeping an eye on this event. Cycling will be an important event in the Games. I am sure cycling will catch up all over the country with events like these.’’

Due to large-scale renovation work going on in CP area, permission for this event was held back for long, only to be cleared at the last moment. Roads in Outer circle, which were in bad shape till Saturday, were pitched hurriedly within 24 hours before the event. There was rubble left behind and at some places the road was uneven.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No Plans for Heritage Sites

The story of modern New Delhi began at this spot. It was here the King Emperor announced with great pomp on December 11, 1911, that the capital would move from Calcutta, but barely 38 days before the Commonwealth Games, Delhi Tourism admits it has no plans for the derelict wasteland called the Coronation Memorial.

This unconcern is seen to make bad business sense, ahead of a sporting event that is themed around a commonwealth of former colonies and expects to draw thousands of tourists from countries that have had a similar experience with imperialism.

At least 7 lakh British tourists visit India every year and thousands more from other former British colonies. British expats here agree their countrymen would be happy to pay good money to see the Memorial’s towering obelisk announcing the imperial Delhi c 1911 on the exact spot where King George V and Queen Mary sat. The Memorial, in the far north of the capital, hosted three imperial darbars in 1877, 1903 and 1911 and the canny English rulers of the day exploited marketing opportunities by selling souvenir guide books and hawking to Brook Bond Tea, the right to supply the Darbar’s official beverage.

But Delhi Tourism is clear it ‘‘has no plans as yet to include Coronation Memorial in its itinerary’’. Planning manager Amarjeet Singh adds that ‘‘the department as yet hasn’t received or mulled over any proposal to conduct visitors to the Coronation Memorial through day trips.’’

Tourism plans for the forlorn park have been in the works for five years but the site remains a junkyard of Raj-era statues, all but engulfed by tick-ridden undergrowth.

In November 2005, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), India’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of heritage, announced they would restore the park as a tourist attraction.

But Brijesh Chander, DDA executive engineer responsible for the north zone, admits there is still no concrete plan in place and ‘‘the entire project of beautification and restoration of the Memorial is going to cost DDA around Rs 22 crore, for which INTACH has been appointed as consultant as well as implementer, (but the project) will only be completed by December 2011.

Chander said that ‘‘if some foreign tourists want to visit the Memorial during Commonwealth Games, we are trying to complete the entrance road that leads to the main pillar. For the rest, people have to wait till the end of next year.’’

The Memorial’s woeful state of neglect contrasts oddly with DDA’s stated intentions, as of October 30, 2007, in its approved Draft Zonal Development Plan. The Plan says, Coronation Memorial reminds of the foundation stone laid for Imperial Delhi as the new capital of India which was subsequently shifted at Raisina hill.

Coronation Park houses the marble statues of King George V, which was originally under the canopy at India Gate, and the other important personalities of the British period in India. An earlier zonal plan had proposed to develop this land as a play area for special children, similar to the one existing at India Gate.

The land around Coronation Pillar is under the jurisdiction of L&DO.It is near to NH-1 bypass and therefore it has the potential of being developed as a tourist spot. The adjoining area earmarked for green/water body can be taken for development of sports facilities, etc.

However, none of this has happened so far. In June 2009, Delhi announced it wanted to be one of 220 UNESCO World Heritage Cities and would create a heritage tourism route linking at least 30 big and small historical monuments, starting at the Coronation Memorial. The pilot project, funded by the World Monuments Fund (WMF), gave $200,000 as a start-up grant and the Memorial was meant to be part of this.

A G K Menon, convener of INTACH Delhi Chapter, which was asked by DDA to restore the Memorial, says,’ We are chalking out major plans for the Memorial’s centenary celebrations on December 11, 2011. By then, we shall be able to renovate and upgrade it. It is largely a conservation project of the 50-55 acres of the park area but it also requires some construction work such as building a cafe, souvenir shops, interpretation centres and a small museum or a photo gallery in the campus.

The entire plan would be implemented before the December 2011 deadline, even though we may not be able to tap the Commonwealth tourism this year.’’

Chattarpur Metro Station Open and Running

It’s official now. The Chattarpur Metro station on the Qutub-Huda City Centre Metro line will be opened for public use on Thursday. The station the only one on the line which was not operational got the mandatory clearance from commissioner of Metro rail safety (CMRS) after an inspection on Wednesday.

The Metro station has been granted the necessary clearances for commencement of commuter operations. ‘‘The Chattarpur Metro station is going to be operational from Thursday,’’ the spokesperson added. It couldn’t be opened with the Qutub-Huda City Centre section in June this year due to land acquisition problems. The construction of the station started on October last year and was completed in a record time of just nine months.

‘‘The station was constructed using a unique method using special prefabricated/ structural steel. The conventional construction technique of making stations by concrete would have taken at least two years, which would have delayed the Metro line substantially,’’ the spokesperson added. The above procedure, however, cost an additional 30 to 50% expense to the DMRC.

The station will also have the largest parking area at any Metro station in the city. The parking lot has been built over an area of about 12,000sqm. From Thursday, about 4,000sqm of parking area will be available with the capacity of 800 two wheelers and 200 cars. The rest of the parking area will be opened in a phased manner.

Meanwhile, the CMRS is inspecting Delhi Metro’s Central Secretariat-Gurgaon section on Monday and Tuesday. The line will be operational by next week. ‘‘The CMRS, R K Kardam, is planning to inspect the Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar Metro corridor on August 30 and 31. The line will be opened for use as soon as it gets the necessary safety clearances,’’ said a DMRC spokesperson. The 12.53-km stretch has nine Metro stations at Udyog Bhawan, Race Course, Jorbagh, INA, AIIMS, Green Park, Hauz Khas, Malviya Nagar and Saket.

With the opening of this missing link in Line 2, the entire Jehangirpuri to Huda City Centre stretch will become the longest straight Metro line in the city. The construction of the line is over and trains trials have been on for a few months now.

OC Kept its Honor By Delaying Games Ticket Sales

Last Friday, the Organizing Committee of the Commonwealth Games had announced with great fanfare that over-the-counter ticket sales to the public would begin on August 25. And so, Pushpender Sharma, a student and an athlete, reached OC headquarters at 9am sharp to buy a ticket. Nine hours later, he still hadn’t got one.

‘‘Officials at the OC headquarters sent me to the Central Bank, Parliament Street branch. The tickets were not available there either. They told me to come back at 3pm, then I was told to return at six. This is no way to treat people who wish to be a part of the CWG,’’ fumed Sharma. He wasn’t the only one complaining.

Officials at various outlets of Central Bank of India and Hero Honda the OC’s official ticketing partners admitted that many customers turned up in the morning, but had to go back disappointed. Said B S Harilal, assistant general manager at Central Bank of India (Parliament Street), ‘‘We kept sending people back through the day. More than 100 people turned up at our branch. We had to inform them that tickets were not available and they would have to return at 3pm. Finally, at 7 pm, we were able to sell tickets.’’

The scene was repeated across almost all the outlets designated by the OC for ticket sale.

OC cites tech snag for mess

The much-publicized sale of tickets for the Commonwealth Games was bit of a dampener with most of the designated counters turning away buyers as they were yet to receive the tickets. In fact, the Central Bank outlet in the organizing committee headquarters was summarily sending every customer to the Parliament Street branch without any explanation. B S Harilal, assistant general manager at Central Bank of India (Parliament Street) said they kept sending people back through the day. More than 100 people turned up at our branch, he said.

Yet again, it was the organizing committee the gang that can’t shoot straight to blame. It was still synchronizing the online ticket purchases that had been made till date with the stock of tickets available.
Said a senior organizing committee official, ‘‘Since the opening and closing ceremony tickets are numbered seats, synchronization of tickets that have already been purchased with the available stock is necessary. Besides, a lot of other back-end programming had to be performed, which is why tickets were not available till 6 pm.’’

So why was the organizing committee still performing ‘backend programming’ on the day the sale of tickets was to begin? No one in the organizing committee had a clue. Secretary General Lalit Bhanot brushed off the matter, saying the system was under maintenance and that tickets were ‘‘now available’’.

‘‘The tickets were made available as soon as the system was updated. There’s no problem,’’ insisted Bhanot. Sanjeev Mittal, head of the ticketing function, added that ticket stocks had been sent to outlets already.

Ironically, the sale of tickets till date is not exactly in numbers that should have taken any decent system much time to update.

Of the 17 lakh tickets that organizing committee hopes to sell for the upcoming sporting event, a little above 1 lakh have been sold till date. Sources admitted that the ceremonies for which 50,000 tickets are each available have actually managed to sell around 12,000 tickets: in total.

Ticket sales of the sporting events are even more dismal. The only sport that has managed to get spectators is hockey, for which a mere 8,000 tickets have been sold. The rest haven’t even managed to generate more than 5,000 ticket sales each, added sources.

NO Time for Security Rehearsals

In a volte-face of sorts, Delhi Police said on Monday that its primary aim is to ensure a safe Commonwealth Games and nothing has affected preparations so far. The statement comes days after special commissioner (administration) Neeraj Kumar said in a news conference that the ‘‘delay’’ in handing over the sporting venues could have been avoided from the security point of view.

