50 days left, PM intervenes in Games muddle


New Delhi : With delay in preparations and corruption allegations in the biggest sporting event being organised in India since the 1982 Asiad, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday issued clear instructions for the facilities for the Commonwealth Games be made ready in time and meet international standards as the “eyes of the world” were on the country.

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The prime minister’s intervention came after unending controversies relating to mega sporting event, beginning in 50 days, caused the Congress leadership to look for a more sharp monitoring by the government.

The Congress core group discussed the issue Friday at the prime minister’s residence and decided that the government should step in a way to ensure no loose ends remain.

At a high-level meeting Saturday with the concerned ministries, Delhi government and the officials of the organising committee, the prime minister virtually set the timeline to finish all pending work, saying he would would visit the venues by the end of August.

Observing that there had been slippages in the time schedules of some of the construction works and deficiencies had also been observed, the prime minister directed the ministries concerned to conduct thorough investigations into all the complaints that have been received of procedural and other irregularities.

Those found guilty should face severe and exemplary punishment, he said.

He also asked the Group of Ministers (GOM) for the games headed by Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy to hold frequent meetings to supervise the preparations.

The GoM has been empowered to take all decisions necessary for the smooth conduct of the games, and the cabinet will be briefed on the state of preparations on a weekly basis.

“The Group of Ministers will refer any matter that may require further consideration to the finance minister for a final decision,” a press statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar has been directed to liaise closely with the GOM to ensure effective coordination among all the authorities concerned.

The prime minister said that the eyes of the world were on the country as it conducts this prestigious event.

“The Commonwealth Games is an occasion not only to celebrate sporting excellence but also the spirit of kinship and camaraderie among the Commonwealth fraternity. India will have an opportunity to present its culture, its achievements, its warm hospitality and its organisational capabilities to the world,” the statement said.

“Our athletes and sportsmen are training hard and need the full support and encouragement of their fellow Indians,” he said, urging all concerned to “work single-mindedly so that the Games could be held in a manner the nation could be justifiably proud of”.

Apart from Reddy, the meeting was attended by Youth Affairs and Sports Minister M.S. Gill, Delhi Lt. Governor Tejinder Khanna, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister T.K.A. Nair, Cabinet Secretary Chandrasekhar, Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and other senior officials.

The preparations by the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee headed by Kalmadi not only drew sharp criticism from opposition parties but the Congress distanced itself from his position in the games body. Some party leaders even suggested that he should resign if any investigating agency found a prima facie case against him.

Following allegations and an internal probe, the organising committee suspended its officials T.S. Darbari, Sanjay Mahendroo and M. Jayachandran, whose names featured in the irregularities related to the Queen’s Baton Relay.

The organising committee treasurer Anil Khanna also resigned in the wake of allegations that his son’s firm secured the contract for laying synthetic courts at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium, which is one of the venues.

Keen to ensure success of the games which is an issue of prestige both for the government and the country, Congress leaders did not appear keen to make any radical changes in the organising committee at the eleventh hour. They indicated that the government’s priority was to hold “best ever games” and other issues would be dealt with subsequently.

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led opposition had Friday announced it would bring an adjournment motion on the preparations for the Games in the Lok Sabha.

Opposition parties have also called for Kalmadi’s resignation and an explanation by the prime minister in parliament