For the first time since the preparations for the Commonwealth Games (CWG), scheduled to kick off in Delhi on October 3, received adverse notice, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ordered the Ministries concerned to investigate all “procedural and other irregularities.”
“Those found guilty,” he said, “should face severe and exemplary punishment.”
However, sources said it was unlikely that any action would be forthcoming — at least not till the Games are over. The Prime Minister's directions came at a high-level emergency meeting that he called on Saturday to review the status of preparations for the Games, following a meeting on Friday of the Congress Core Group on the subject.
At this meeting – as at Friday's – the consensus was that Organising Committee (OC) chairman Suresh Kalmadi, who is facing a series of corruption charges, should not be replaced, but that he should be reined in. Government sources said the feeling was that “it was not possible to change horses mid-stream,” and that while Mr. Kalmadi could be accused of many things, he could not be faulted on “efficiency, experience and exposure.”
So, till the Games, the Cabinet Secretary-headed Committee of Secretaries — which was already reviewing CWG-connected works — will be transformed into an Empowered Committee with “jurisdiction over the OC.” To further clip Mr. Kalmadi's wings, a Secretary-level officer of the Cabinet Secretariat will liaise with the OC daily.
Simultaneously, the Group of Ministers (GoM) set up for the CWG, headed by Minister for Urban Development S. Jaipal Reddy, has been told to disseminate “timely and authentic information on the state of preparations and in particular on the remaining tasks.” The sense was that neither the Opposition onslaught nor the barrage of media stories should be allowed to distract or demoralise the officials and those connected with the conduct of the Games.
It was also made clear that there would be no new oversight committee: instead, the GoM has been “empowered to take all decisions necessary for the smooth conduct of the Games” and “directed to meet immediately and frequently thereafter.” This empowerment, however, has one caveat: it will “refer any matter that may require further consideration” to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee “for a final decision.” This, sources sought to underplay by saying it referred only to financial matters.
Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar has also been asked to liaise closely with the GoM to “ensure effective coordination among all the concerned authorities.” The GoM will meet on Sunday, sources said.
Those who attended the meeting included Mr. Reddy, Sports Minister M.S. Gill, Delhi Lt. Governor Tejendra Khanna, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister T.K.A. Nair; Mr. Chandrasekhar, and Mr. Kalmadi.