In fact, sources said they ‘‘requested’’ civic agencies to complete the ‘‘crucial’’ part of the construction work before the police took over the venues on September 1.

The fresh defense became necessary following allegations that at several key venues like the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the Games Village, several security apparatus like cameras, sensors and the much-needed Intrusion Detection System is yet to be installed or tested yet.

The sources said the home ministry would have liked ‘‘extensive testing of the security apparatus, preferably for three months’’. Under the changed circumstances, the security forces are likely to get only 14 days of full dress rehearsals.

A senior officer of Delhi police said mock exercises have already begun at all the venues and 60 drills have so far been conducted. ‘‘The most important job is to familiarise the security forces with the layout of the venues. We do not need heavy gadgets or armoury to carry out such drills,” said the officer.

A company named Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) was hired to install security devices at the venues. However, at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, for example, a wall around the stadium where the gadgets had to be fitted is yet to be completed.

‘‘A safety audit by an Australian firm appointed by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CWF) has expressed satisfaction about the security. Representatives from 21 nations have been shown the security and traffic plans for two consecutive days and all of them were satisfied. So where is the question of failing the test?’’ asked an official.

CM Requested Opposition Leaders to Stop Blame Game

Call it a preemptive strike. Even before opposition could launch a full-fledged attack on government over alleged corruption in the Commonwealth Games projects, CM Sheila Dikshit on Monday urged the BJP in the Delhi assembly to ‘‘not make things worse’’ and ‘‘join hands’’ to make the sporting event a great success.

‘‘Don’t do this; otherwise Commonwealth Games will appear to collapse. I am requesting you with folded hands not to do this,’’ said CM Dikshit, anticipating an opposition attack over graft charges.

Dikshit’s comment came after the leader of the opposition, V K Malhotra, raised concerns over cave-in incidents and widespread water logging. Malhotra lashed out at the Congress saying it appeared now no projects would be completed by the final deadline of August 31.

‘Several areas in the city are facing flood-like situation,’’ Malhotra said. He went on to blame civic agencies for carrying out digging which has resulted in huge amount of debris. Malhotra accused the government of not taking the dengue menaces seriously, claiming the disease could prove to be a major embarrassment during the Games.

During the arguments, several Congress MLAs defended the government and blamed the BJP-ruled MCD for ‘‘failing to complete’’ construction work and dengue outbreak.

As the House witnessed uproarious scenes, Dikshit said there was no point is playing the blame game and asked the BJP to join hands to make the Games a success.

‘‘There is no need to worry about the rise in Yamuna water levels. We have shifted only five families from the low lying areas. The situation is totally under control. I am not blaming MCD or any other agency. This is not the time for that. We should work together,’’ she said.

About dengue, she said 25-35% cases have come from outside Delhi and the total dengue cases were not worrying compared to the city’s total population. ‘‘We will look after each and every patient. We are launching awareness programme. Situation is under control. We are taking all the required measures,’’ she said.

Another Shock: Swimming pools may not get certification

Another Games project is under the scanner. It has been alleged that DDA has spent “too much” to construct four swimming pools the main one and a leisure pool at the Village and one pool each at Siri Fort and Yamuna Sports Complex.

What makes matters worse, said sources familiar with the contract, DDA may not be able to secure mandatory certification from Fidiration Internationale de Natation (FINA), the international body administering swimming standards, before the Games begin. Luckily, Talkatora stadium, the venue for swimming competitions, has obtained certification in time.

Along with the astronomical increase in cost, the tender process was delayed. From the time pre-qualification estimate was prepared, it took DDA more than a year to issue a tender at the end of 2009.

The selection of manufacturers of the filtration equipment is also mired in controversy. In the initial tender document, there were three firms, but just one seemed a genuine manufacturer. At least one prequalified bidder who objected was disqualified, sources said.

Documents with an english daily show that Pentair, a firm that reportedly makes filtration equipment in Spain, found its way into the final list of manufacturers. The then member (engineering) of DDA noted on file that the “basis (for inclusion) of Pentair has not been substantiated”, and added “this be kept on record”.

According to documents, a part of records that are part of a CVC inquiry, Pentair probably does not manufacture big filters and systems required for the Games and they have not possibly catered to Olympic size pools. A mandated inspection of the manufacturing plant in Spain was never undertaken by DDA.

On December 21, 2009 when the post-bid meeting was called, those who submitted tenders were given blank technical documents to fill up including mentioning makes of equipment. Pentair found its place in these documents. Meanwhile, the pools are still not ready.

Delhiites Show Their Grace: Feel Free to Damage road Signs

The signboards which were supposed to help tourists find their way in Lutyens’ Delhi have already been damaged with the Commonwealth Games still more than a month away.

According to New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), people in several areas in the capital have scratched out letters from the signboards installed at ground level. In many NDMC areas, one is left clueless about the name of a lane or building.

The civic body will now have to replace these signboards and will put a thin film to prevent Delhiites from destroying the signage further. NDMC spokesperson Anand Tiwari said: ‘‘Names of lanes and buildings installed at ground level have been scratched out in many areas. We will now have to replace them and put a thin film over the other signboards to prevent them from being damaged. Fortunately, the overhead signage are untouched. Since the signage are retro-reflective, we can’t even paint the letters back.’’

NDMC was to install around 7,000 signage in its area and the work has almost been completed. An NDMC official said: ‘‘The cost of installing these signage is between Rs 25-30 crore and each signboard has cost Rs 5,000. When we started installing the signage we did not foresee such a problem. We did not imagine that people will actually scratch out letters.’’

The signage which have been partially damaged due to scratching include those installed outside Embassy of Nepal, Patiala House Court, National Human Rights Commission, Palika Kendra and those displayed at Firozshah Road, Rajaji Marg, Kautiliya Marg, Lodi Road, Copernicus Marg, Maharishi Raman Marg etc.

Sources said many residents have objected to the signage being only in English. ‘‘Some people have protested against the use of only English. The usual practice of giving names in Hindi, Urdu, Gurmukhi and English is not being followed every where,’’ said the sources.

According to NDMC officials, ‘‘The signage conform to international standards and norms. They are color coded. The green boards display names of lanes and streets while the blue ones are meant for buildings and yellow stands for caution etc. These retro-reflective signage will be visible at night too.”

Meanwhile, the PWD has almost finished installing signage in its areas. PWD officials said since they have not stuck individual letters as done in NDMC areas, their signboards cannot be damaged. ‘‘We have placed a white sheet and cut out letters from blue or green sheet. Hence, they cannot be scratched out. The cost of installing signage’s in our areas is Rs 25 crore.’’

Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), however, is yet to start installing signage’s.

MCD press and information director Deep Mathur: ‘‘We have started installing polls now and the signboards will be put up shortly.”

After Feedback from Traffic Trails in Routes for athletes may Change

Even as the Delhi traffic police starts with the trial runs of the Commonwealth Games lane in the city, the organizing committee (OC) is trying to ‘‘fine-tune’’ the route that the athletes and delegates will be taking during the Games period. Talking about the transport plans of the upcoming Delhi Games, special director general, Jiji Thomson, and in charge, transport function, said, ‘‘Though the routes have been decided based on the recommendations of the UTTIPEC, we are waiting for feedback from the traffic trials to fine-tune the route.’’

Thomson’s comment comes even as the Delhi traffic police has announced measures to ensure strict adherence to lanes by Delhi’s traffic. According to OC officials, the dedicated lanes will be used to ferry more than 15,000 people during the Games, besides thousands of OC staff and volunteers. To ferry these people, the OC has divided the transport solutions into groups. The first group, T1, consists of a dedicated car service of around 485 cars with drivers, which will transport delegates from their accommodation to venues and back. T2 will be a motor pool of 1,000 cars available through a call car service while T3 will consist of 349 dedicated AC buses for the athletes. Shuttle service will be provided for individual sports as well as exclusive team buses for team sports. Twenty five routes have been identified for transporting the athletes. A separate bus service will be provided for the media and technical officials. The transport services are available from September 23.

The cars Indigo and SUVs have been provided by Tata Motors, along with 3,000 drivers. Ashish Kumar, deputy director general (transport) of the OC, added that recovery cranes would be set up in 15 locations to ensure that buses which break down on roads don’t create traffic problems.

‘Fifteen Taveras will be kept on stand-by for tyre punctures and 15 bikes for any breakdowns that may occur,’’ added Kumar. Each car in the fleet will be fitted with GPS while a transport operation centre will be set up at the OC headquarters for real time monitoring and tracking.

The OC has also made provisions to ensure assistance from the support staff is easily available. Drivers and other staff will wear a tag saying, ‘‘I can speak English’’ to enable that, added Thomson.

Furniture on Roads for Games: Forget it

Here is another broken promise. To ensure an ‘‘uniform look’’ in the city, civic bodies were expected to install similar street furniture on 54 major roads leading to stadiums, airport and railway station before the Commonwealth Games. But with streetscaping work yet to complete, the civic agencies were drastically cutting down on what they had promised.

