With just 10 days left for the start of the Commonwealth Games, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went into damage control mode on Thursday. Against the backdrop of growing international criticism of India's preparedness to hold the Games, Dr. Singh called an emergency meeting of Union ministers and others responsible for the sporting event.
The meeting, sources said, focussed on the abysmal state of the Games Village, where sportspersons are to be accommodated and which has become the subject of much of the negative publicity India has been receiving at home and abroad in the last few days.
The Prime Minister, sources said, impressed on those who had gathered the importance of putting up a good show. “The Prime Minister can't be indifferent to what has been happening,” the sources told The Hindu.
After the meeting, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna told journalists that “every effort” was being made to reach the “expected standards,” and that the visiting sportspersons would be “welcomed in the best tradition of Indian hospitality.”
The meeting was attended by Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, Union Sports Minister M.S. Gill, Mr. Khanna, and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekhar were also present.
The meeting took place a day after Mr. Chandrasekhar directed the Delhi government to take control of the maintenance of the Games Village. More than 1,500 workers were called in early on Thursday morning to clean up the village. Both the Secretary-General of the Games Organising Committee and Ms. Dikshit personally supervised the cleanliness drive.
At the August 14 meeting Dr. Singh “directed the concerned Ministries to conduct thorough investigations into all procedural and other irregularities” and promised that “those found guilty [would] face severe and exemplary punishment.” A crack team of civil servants was set up to monitor the work on the stadiums.
It is learnt that Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell, who wanted to meet the Prime Minister, was told, government sources said, that “there was no reason for him to meet the Prime Minister.” Instead, he could meet either the Cabinet Secretary or any of the members of the Group of Ministers on the Commonwealth Games.