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No, thanks: A room with Kalmadi curse

Kalmadi

New Delhi, Nov. 11: The home ministry may be responsible for the security of India’s 3.3 million square kilometres, but a 1,500sqft space in the heart of the capital seems to be a no-go area for its bureaucrats.

They are simply too afraid to set foot there.

No, the swank room at the New Delhi City Centre Tower, where the ministry shifted some of its offices three months ago, hasn’t suddenly become a Maoist liberated zone. The room just happened to be Suresh Kalmadi’s office during the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

The babus believe that occupying it would bring bad luck.

“It’s a well-furnished office and looks classy but nobody wants to shift there, the only reason being the Kalmadi link,” said a joint secretary.

“A curse is a curse and nobody wants a curse,” said another ministry official.

The home ministry recently took over the nine-storey building, which served as the Games organising committee’s headquarters. Kalmadi, the event’s chief organiser, was arrested and sent to jail last year on charges of financial irregularities and now faces a corruption trial.

A private security guard who has been posted at the building since the Games chuckled as he summed up the mood among the bureaucrats.

“Senior ministry officials were searching for spacious offices for themselves after being shifted here. But when they got to know that the most spacious room used to be Kalmadi’s office, they lost all interest and settled for smaller rooms,” he said.

The room remains under lock and key.

North Block still houses the chambers of the home minister, junior home ministers and the home secretary as well as the internal security wing and some other offices. “The rest were shifted to the Tower to reduce congestion,” an official said.

The foreigners division and the wings relating to Centre-state relations, disaster management, freedom fighters, police modernisation and border management occupy the bottom five floors at the Tower, which has 200,000sqft of office space and is located near Connaught Place. The foreigners division earlier functioned from Loknayak Bhavan near Khan Market.

Soon, the building’s sixth and seventh floors will be taken over by the National Investigation Agency, which now operates from a shopping mall in Jasola, southeast Delhi.

The eighth floor still houses the office of the Games organising committee while the top floor has the office of the adviser to the Prime Minister.

“The Games organising committee office is still operating because of the ongoing investigations into the alleged scams. Several documents are lying there and need to be produced whenever CBI officials ask for them,” said an accountant at the office.

Kalmadi was arrested in April 2011, six months after the Games, on the charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption in the award of a Games contract to a Swiss firm that allegedly caused a loss of Rs 95 crore to the exchequer. After spending 270 days in Tihar jail, the Congress MP from Pune received bail in January this year.

The organising committee had taken the building over before the Games. Kalmadi’s office was equipped with advanced communication technology to ensure smooth running of the event. The technology operations centre at the building was the nerve centre for venue infrastructure operations and Games results.

The building belongs to the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, to whom the home ministry pays a large sum every month as rent.

“We are talking to the corporation about buying the property,” a ministry official said.


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