In fact, NDMC said it would not install most of the street furniture items as it was no longer ‘‘viable’’. MCD and PWD, on their part, claimed essential services like toilets, traffic police posts, benches and kiosks would be installed only on major roads.

Said a MCD official: ‘‘Streetscaping work is still going on at Bhism Pitamah Marg, Khel Gaon Marg etc. Till this work doesn’t get over and malba is not removed, work on street furniture cannot start. This work will only start in September and will be completed just before the Games.’’

Street furniture is being installed on BoT basis. It includes coffee kiosks, information kiosks, benches, tree guards, toilets, advertisement panels, traffic police posts and dustbins.

‘‘Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) has been given the responsibility to procure street furniture for our roads. We are working on bases for street furniture. Installing them will not take time. The work will begin by mid-September,’’ said K K Sharma, principal secretary at PWD. ‘‘In phase-I, all major roads around stadiums will be taken up.’’

As per the original plan, 24 roads belonging to PWD, 21 to MCD and nine to NDMC were supposed to be upgraded with street furniture. MCD said it would now install furniture only on 12 major roads like Bhishm Pitamah Marg, Lodhi Road, Maharishi Valmiki Marg etc. Said MCD press and information director, Deep Mathur: ‘‘We will start work for installing street furniture on 12 stretches soon. The work should be completed by September 7.’’

NDMC claimed it would only install benches along its streetscape stretches. Said NDMC spokesperson, Anand Tiwari: ‘‘There were nine elements that we had decided on earlier but dropped most of them as they did not seem viable. Streetlights and benches will be installed along all of our stretches.’’

Barapullah Road Missed Deadline Once Again

The lack of coordination between civic agencies continues to plague projects related to the Commonwealth Games 2010. Now, the elaborate landscaping plan for the Barapullah drain basin, which was to be executed by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), has been scrapped. The reason: PWD is yet to hand over the required land.

The construction of the Barapullah Nullah elevated road is still going on and is not expected to complete before the first week of September. Senior officials in the DDA claimed the landscaping plans had to be shelved as the plot of land around the two ends of the Barapullah Nullah Sarai Kale Khan ISBT and Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium has not been handed over to the DDA. ‘‘How can we finish the landscaping work in a month’s time, if the PWD gives us the land in September? Malba is all around the site, with active construction still going on. There’s no way we can start work on landscaping project,’’ said a senior DDA official.

Incidentally, the plans for the area were elaborate, to say the least. The landscaped zone, starting from near JN Stadium and including Pant Nagar, was to have an urban plaza with outdoor sitting, food court, fountain court, lotus wetland. Walkway decks, sculptures and tensile structures were also to come up, especially in the Silver Oak Park. Said the official, ‘‘The Barapullah elevated road ends on the eastern side of JN Stadium. Here, DDA already has the Silver Oak Park, next to the Metro station, which now will be the only site to be landscaped for the Commonwealth Games.’’

Pedestrian connectivity from the Metro station to a foot-over-bridge coming up at Sewa Nagar and then on to the stadium was to be provided in the plan. An urban plaza with artifact display, outdoor sitting, lighting and flagpoles as well as a fountain court was also planned.

At the Ring Road site opposite Siddharth Extension, DDA wanted to build a sun dial, which would have been the focal point for the entry to the elevated road.

PWD officials accepted the delay. ‘‘The decision was taken to hand over to DDA a patch of land in the basin area (along the Nizamuddin railway bridge), as well as the site where the elevated road starts in Ring Road and ends in JN Stadium. But this has been delayed as the construction work is still going on,’’ said the official.

Sources said the DDA would confine itself to landscaping the Silver Oak Park, and areas in the vicinity of JN Stadium. The rest of the project will be taken up after the Commonwealth Games. The project, spread over 4.6km, was estimated to cost over Rs 25 crore. In fact, the DDA had even selected a firm to implement the work more than a month ago, added officials.

Delhi Citizens have not interest in Games: Planning holidays during CWG

Delhi will keep its date with the Commonwealth Games, but will Delhiites? Former Union sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, it seems, is not the only one ‘‘getting the hell out of Delhi’’ during the Games. Travel agents many city residents are booking holiday packages ranging from weekend getaways to longer vacations abroad.

Travel agencies have designed special Commonwealth Games packages to lure customers. Not that they need much tempting. With schools, colleges and even some offices having declared October 3-14 as a vacation, Delhi, it seems, can’t wait to get away.

Travel companies come out with special packages for Oct

A large number of city residents not wanting to be in the city during the Games are booking holiday packages. ‘‘I wonder who will be left in the city to watch the Games. Our agency has booked travel plans for more than a hundred groups during that period. Normally we do get a good response during Dussehra, but with the Games holidays we are getting more bookings than the summer vacations,’’ said Ankit Miglani, manager Welcome Trips Travel Agency.

The destinations are as varied as Rishikesh and Bangkok, ‘‘People just want to move out, it does not matter where they go,’’ said Ankit. ‘‘A cruise to Singapore is the biggest attraction this season. Rs 23,000 are the calling rate for a cruise to Singapore. This has attracted a lot of people.’’

Rajneesh Kapoor from A2Z Travels agrees that a huge chunk of Delhiites will be missing during the Games. ‘‘We are getting a lot of enquiries about 10 every day for special packages during the Games. They are not sure about the dates yet, but once the schools declare their holidays, we have a long queue of people wanting to go out.’’

‘‘There is nothing to hold Delhiites back. The city is in a mess and with added security and traffic restrictions during the event, they just want to move out,’’ he added.

After Bangkok and Singapore, people are eager to go to Goa. ‘‘Considering the number of bookings we are getting, there’s a good chance you might stumble into your neighbour in Goa this October,’’ said Ankit.

Rishikesh is also attracting a lot of people as rafting will resume in October. Anirudh Choudhry, who works in a multinational company said, ‘‘I am planning a trip to Rishikesh with my friends in October. We would rather head out than stay back for the Games. We can watch the events on television too, why should we spoil our holidays?’’

Jassi from J2 Travels has introduced lucrative packages for October. He said, ‘‘Our camps are already booked from the end of September till October 10. We had never got this kind of response during Dussehra. Many companies are taking corporate packages.’’

The leading travel agencies too have introduced packages during the Games both for domestic tourists as well as foreign visitors. Their target destinations are Jaipur, Agra and Ranthambore National park etc. Sources in Delhi Tourism said, ‘‘Tour operators who have offered lucrative tour packages have taken advantage of the situation.’’

Heat on for DDA over Games Pools

It is not just the Commonwealth Games Organizing Committee that stands accused of inflating payments and manipulating tender processes.

The story of how four training swimming pools, including two at the Commonwealth Games Village, were constructed by Delhi Development Authority is one of blatant price escalation, allegations of tainted tendering and could end with the fiasco of the pools not receiving required certification on time.

As authorities rush to ensure that the pools get their certification ahead of the Games, the Central Vigilance Commission’s technical examiner has begun to scan contracts, especially for filtration equipment procured by DDA which could now face some serious questioning.

The construction of the four swimming pools the main one and a leisure pool at the Village and one pool each at Siri Fort and Yamuna Sports Complex has seen DDA shelling out almost 20 times the price for filtration equipment compared to similar projects completed recently.

The filtration equipment for DDA’s Chilla Sports Complex swimming pool, which has a larger capacity with similar specifications, was completed in April for about Rs 27 lakh. As of now, DDA is paying over Rs 5 crore for each of the main training pools.

When the pre-qualification estimate was done for filtration plants for the first time in September 2008, the estimate was a combined Rs 3.25 crore for the main and leisure pool at the Village. And Rs 2.5 crore each for the pools at Siri Fort and Yamuna complex. The already high rates went up to Rs 3.19 crore in estimates when the chief engineer (electrical) initiated the process for inviting tenders in a few months time. Then, towards the end of 2009, the cost for the filtration plant and other accessories went up to Rs 5.09 crore a pool.

DDA did not reply to a detailed questionnaire sent by english daily Times of India on August 16 on the entire issue.

Swimming pools may not get certification from top body

Another Games project is under the scanner. It has been alleged that DDA has spent “too much” to construct four swimming pools the main one and a leisure pool at the Village and one pool each at Siri Fort and Yamuna Sports Complex.

What makes matters worse, said sources familiar with the contract, DDA may not be able to secure mandatory certification from Fidiration Internationale de Natation (FINA), the international body administering swimming standards, before the Games begin. Luckily, Talkatora stadium, the venue for swimming competitions, has obtained certification in time.

Along with the astronomical increase in cost, the tender process was delayed. From the time pre-qualification estimate was prepared, it took DDA more than a year to issue a tender at the end of 2009.

The selection of manufacturers of the filtration equipment is also mired in controversy. In the initial tender document, there were three firms, but just one seemed a genuine manufacturer. At least one pre-qualified bidder who objected was disqualified, sources said.

