Minister makes the offer at Cabinet meeting
A day after calling an emergency meeting on the Commonwealth Games (CWG) to impress upon the Ministers concerned the need to get their act together, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday cut M.S. Gill short when the Union Sports Minister offered, at a cabinet meeting, to make a presentation on the CWG for the benefit of his ministerial colleagues.
Sources in the government told The Hindu that Dr. Singh told Mr. Gill that as the matter was discussed at length on Thursday, there was no need to go into it again.
Apparently, at the end of the meeting, after all the items on the agenda were dealt with, Mr. Gill made the offer to the Prime Minister – and it was turned down.
For the government, the last few weeks have been particularly trying, with the Ministry of External Affairs having to fend off embarrassing enquiries from foreign missions.
And last week, at Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar's instance, at a specially organised briefing for heads of foreign missions, Press Information Bureau's Principal Director-General Neelam Kapur addressed concerns about security, health and the delays and glitches associated with the Games.
Now, on Saturday, all heads of missions and chiefs of bureaus of newspapers are going to be taken to various venues, it is learnt, to counter the negative publicity. Mr. Chandrashekhar had a one-and-half-hour long meeting on Friday afternoon with Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell.
The sources said Dr. Singh, alarmed at media reports, both national and international, about shoddy planning for the CWG, on Thursday questioned Mr. Gill, Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit very closely on the state of preparedness of the venues and the Games Village, as well as the collapse of the foot overbridge near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Dr. Singh wanted to know what was being done to finish the work in time.
At that meeting, when the question of getting assistance from outside to help in the clean-up was mooted, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai pointed out that these people would need to be cleared by the Intelligence Bureau, given the security concerns.
With the focus now on “housekeeping” in the Village, top of the line five-star hotels – the Taj, Oberoi and ITC – have flown in over 50 experts from out of town to help the government in supervising the clean-up at the 34 towers in the Village, the sources told The Hindu.
After all the bad news, government representatives looked a little more cheerful on Friday – now that the focus is merely on getting the venues and the Village ready and the roads that connect the two.
However, large parts of the city are still a shambles, with debris lying along unfinished roads, and major shopping areas that were to be refurbished to coincide with the Games, still looking like conflict zones.