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Govt Games rescue move

New Delhi, Aug. 7: The government has made a bid to rescue the Commonwealth Games, quietly asking cabinet secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar to oversee the scandal-ridden preparations along with his juniors in the cabinet secretariat, sources said.

The move has a precedent. In 1982, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had asked son Rajiv, then a young MP, and bureaucrat Jagmohan to set things in order in the run-up to the Asian Games.

But unlike in 1982, the cabinet secretary and his team will remain in the background, with Suresh Kalmadi continuing to head the organising committee. The sources said the government may not even officially announce appointing the watchdog.

The Centre had earlier declined to appoint an apex panel to monitor the Games preparations, and had spared the controversy-tainted Kalmadi while suspending a few of his juniors in the organising committee. Ministers had then dropped hints that making drastic changes to the event’s hierarchy could clash with the agreement India had signed with the Commonwealth Games Federation.

The latest move comes after intense criticism of the Games preparations in the media and Parliament amid allegations of corruption and substandard construction. The government is aware of the negative coverage of the Games in the foreign media, and is alive to the possibility of international embarrassment if things go wrong during the event.

At a meeting yesterday, the secretary (co-ordination) at the cabinet secretariat, Ajit Sethi, told the organising committee to immediately take control of all 17 Games venues. Five venues are still to be handed over to the committee by the various state and central agencies developing them.

The cabinet secretariat expressed concern at the inability of the central public works department (CPWD), the Delhi government’s public works department and other civic agencies such as the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to meet construction and renovation deadlines. The DDA and the CPWD are central agencies.

At the meeting, the cabinet secretariat asked the organising committee to get all the venues ready, complete with the overlays such as installation of air-conditioning, within 20-25 days. There are 57 days left before the Games begin on October 3.

After the meeting, organising committee CEO Jarnail Singh, whose performance is under the scanner, issued orders for an immediate takeover of the Games sites. The committee assured the cabinet secretariat that the venues would be ready along with the overlays by September 1.

The committee has asked the customs department to speed up the release of the nearly 900 tonnes of overlays, including umbrellas and treadmills, that await clearance at various ports.

The government has decided to deploy the Central Industrial Security Force at the Games headquarters following intelligence inputs of a possible terror strike. NCC cadets will be deployed as security volunteers.

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