Documents with a leading english daily shows that Pentair, a firm that reportedly makes filtration equipment in Spain, found its way into the final list of manufacturers. The then member (engineering) of DDA noted on file that the “basis (for inclusion) of Pentair has not been substantiated”, and added “this be kept on record”.

According to documents, a part of records that are part of a CVC inquiry, Pentair probably does not manufacture big filters and systems required for the Games and they have not possibly catered to Olympic size pools. A mandated inspection of the manufacturing plant in Spain was never undertaken by DDA.

On December 21, 2009 when the post-bid meeting was called, those who submitted tenders were given blank technical documents to fill up including mentioning makes of equipment. Pentair found its place in these documents. Meanwhile, the pools are still not ready.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We were told to Buy Costly Equipments: DHS Delhi Government

Faced with a controversy about the high rates at which medical equipment for the medical centers at Commonwealth Games venues were being procured, directorate of health services (DHS), Delhi government has found the easy way out.

Most of these items will now be procured by the 21 hospitals that are managing the 35 centers. In a meeting last Monday, the hospitals were told about the decision and were given a list of 36 items, including ‘‘wall clocks with second arms’’, blood pressure instruments, automatic external defibrillators, stretchers, massage table with mattress, general medical exam kit, nebuliser, suction machine, short-wave diathermy, forceps and examination lights. Rates of some of these items have been mired in controversy after reports that they were several times higher than the prevalent market rates.

With just 45 days left, hospitals are not amused, even less so, sources say, because they have been asked to procure the items at the higher rates (from the DHS rate contract) which, if they do, they might risk audit objections, say senior medical officers of the hospitals. On the other hand, there is very less time left for a full-fledged tender process. Interestingly, for the past four years DHS has been undertaking the entire procurement process of these 40-odd items. However, as per the new scheme of things, it can only procure medicines, consumables, furniture, computers and refrigerators.

Delhi government director, health services, Dr S K Bhattacharjee is dismissive of the tender proposal. ‘‘We have given the hospitals the names of companies and rates. They just have to place the orders.’’ Asked why the decision was taken so late, he said: ‘‘There is nothing big in the list. The hospitals already have most of the items and it’s not logical to buy something for 15 days. They might need to buy a few items for which they have our rate contract. It was decided long back. Hospitals are always unhappy about something or the other. This is a matter of national pride and a decision has been taken. So that is how things will happen.’’

Interestingly, DHS maintains there is no need for tendering as there is already a rate contract. Asked why hospitals need to procure a short-wave diathermy, which has already been tendered by DHS, Dr Amit Banerjee, medical superintendent (MS) of Lok Nayak Hospital says the two companies from which DHS had to procure these equipment (according to some reports at very high rates) have refused to supply them. This means if a few hospitals do not have surplus of a given equipment, a short-term tender will need to be called. ‘‘Since the time we started e-tendering, the process has been extremely transparent. No crisis shopping will happen. We have most of the items. It is not as if somebody handed over us the list. We decided what items we needed,’’ Dr Banerjee added.

Hospitals say they were never given any procurement responsibility. In fact, sources say, in the first meeting on this matter in the dean office, MAMC, hospitals’ medical superintendents had refused. They reportedly gave in during the second meeting with the health secretary.

Among the medical superintendents Times City spoke to, only Dr P P Singh of Hindu Rao spoke about going by the rate contract. Dr Jile Adhar Singh of DDU talked about a ‘‘short notice tender’’ while others disconnected the phone when asked about Games procurement. Nobody commented about the money, but sources say each hospital may end up spending a few crore.

Games Lane Trial a Success

Delhi Traffic Police carried out trial runs on 3-km stretch of the dedicated Games lane on Lodhi Road on Sunday. Though a couple of minor glitches did surface during the exercise that was conducted between 11am and 2pm, police believe they will be able to ‘‘discipline’’ every driver over the 40 days of trial runs which start this week.

‘‘We are satisfied with the first day’s progress. People followed our instructions and there was a wholehearted enforcement of the lane rule,’’ said Ajay Chadha, special commissioner (traffic).

When Times City took a round of the area, it found traffic constables posted every 100 metres. Signboards were put up and each car was directed to keep to the left lane, as the right lane on both carriageways of the road has been dedicated for the Games corridor. On the first day, however, police showed leniency towards drivers on a few occasions when cars tried to take the right lane.

‘‘It was the first day. It was a holiday and traffic was not heavy. We must keep in mind that the markings are not yet clear the white logo is still to come up. We will not send out challans right now. But come September 20, no violator will be spared,’’ added Chadha.

Joint commissioner (traffic) Satyendra Garg said the next day of trials will be announced in the coming three days. ‘‘We will inform the date, time and place for the next trials. We will also put up the full schedule on our website and social networking sites,’’ said Garg.

Next time, however, officials said traffic cops will not be deployed every 100 meters. ‘‘We plan to keep them at a 200-metre gap now,’’ said Chadha.

For the three hours the trial run was on, the extreme right lane on the stretch was out of bounds for all normal traffic. The road markings for the Games lanes — a yellow line marks out the lane which has blue boxes at regular intervals with the Games logo — have been completed on Lodhi Road, which was taken up first.

Cops said those who try to enter the wrong lane will be prosecuted. Even as the fine will be Rs 2,000 during the Commonwealth Games, at present violators will have to pay up just Rs 100 as the government is still to notify the hike in fines.

Over the next few weeks, the trial runs will be extended to other city roads which have been earmarked for movement of Games traffic. The stretches, spanning about 180km, include all roads leading to Commonwealth Games venues, the Games village and IGI Airport. The full restrictions will come into effect from September 20 when athletes start arriving in the city.

Facing Caving Ins: Blame Utility Companies

Continuous rain in the city has led to several cave-ins across the city, with many of them being reported from the New Delhi Municipal Council areas. Sources said the roads in Lutyen’s Delhi, usually known for their quality, are crumbling due to indiscriminate digging carried out using ‘trenchless technology’ for laying underground utility pipes and cables.

‘‘Nearly 220km of utility laying work was recently carried out in the NDMC areas using the trenchless technology. In this case, cavities remain open in the earth. With water seeping in, the road gets weak and eventually gives way,’’ said an official. ‘‘In trenchless technology, various agencies have to ensure they dig to an appropriate depth at least more than 1.5 meter to ensure they do not damage the sewer and drainage pipes. But this norm is flouted.’’

In August only, portions of Jaswant Singh Road, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Rajesh Pilot Marg and Khan Market have caved-in. Explained NDMC spokesperson Anand Tiwari, ‘‘The road cave-in at Kasturba Gandhi Marg on Saturday was due to water seeping in through a cavity which was not filled up properly after a telecom company finished its work of laying wires there.’’

The other major reason for cave-in is the rotting drainage and sewer system, which dates back to the British times. According to NDMC officials, the sewer barrels in their area need to be restored immediately to avert a bigger disaster in the future. Said an official, ‘‘All the sewage barrels being encountered during construction work in CP are more than 60 years old and need to be replaced immediately. The drainage system is equally old.’’

Tiwari also blames cave-in incidents on depleting groundwater level in the area. Said Tiwari: ‘‘When it rains, the groundwater level suddenly rises and needs an outlet. This leads to the earth under the road giving way.’’

The story is similar in case of roads maintained by other agencies. Senior PWD engineers said that recently carried out utility pipeline laying work using trentchless technology was responsible for pavements and service roads caving in. ‘‘Racing against the Games deadline, utility providers took pipeline laying work on war footing. The work got completed just before the monsoon. When rain started, it caused problems,’’ said an official.

The official added poor maintenance of underground master drains, sewer and water pipelines cause more damage. ‘‘Maintenance of all such pipelines is vital. The cave-in incidents highlight how utility agencies have failed to maintain their service lines,’’ said the PWD official.

Officials added poor quality restoration of dug up stretches is also responsible for such mishaps. They admitted the agencies engaged in laying utilities simply fill the dug up portions in a haphazard manner, giving almost no time for the loose soil to settle.

One of the officials said earlier the projects requiring major digging used to take at least one year to complete. As an example he points to laying of pipelines for Sonia Vihar water plant. ‘‘But nowadays roads are cut and subsequently restored in 15 days. How can you except the soil to settle’’ asked the official.

It Seems whole Delhi roads are Going in Ditch

As heavy rain continued in several parts of the city, two more road cavein incidents were reported.

After a car got stuck when a portion of the road caved in at K G Marg on Saturday night, a biker was injured at August Kranti Marg near Siri Fort in the wee hours of Sunday when his bike fell in a ditch created due to a cave-in.

Anup Kumar, the victim, said, ‘‘It was dark when I was driving down this stretch. I could not make out how big the ditch was was. The front wheel
of my bike almost got inside.’’

Public Works Department (PWD) officials on Sunday evening said they had fixed the road. ‘‘The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had laid pipelines few months back on this stretch. It’s the same story getting repeated on all stretches. Utility companies dig along the roads, lay cables and pipes and then fill up the ditches in hurry. Their shoddy work is responsible for all cave-in incidents reported in the last few weeks,’’ said a senior department official.

Though commuters who frequently use August Kranti Marg blamed the poor quality of road laying work by the PWD for this incident, government engineers maintained that utility companies were responsible for incident.

The second incident was reported from Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg where portions of a parking lot caved in. Office goers said they saw the stretch caving in on Sunday afternoon. PWD officials, in this case, blamed a telephone service providers that had dug up the stretch to lay underground cables.

‘‘It’s not a big problem today as it is Sunday. Tomorrow it will be a major issue when offices will open and people will look to park their
cars,’’ said a said a marketing executive who has an office in the area.


Kasturba Gandhi Marg has caved-in thrice in August

Jaswant Singh Road near Andhra Bhawan has also caved-in thrice this month

One cave-in reported from Rajesh Pilot Marg

In the past, cave-ins have taken place at Ashram, Jehangirpuri, Aurbindo Marg, Saket,
GK-II, Moolchand, Shakti Nagar, Wazirpur

Civic Bodies dug and Left: Now Blame Game Starts

As if living with the Games construction work was not enough, unnecessary digging in various parts of the city has created a capital mess. In many areas, agencies have dug up stretches for up gradation of drains, sewerage system and laying gas pipes etc work which could easily have waited till after the monsoon. In most such cases, work has been abandoned mid-way as the rains got more persistent.

Usually, digging is not allowed from June to September. But all rules have now been thrown to the winds in the name of Commonwealth Games. Even the deadlines fixed to stop digging at all Games related sites have lapsed. The open pits have become major causes for water logging and serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, at a time when Delhi is reeling under the worst dengue attack in several years.

In front of GK Enclave, the pavement has been broken and a huge ditch has been dug. The workers have not turned-up for several days now and the continuous rains have led to mosquito breeding. PWD, the agency responsible for the stretch, claimed innocence. Said a PWD official: ‘‘The area had been dug up by discoms to lay underground cables. We will restore the pavements once it stops raining.’’

In CR Park, a new drainage system is being constructed near Market I. No one has turned up for work here either for several days. ‘‘Why are they taking on more work when essential work related to the Games is still not over. The city has rubble lying all over. It’s not like they didn’t know earlier that the drainage system needed up gradation,’’ said a trader.

In Panchsheel Enclave, a huge pit was reportedly dug by discoms and left open, causing major inconvenience to residents. ‘‘The area had earlier been dug up to lay a gas pipeline. After that work ended, discoms started digging the same place again. Then they just left the pit open without bothering to complete the work. No one knows what is happening now,’’ said Krishan Mitroo, a resident of Panchsheel Enclave. The pit has remained unattended for over two months now, residents say.

In Rajinder Nagar, residents have had to deal with open pits due to ongoing work of laying gas pipes and up gradation of sewer lines.’ They have been laying the underground gas pipes since February. Workers turn up for work as and when they feel like. There are open pits in the area due to this. The up gradation of sewer pipes has caused more trouble. Drinking water is getting mixed with sewage. Many people have fallen ill. We have complained to the authorities but no one has turned up to help us,’’ said general secretary of Rajinder Nagar RWA, D M Narang.

In certain areas, agencies have dug up an upgraded pavement, roads etc again in the name of Games projects destroying already upgraded infrastructure. In Vasant Vihar outside Modern School a newly-laid pavement was dug up to lay underground cables for streetlights. The pavement has since caved
in. According to the RWA, a stretch in front of D-block Market has been dug up thrice after the pavement was re-laid about a month back.

Said Sameer Baghat, member of Vasant Vihar RWA: ‘‘The pavement in-front of Modern School is dangerous for children studying in the school. The entire pavement looks like it will cave-in any moment. The worst part is that they just re-laid the pavement six months back. In front of D-block market, they have dug up a re-laid pavement at least thrice.’’

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Now 400 Designated Spots for Auto Rickshaws

If things go as per the traffic police’s plan, passengers in the capital may have an easier time traveling in auto rickshaws, with more than 400 designated spots across Delhi being earmarked for these vehicles.

Informing the Delhi high court about its ambitious proposal, Delhi Traffic Police on Wednesday said it has complied with earlier court directions and identified ‘‘halt and go’’ auto rickshaw stands across the city.

Appearing for traffic police, Counsel Jyoti Singh said at one ‘‘halt and go’’ station roughly five auto rickshaws can be parked. It will be mandatory for drivers to ferry a passenger at the correct meter rate. She further informed a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan that a notification has been issued in this regard which has been published in newspapers. The bench advised cops to put up signage’s declaring ‘‘halt and go’’ spots and make auto drivers aware about the need to stop at these stations.

Emergency Declared: Leave Canceled for all MCD Employees

With the Commonwealth Games approaching and the fear of a dengue epidemic looming large, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has decided to get its act together. On Wednesday, MCD cancelled all sanctioned leave of its staff, announcing that it would not give leave to any of its employees till the monsoon season is over and claimed that employees of the public health department would have to work on weekends too.

Said MCD commissioner K S Mehra: ‘‘We will not give any leave to any of our employees till the monsoon is over and public health department officials will now work on weekends. Staff of other departments will also be available as per requirement.’’

The total number of dengue cases in the city was 297 with 20 fresh cases being reported on Wednesday. While there has been one death due to dengue in the city, there are three suspected deaths due to the vector-borne disease. According to MCD commissioner K S Mehra, fogging would be carried out twice near Commonwealth Games construction sites to prevent mosquito breeding in such areas.

Mosquito breeding was also found in MCD’s own headquarters in Town Hall and its horticulture and works departmental offices. Mehra said action would be initiated against the official who had not taken adequate steps to prevent breeding. MCD has issued 136 ‘VIP challans’ against offices of various agencies such as Delhi Development Authority, PWD, Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Transport Corporation, Central Public Works Department, several government and MCD schools, colleges such as Hansraj, Gargi, Ambedkar, Shivaji and hospitals like Apollo, IHBAS, etc.

MCD has 456 hand-held fogging machines and 10 vehicle-mounted machines. Around six of the vehicle-mounted machines are not functional.

According to Sheila Dikshit Nervousness is Natural

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Wednesday said “nervousness” is natural until the Commonwealth Games get over on October 14 and urged the media to highlight the “good things” in the capital ahead of the mega sporting event.

The Delhi government and other agencies responsible for Games-related projects are under fire over missed deadlines and the recent corruption charges. Dikshit, talking to reporters outside the Delhi assembly on Wednesday, said nervousness is natural as nobody knows the future, but at the same time “good things” needed to be showcased to give people confidence.

Asked about this year’s monsoon, where Delhi has received more than its normal share of rains so far, Dikshit said the showers have led to a rise in the level of underground water and the city’s green cover is “smiling”.

Badarpur Flyover to Open in October

Commuters can expect permanent relief from congestion at Badarpur border from October. The under construction 4km-long flyover at the border will be opened for public in October first week.

Talking to Times City, Vinayak Deshpande, president and COO of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), which is building the flyover, said, ‘‘We don’t want to open the elevated stretch until all work is completed. We want to open a safe flyover.’’ He added that though the deadline for the project is December 2010, the company wanted to warp it up by October 1.

In fact, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had brought it under the list of projects related to Commonwealth Games for speedy implementation of the elevated corridor. ‘‘It will be ready just ahead of the Games,’’ claimed a senior NHAI official. HCC is constructing the corridor under BOT (toll) model it will maintain and collect toll for 20 years.

The Badarpur-Faridabad six-lane elevated highway is being built at a cost of Rs 340 crore. Earlier, NHAI officials had told highway minister Kamal Nath that the two main carriageways could be made operational by August-end. However, Deshpande said it would not be desirable to open the stretch without completing the finishing work.

Responding to how the concessionaire is gearing up to manage traffic flow through the two main toll plazas, Deshpande said it would opt for electronic tolling system for non-stop traffic flow of tagged vehicles. ‘‘We will dedicate certain lanes for uninterrupted clearance of vehicles. We are considering the sale of tags at toll plazas and also at petrol pumps in the nearby region so that it becomes more popular among daily users,’’ he said.

Games Convoys to have Choppers as Guards

Even as the government on Wednesday claimed that there was no ‘‘specific threat’’ to the Commonwealth Games, the security agencies which have a grand plan to secure all the stadiums and the Games village by installing multi-layered cover will take over all the venues for various drills and setting up sophisticated gadgets on September 1, keeping in mind the ‘‘general threat’’ to such a mega event.

Stating about the threat perception, the minister of state for home affairs Ajay Maken informed the Rajya Sabha that there was no specific input suggesting threat to the Games.

‘‘However, there is a general threat from those militant groups who want to strike at high profile targets,’’ he said in a written reply. Maken said security arrangements in National Capital Region are being regularly reviewed in the meetings of Empowered Security Committee, headed by the Union home secretary.

Meanwhile, stating about the security plan, home ministry officials said the security agencies would start their work for putting in place metal barriers, tyre busters, CCTV and metal detector and start anti-sabotage drill.

‘‘The security will be similar to the one put in place in Parliament. Each and every inch of the venues and the village will have to be sanitized. One month is hardly any time for the security agencies. So, we will have to take possession of them,’’ said an official. Mock security drill will be held by security agencies apart from issuing electronic bar code to authorized cars and bus that will be allowed entry.

‘‘We have to even check the toilets being put in place outside the venues for spectators or security personnel,’’ said the official. The taking over of the Games venues and the village assumes urgency as the first batch of athletes and officials will arrive here on September 15.

Over 10,000 athletes from 71 countries and 500,000 spectators are expected at the Games to be held between October 3 and 14. According to the security plan, athletes, officials and guests can visit the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium only by bus and no VIPs, except the heads of state, will be allowed to take their cars inside the stadium.

Parking arrangement has been made for 150 buses at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue for the sporting extravaganza. Each of the 13 competition venues will have a tight security ring and special arrangements will be made to transport the athletes to and from the Games village escorted by helicopters carrying commando snipers keeping an eye on the convoys.

Tourist May Not be able to Visit Heritage Sights

Delhi is hungry to showcase its rich heritage to tourists coming for the Commonwealth Games. But, the ASI is not serious about hunger pangs that the visitors may suffer during their tour of the popular monuments in the city. With six weeks to go for the event, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)’s plan to set up food kiosks at heritage sites is yet to take off.

Cafeterias or food kiosks were to be set up within the protected areas of five monuments Red Fort, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, Purana Qila and Jantar Mantar. However, ASI’s failure to even float tenders has left heritage conservationists wondering if the project will be ready in time.

It usually takes three to four weeks to complete a project after expressions of interest have been called. ‘‘ASI has less than two months to float tenders, award contracts to the chosen contractors and set up food kiosks. That’s a tall order,” said sources.

ASI officials admitted that there was a delay but ‘‘things were in process’’. ‘‘Our conservation consultant has provided us with details of the proposal and we will call the expressions of interest,’’ said an ASI official.

Visitors are not allowed to carry eatables inside protected sites, especially world heritage monuments, and though drinking water is available at most places, foreign tourists prefer bottled water. ‘‘It’s obvious that tourists will need some place to eat while visiting these monuments. Even the monitoring committee realized this when they de-sealed a restaurant run by ITDC inside Red Fort,’’ said an official. Monuments in Delhi do not even have vending machines within protected precincts as is a common facility in most countries.

UNESCO guidelines for world heritage sites state that restaurants should be located within reasonable distance from the monuments. For years, ASI has not allowed people to carry eatables inside fearing that they would litter the place. ‘‘However, a lot of people still carry eatables in their bags and escape getting caught. ASI has limited manpower and fail to catch the offenders. But if they want to stop this practice, then they have to set up food kiosks for visitors,’’ said a source.

Delayed Projects to Get Delayed More

Rs 1,034 crore, two years and a dedicated team of officers besides thousands of workers are apparently not enough to get projects finished in time. Of the six major projects that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was given for the Commonwealth Games the Yamuna and Siri Fort sport complexes, Games Village and practice venue, training venues in Saket sports complex and 5,009 rooms in Vasant Kunj for technical officials almost none have met their deadline.

Now, neither the Yamuna sports complex nor the Commonwealth Games Village look to be ready by August 31 as promised earlier. Worse, DDA officials say that of the
40 towers that were to be ready for the Games in Vasant Kunj, only 20 will be handed over.

The list of projects delayed is certainly long for the DDA. Topping the list is the Yamuna Sports Complex, which has consistently missed all deadlines. While the show court of the main table tennis stadium is yet to be completed OC vice-chairman Randhir Singh optimistically claimed on Monday that it would take another week , the rest of the complex has severe drainage bottlenecks that has stopped work on landscaping and even approach road within the site. Officials at the site admit that substantial work remains to be completed before the venue is ready.

Like the Yamuna sports complex, flats for OC staff and tourists in D3, Vasant Kunj are also considerably delayed. Senior officials admit that of the 40 towers that were to be built for the Games, only 20 towers will be ready. Said the official, ‘‘We’ve handed over 1,000 rooms for furnishing to the ITDC. Around 18 towers are clear with another tower expected to be ready within a couple of days.’’ Not more than 20 towers can be handed over to the OC by September 10, the deadline set by DDA, admit officials. Incidentally, the DDA’s commitment was for 5,009 rooms, with the ITDC planning to present the flats as threestar hotels to budget travellers. All such plans have been shelved now, say sources.

Across town, DDA’s Commonwealth Games Village is also causing worry. While construction of the 34 towers is complete, furnishing of the 1,100-odd flats is nowhere near completion. Landscape work in the site is also going on, along with painting and other repair jobs in some of the towers. A club, which is right in the middle of the complex, is also being completed. The practice venue, meanwhile, is still under construction with DDA claiming the venue will be ready by the first week of September.

It’s not the first training venue of the DDA lagging behind schedule. Training facilities in other venues like Siri Fort and Yamuna sports complex are expected to be completed by next month, while the work in the Saket sports complex is not finished as well.

The only venue that DDA seems to have managed to get right is the Siri Fort complex, where cabling work for security and technology network is under way. The main stadium here is finished, say DDA officials, though the landscaping is yet to be completed.

No Restrictions on Celebrating Festivals in October

No restrictions have been imposed on organizing religious events during the October 3-14 Commonwealth Games, parliament was told on Tuesday.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, minister of state for home affairs, Mullappally Ramachandran, said in view of the commitments of the police force during the Games, permissions for conducting fairs are being granted only after October 15. He also assured the Lok Sabha all necessary law and order arrangements will be made by Delhi Police for smooth conduct of events during the festival season.

Big Balloon Purchased Without any Tender

The signature song of the Delhi Games 2010 may not be ready but the creative team, which zipped off to London along with top brass of the organizing committee (OC) on Monday, would be hoping at least its signature stunt the helium balloon is ready to be unveiled. With just 46 days left, the creative team will be present for the testing of the balloon, otherwise known as the aerostat, in London over the next few days. The aerostat, which has been rented for Rs 38 crore, will be the showpiece of the opening ceremony, say the OC officials.

Interestingly, no one seems to be aware of why only K Events, the firm chosen to bring the aerostat to India, has the expertise for this particular job. Sources confirmed that no open RFP (request for proposal) was floated for the balloon, with the firm being hired on the suggestion of the international consultants connected with the ceremonies. Said a top ministry official who had attended the GoM (group of ministers) meeting when the recommendation was forwarded, ‘‘The approval was given on the understanding that no other firm was capable of producing a show of such (Delhi Games 2010) magnitude.’’ Sources say the GoM had recommended the setting up of a fast track committee to refer and approve the firm. OC spokesperson, Lalit Bhanot, however, refused to comment on the matter. ‘‘I have no knowledge of the opening and closing ceremonies,’’ said Bhanot.

On Tuesday though, the OC was waiting for the testing of the aerostat to go off well, especially considering the balloon was originally supposed to have been delivered a month ago. According to the OC officials, the chief international adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the aerostat project is Ric Birch. ‘‘The fact is that no Indian company or consortium could provide us a spectacular showpiece like the one ordered. It’s for the first time in the world that such a large helium balloon will be used for a sporting event,’’ added the official.

The idea of the aerostat project, cleared by the GoM, started floating in January 2010 during a workshop of creative heads including Bharat Bala, Prasoon Joshi, Shyam Benegal, Javed Akhtar and Ric Birch. There are other elements to the project including flying rigging equipment and scenic flying, aerostat skirt decoration and video projection worth around Rs 4 crore. The structure will serve as a huge screen, visible to all spectators.

Volunteer Training Program Suffering Due to Delays in Venue Completion

The delay in handing over of the venues is now having unforeseen fallout. Sources in the organizing committee (OC) say the late handover of venues has also pushed the next phase of the training programme of volunteers by a few weeks. Around 30,000 volunteers are to receive venue-specific training the last part of the volunteer programme once the venues are with the OC.

However, with the venues yet to be ready and completely taken over by the OC, there has been a cascading effect, say OC officials. ‘‘At present, the inventory is still on in many venues, with the venue owners correcting or putting in place requests and suggestions that the OC has given. After this is over, the actual overlay work will commence,’’ revealed the official. In other words, the various functional areas associated with the venues like technology, venue development and operations, spectator services, catering, cleaning and waste management, sports and others, are yet to become fully functional. This would take at least a fortnight after a full takeover, say sources. With the OC vice-chairman Randhir Singh putting the deadline as August 25, the Games-readiness is expected not before almost mid-September, the officials add.

According to the OC officials, the training of volunteers at venues would ideally take place thereafter, pushing the schedule far behind the original deadline. As per the earlier schedule, while general training was supposed to get over by June-end, role-specific training was scheduled for July with venue-specific training aimed for August. This schedule, however, has already gone haywire for the OC. The role-specific training had got delayed due to unavailability of training manuals earlier last month. With venues being available late, the training programme of the volunteers is expected to only get further delayed.

The training, which has been divided into general (one day), role specific (half day) and venue specific (half day) sessions, will be imparted to 30,000 volunteers. Of the those selected, 22,000 will be actually deployed. Around 4,000 are from the general public, comprising housewives, retired officials, senior citizens. The others are from Delhi University, ministry of tourism, NCC, NSS and the Delhi government. Amity along with consortium partners EKS of Australia have structured the training methodology. Interestingly, while Amity is training the volunteers without charging any fee from the OC, its deal with the latter will enable it to be part of the branding exercise for the Games. The sponsorship is worth Rs 15 crore.

Doping Control Center at Each Games Venues

As the countdown for the Commonwealth Games intensifies, the organizing committee (OC) is moving towards setting up one of the most important aspects of the Games the doping control centers at all the venues. These facilities, which will be set up at both competition and training venues, are of international standards and form an important
legacy after the Delhi Games 2010.

Incidentally, the anti-doping measures in place in the Delhi Games, comprising of a test distribution plan of 1,500 doping control tests, is the highest ever in any Commonwealth Games. The participating athletes from 71 CGAs shall be subjected to unannounced doping control tests, anytime and anywhere during the Games. The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has enacted anti-doping standards for Delhi 2010 and these will be applicable to all athletes including para-athletes.

The OC, through its Doping Control Division, has trained more than 450 doping control officials for Delhi 2010. The selection and the training of these officials was conducted in accordance with international standards of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). They were selected from many streams including doctors, sports medicine experts, physiotherapists and science graduates.

Interestingly, till date, the country had about 50 professionally-trained doping control officers who did this job. The OC and CGF shall certify and accredit the newly trained officials and leave a legacy of the services of these officials after the end of the Games, say OC officials. The Games have also seen the setting up of WADA accreditation for National Dope Testing Laboratory (NDTL), Delhi in August 2008. The NDTL is one of the only 34 labs around the globe.

The NDTL provided its vital services during CYG Pune 2008 and test events held in 2010. The OC in collaboration with WADA will also organize anti-doping athlete outreach programme at the Commonwealth Games Village to educate the athletes and entourage during the Games.

European High Tech Instruments for Polyclinic in Games Village

One more slip-up in Games preparations and one more instance of tax-payers’ money being pumped in to cover up for mistakes.

DDA is spending Rs 1.3 crore in hiring an imported high-tech tent from Europe for the polyclinic at the Games Village after in January this year, Delhi government officials, who are in charge of the equipment and staff there, found to their dismay that the agency had ‘‘forgotten’’ to put drainage and water supply in the second basement of one of the buildings where the polyclinic was originally supposed to be set up. Inspections also showed that an AC duct had been placed in such a way at the entrance that the ambulance could not come in and there was not enough space for the vehicle to be turned. This necessitated urgent revisions in the polyclinic plans which have been in place for about four years now and a decision was taken to import the temporary structure instead.

DDA spokesperson Nemo Dhar confirmed that the aluminum alloy structure, the roof of which is made of fire resistant tensile white fabric, cost Rs 1.3 crore on ‘‘turnkey basis’’ which means the structure will be shipped back after the Games. She, however, said she was not aware of any drainage or water supply issues in the original polyclinic building. ‘‘But all structures are subjected to a feasibility study before being put to actual use,’’ she said.

Delhi government sources say that the discovery that the polyclinic site had no water supply or drainage had come as a shocker after four years of elaborate preparations. ‘‘It is supposed to be a mini-hospital with facilities like OTs, etc. How can one run it without water and drainage. Leave medical facilities, even toilets cannot be constructed there. It is ridiculous how something like this happened in such a crucial project,’’ said a senior Delhi government health official. Sources say the process of calling the tender and finalizing specifications were done at a short notice and adequate enquiries were not made about whether the same structure could be erected by domestic companies that would have kept the costs low.

Doctors associated with the polyclinic also point out that the temporary structure is not suitable for disinfection, etc, as adjacent cubicles do not have a roof. Moreover, there are concerns about the privacy issues of patients as the partitions are makeshift and people in one cubicle cannot help but overhear conversations of those in the other. There is no MRI facility either even though that was one of the specifications given for the polyclinic. Even the minor OT won’t have a separate roof, and there’s no way it can be completely disinfected. Chances of infection will be very high.

If an athlete wants help about STD, there is no way he/she can be assured privacy which is a violation of basic patients’ rights,’’ said a source.

According to DDA’s statement: ‘‘The polyclinic building though being a tent is a full-fledged medical centre for the Games Village with facilities such as x-ray, ultrasound, laboratory, minor OT and insulation chambers for optometrist, ENT specialist, gynecologist, dentist, etc. The building, which is centrally air conditioned, also houses the doping control centre for athletes.’’

OC Officials in Clarification mood on London Allegations

In a series of startling disclosures, a suspended senior official of the Organizing Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games has alleged that Sanjay Mohindroo, the deputy director general and OC boss Suresh Kalmadi’s key aide had tried to appropriate over Rs 22 lakh from the funds meant for the Queen’s Baton relay inauguration in London last October.

M Jeychandren, joint director general (finance & accounts), one of the three officials suspended because of the controversy surrounding payoffs to AM Films, has made several startling claims in his defence in a private letter to Kalmadi, a copy of which is with TOI.

The story that Jeychandren’s letter tells is one of splurge and sleaze — with Kalmadi’s one-time blue-eyed boy Mohindroo allegedly splurging money in London while ostensibly organizing the baton relay function. When questioned by Jeychandren about his reimbursement for £32,596 (Rs 22 lakh) which he claimed to have spent from his pocket, he settled for just £2,366.

But that marked the beginning of Jeychandren’s travails. He submitted a detailed financial statement of the accounts of expenditure for the London event of October 29, 2009, to the OC in December. But till date, £65,000 is outstanding against him.

The OC secretary general, Lalit Bhanot, Kalmadi’s spokesman now, refused to sign it, even though every other official had cleared it. And now Jeychandren has been suspended without being given an opportunity to give his side of the story.

What The World Thinks

How are Commonwealth countries reacting to reports of scams and delays in the run-up to Games 2010?

‘London event accounts were compiled in haste’

Suspended joint director general (finance & accounts) of the Comonwealth Games Organizing Committee M Jeychandren claimed in a letter to Suresh Kalmadi that the latter’s key aide and OC deputy director general Sanjay Mohindroo had tried to misappropriate funds to the tune of Rs 22 lakh. In turn, Jeychandren’s file on expenses incurred for the Queen’s Baton relay inauguration in London last October have been held up by OC secretary general Lalit Bhanot. When contacted by TOI, Bhanot said, “Yes, I did send back the file (giving the London accounts of Jeychandren), but I don’t remember why.”

There are more damning disclosures in the letter written by Jeychandren to Kalmadi. He says that both he and Mohindroo were authorized to carry £65,000 on debit cards as advance for payments in London. But when he was in London, both Kalmadi and CEO Jarnail Singh asked him to return urgently because of several pending tenders, proposals etc. Before leaving London, when he was in the process of finalizing payments, the final invoices of AM Car & Van Hire Company were not forthcoming from Mohindroo, after approval from T S Darbari, alleges Jeychandren.

“When things were getting delayed and the demand from OC headquarter for my return with immediate effect was made, I had no other option but to leave the task of settling the final payment to AM Car & Van Hire Company, with the approval of Jt DG (Darbari) as per their invoices and according to the rates which were approved by HCI (High Commission of India) to DDG (Mohindroo),” he says.

When he was leaving, Jeychandran says, “in good faith, (I) decided to leave the official debit card issued to me with the remaining balance of £59,323, which was available in the official debit card entrusted to me, to DDG (Mohindroo) so that he could make payment on site at London against final invoice with the approval of Jt DG (Darbari).”

On their return from London, Jeyachandren had been following up with both Darbari and Mohindroo for submission of due accounts. In fact, Darbari had a number of unadjusted advances standing against his name at that time.

And after much cajoling, Mohindroo brought a bundle of vouchers in a completely disorganized manner. While it was being tabulated Darbari “was breathing down our neck and threatening to take the matter to chairman’s notice if the job is not done immediately. In the circumstances, the complete accounts were compiled post haste,’’ Jeychandren says.

It was at this stage Jeychandren claims to have caught out Mohindroo trying to pocket around Rs 22 lakh by claiming to have spent it from his pocket in London. TOI is in possession of a two-page note put up by Mohindroo for reclaiming £32,596.50.

Monday, August 16, 2010

NDMA and BARC Training Policemen for Games Security

With 47 days to go for the Commonwealth Games, Delhi Police has procured a radiation meter and is training its personnel to use the meter with the help of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Delhi Police officers were given a demonstration on the meter last week.

The move comes months after a radiation leak at the Mayapuri scrap market killed one person and left a dozen in a critical condition.

Delhi Police officers said they are procuring equipment at present but plan to procure more before the Games. ‘‘The security wing of Delhi Police will handle the equipment and the initial plan is to familiarize the personnel with its use. They will be assisted by NDMA and BARC,’’ said a senior police officer. The radiation or dose meters will also be used as part of the security drill at all the CWG venues including stadia, Games Village and accommodation for Games officials.

The equipment which weighs around 2kg is handheld devices and can detect alpha, beta and gamma rays. Each radiation meter costs between Rs 1.5 and 2 lakh. About a dozen officers of the security wing of Delhi Police are being trained to handle these meters.

“The equipment will be able to display the radiation count for an area on its screen and if the radiation is at an alarming level, the equipment will send an audio signal,’’ said an officer.

No WC around Games Venues

With severe delays plaguing streetscaping works around CWG venues, authorities are now facing this embarrassing prospect.

The city government had contracted four firms to install street furniture like toilets, kiosks, information boards, iron chairs and benches on a BOT basis in areas around the venues.

However, the companies are still to start work since streetscaping projects are still to be completed. Wary of time constraints, the firms have been told to install at least toilets in the areas around Games venues after completion of the streetscaping works.

Rs 6000 Per Day for Liquor license in Games village

Even as the organizing committee (OC) is still to sort out the catering mess, in a show of remarkable alacrity, Delhi government’s excise department has sorted out the question of what liquor license to allot to the Games Village where liquor will be served for just 15 days.

It is a unique requirement as most commercial liquor licenses are awarded on an annual basis. After much debate, a decision has now been taken to award L-49 license which allows liquor to be served for four hours, only in case of the Village. A fee of Rs 3,000 per day will have to be paid twice a day to account for lunch and dinner.

Whether liquor will be served during the Games has been a touchy issue with not just the opposition but even Union sports minister M S Gill making it amply clear that he is not in favor of liquor being served at the Games venues. However, keeping in mind the requirements of athletes and Games officials from western countries, a decision has been taken to allow liquor to be served at the Games Village. But liquor will not be served in rooms and will be limited to the dining area, said an official of the excise department.

Said a senior official: ‘‘At Rs 6,000 per day, we will get close to a lakh in the license fees for the period of the Games. But we are hoping to earn much more in vend fee from the liquor that the caterer buys because as per the conditions of the license, liquor served under it has to be bought from the retail market and not a wholesaler. That would be our main income.’’

The department, however, has not yet worked out an estimate of how much that income would be. Officials say representatives of the organizing committee had recently come to the department to work out the modalities of the liquor license. That is when the department realized to its dismay that there was actually no license for this kind of requirement. The license that is issued to hotels is an annual one and comes at a hefty price which OC doubted whether the caterer would be willing to pay.

‘‘Then we told them that the only way out may be to issue daily licenses, if required for more than once a day. That would take care of the situation. They liked the suggestion,’’ the official added. OC was told to ask the catering contractor for the Village to apply.

‘‘We will issue the license to the contractor. Now it is for them to finalize who that will be,’’ the official said.

PWD Missed Promise: Another Deadline Missed

After missing frequent deadlines, senior officials of the Public Works Department (PWD) no longer wish to give exact dates for completion of infrastructure projects. While top level officials and engineers had earlier claimed that one carriageway of the already-delayed Ring Road bypass would open on August 15, which did not happen. The second carriageway, they had said, would open on August 31. Now, they’re claiming both carriageways will be made operational by the end of the month.

Sources said the first carriageway, which was slated to be opened on Sunday, will now be ready for public use one week before the opening of the second carriageway. Which means the opening of the ISBT-ITO corridor will be delayed by a week or 10 days. ‘‘But we will meet the August 31 deadline,’’ claimed officials.

The project’s original deadline was July 31.

PWD officials had earlier claimed that with the first carriageway becoming operational, commuters traveling from the ISBT Kashmere Gate up to Maharani Bagh could expect a smooth ride. They had added that the other carriageway from ITO to ISBT (Kashmere Gate) would be thrown open by the month-end. The opening of the entire corridor would work as a bypass for the congested Rajghat and Shanti Van crossings.

Traffic coming from ISBT will take the Ring Road Bypass from near the Hanuman Setu near Yamuna Bazar. The stretch passes below the Geeta Colony Bridge and railway track before rejoining Ring Road near ITO flyover.

The 5.3km bypass project, along with railway construction and land costs, will cost approximately Rs 654 crore. It is a crucial road project directly linked to a Commonwealth Games venue, the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.

Earlier, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had also claimed the Faridabad-Badarpur carriageway of the elevated road being constructed at the border would be opened to the public on Sunday. However, officials said that due to certain delays in the completion of work on the stretch, the carriageway will now be opened about a week later. ‘‘This should not be seen as missing the deadline since the scheduled deadline of the project is December. However, we have speeded up work and will complete work at any cost by September-end,’’ said a senior NHAI official.

The project is being executed on build, operate and transfer basis.

Roads are Caving in City But Cycle Tracks Works Starts Leading to Jams

Ongoing streetscaping work for the Commonwealth Games has made driving on the main Desh Bandhu Gupta (DBG) Road and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (SPM) Marg a nightmare for motorists as jams have become a constant feature due to bad planning and shoddy implementation of construction work. Despite strong opposition by the traffic police, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is constructing cycle tracks on the narrow roads, thereby shrinking space available for traffic. On SPM Marg, all left turns have been blocked as part of the new design defeating Delhi government’s aim of making as many stretches signal free as possible. Malba and other construction material carelessly dumped around has aggravated the situation.

On SPM Marg, the narrow road has shrunk further due to construction of cycle tracks. Furthermore, the design is such that all free left turns have been blocked with bollards and green spaces have been created at the islands. The vehicles turning left now have to wait along with the other vehicles at the main traffic signals, making the waiting time longer for all. ‘‘It used to take just five minutes to cross the road but now it takes about an hour. When left turns are being made free all over and signals are being removed, why are we moving back in time here?’’ asked Sanjay Bhargava, general secretary of Chandni Chowk traders’ association.

The cycle tracks constructed recently by the MCD have been encroached by dhabas and unauthorized parking. Though the main road, which leads to Old Delhi Railway Station, is frequented by cycle-rickshaws, even these seldom use the cycle tracks due to problems of gradient and continuity.

Even at DBG Road, one lane on either side of the main road has been taken over for construction of pavements and cycle tracks. In addition, cars parked along the road and malba and other construction material lying around has further reduced space for traffic to move. Since DBG Road is an important link between west, north Delhi and central Delhi, the heavy volume of vehicles crossing by have no space left. ‘‘It takes me over one hour just to cross 2-3 kilometers on the stretch. Cars move in one line and the entire road has been dug up,’’ said Krishna Prakash, who works at Jhandewalan.

Since the space for cycle tracks was earlier being used by vehicles for parking, the traffic police now fear that parking of vehicles will shift to one lane on the new road with reduced width, further shrinking road space. The contention of the cops is that ensuring that cycle tracks remain free of encroachment is a tough task in Delhi. ‘‘It is tough to ensure that the cycle tracks remain clear at all times. They end up eating into road space and serve little purpose as they are taken over for parking, tehbazari, etc,’’ said a traffic police officer.

MCD officials, on the other hand, contended that the project has got all the required approvals. ‘‘The streetscaping project for DBG Marg has been discussed and approved at the highest levels where police and traffic police were also present. If they had a problem with the project, the issue should have been raised then. There is no point in bringing all this up at this stage when the project is nearing completion,’’ said a MCD spokesperson.

Dedicated Games Lane Trails to Begin This Week

Brace up for traffic snarls on arterial roads lining Commonwealth Games venues from next week. The traffic police are going to start trial runs for dedicated Games lanes from next week, wherein one lane on all roads leading to Commonwealth Games village, venues and the airport will be cordoned off for normal city traffic in a phased manner.

To start with, the trials will be carried out only during off-peak hours on selected stretches so that Delhi drivers get used to the concept.

Lane markings for dedicated Games lanes, located on the extreme right side of roads, is being carried out in several parts of the city where a solid yellow line demarcates the lane from the rest of the road. At regular intervals, one will see ‘Games Lane’ and the Commonwealth Games logo painted on the road in blue and white for information of road users. ‘

‘The road markings are being made and we will start trial runs on the completed stretches from August 16 or 17. The idea is to get people accustomed to the Games lane discipline. To minimize inconvenience, the trials will be held during off-peak hours and on holidays to start with,’’ said Ajay Chadha, special commissioner of police (traffic).

The trials will not be carried out on all roads at the same time. The cops are going to identify stretches where the lanes have been painted and lanes will be reserved for traffic accordingly.

According to sources, the cops are waiting till August 15 to start the trial runs since availability of staff will be simpler once the security arrangements are over. The traffic police wants Delhiites to get used to the new laning system which will be enforced strictly during the Games.

The idea of providing dedicated Games lanes is to ensure free access for athletes, delegates and Games officials who are headed for events during the 14-day sporting event in October.

Senior officials revealed that these lanes will not be blocked off round the clock. But a schedule will be prepared and each time there is an event in the vicinity, or on days of the opening and closing ceremonies, the space will be reserved for Games traffic.