How big is the Commonwealth Games 2010 scam? While the cynics would say the whole effort was a sham, if not a scam, those with a penchant for number crunching would be able to give a figure.
Hitting the final nail on the number coffin would take some more time, though, for new numbers are emerging, as are new actors in the scam Games.
While Suresh Kalmadi, the chairman of the Games organising committee, and his trusted aide — committee secretary-general Lalit Bhanot — and director-general VK Verma were arrested, a new name has emerged: Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
Any Delhiite who spent time in the Capital in the run-up to the October 2010 Games would vouch for the fact that a lot was going wrong so far as alleged development of the city’s purported infrastructure was concerned, but Dikshit has till date remained ensconced in her tower. She remains a favourite of the Congress party, and some would say even
Along with her, the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), has also indicted Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor Tejendra Khanna, the man best known for his inanely irrational statements like identity cards should be made mandatory for all Delhiites to stem the migrant inflow or North Indians take pride in violating laws.
Well, the latter could well make him red in the face, going by the CAG report to be table in Parliament on Tuesday. Among the projects on which the CAG report casts aspersions on the state machinery is the Sheila government’s decision to upgrade street lights in the capital. According to media reports, the Delhi government “decided to modernise 800 km of road space in the Capital at a tender cost of Rs 286 crore”. And the decision to import the lights “at a far higher cost” led to a “drain on taxpayers’ money of more than Rs 30 crore”.
On another of Dikshit’s pet projects in the run-up to the Games — improving street signages, or the blue ones that you see at every nook and corner — “the CAG said restrictive bidding processes and other undesirable overlays led to wasteful expenditure of Rs 14.88 crore”. The auditors have also raised eyebrows at the state government’s decision to award two contracts to the firm Infrastructure, Leasing and Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS), to clear waste during the Games and provide security to the Delhi Jal Board’s water and sewage treatment plants installed at the Games Village near Akshardham Temple.
Why? A relative of the CM is purportedly employed in the private firm as a senior official.
Lovely, Ms Dikshit (and sorry Mr Arvinder Singh Lovely, Education and Tourism minister in Dikshit’s Cabinet).
Now, the CAG report is not saying something new. Among the floods of news reports that came preceding the Games on the irregularities committed, some had actually cast aspersions on the Delhi government. Even Kalmadi and his team had time and again pleaded that the development-related projects were under the state government and it was wrong to blame the Games organising committee for deficiencies.
But we as a nation look for one scapegoat. In our blind rage against Kalmadi, we lost track of some of the other issues. The CWG village fiasco, how DDA broke every possible rule to hand over the project to Emmar (only monitoring the project was the CWG committee’s job) and how it looked the other way as Emaar broke all rules, deadlines and standard — the condition of the village ultimately became a huge embarrassment for the us as a host nation… When the foorbridge near Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium collapsed, injuring at least 23 and causing irrepairable damage to India’s reputation… These are just some examples. The real story is in the CVC and Shunglu Committee and now CAG reports.
Earlier this year, a report by the Central Vigilance Commission had hauled up the Delhi government for alleged financial and managerial lapses in CWG-related projects executed by its Public Works Department. It was reported to have found higher rates, poor quality control and substandard material in the projects.
It had also commented on some projects carried out by the MCD, NDMC, ITDC and DDA for serious deficiencies and irregularities. The report claimed there were inordinate delays, ineligible contractors were used and “the scope of work and cost estimates were highly inflated”.
Following this, the Shunglu Committee appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also found serious inadequacies on part of top Delhi government officials as it held Khanna and Dikshit responsible for oversight in the Games-related works. The committee was particularly scathing on executing contracts related to construction of the Games Village and city infrastructure projects.
Dikshit and Khanna had that time spoken in their defence, which was saying nothing more than “we tried our best”.
Of course, we try our best Ms Dikshit. As a nation, we did. But as usual it is the powers at the top that failed us.
Let’s face it: Delhi needed to be decked up if it was hosting the Games (though it’s another question why such Games that are such expensive propositions should be held in countries that should better be dealing with feeding their poor and ensuring their farmers do not commit suicide). But anyone with even a smattering of knowledge about doing up anything — the house, the kitchen or simply your good self — would have told Dikshit and Khanna that it’s a long-drawn process. That you do not start work at the 11th hour (i.e. late 2009, or even early 2010 in some cases, for an event to be held in October 2010). That you take time on simple processes such as checking out the most affordable service provider (tenders, in the case of government; something Dikshit and Co seemed to have forgotten in their self-built haste).
That many of the supposed development projects were simply a waste of money.
Take for instance the bridge on the Yamuna that connects ITO in Central Delhi with Mayur Vihar in East Delhi. I took that road for getting to office every day till June 2010, when I left Delhi. The carpeting on it was laid, re-laid, broken down, taken apart and laid afresh — some four or five times. Why? Because some sarkari babus thought it is too close to some of the major CWG venues and ugly potholes are best avoided.
Anyone using the ITO bridge, however, would have told you it was one of the best stretches in the city even with the supposed pockmarks, and there were many more important stretches that needed re-carpeting.
It’s just a small example, and something that the CAG report would not even take into account. But in it lies the seed of the bigger plant of corruption. Planted by Dikshit and Khanna? I don’t know; but someone has to take the blame. And if Ms Dikshit, the state’s longest serving chief minister with a say in EVERY infrastructure project, does not, then I really do not know why Kalmadi, Bhanot and others are rotting in jail.
North Indians with a love for violating law? Welcome home, Mr Khanna, Ms Dikshit (courtesy CAG report)!
And I have a question for the Prime Minister too. Do we now need a CAG report every time to indict ministers just like in the spectrum mess by A Raja? If well-researched media reports stating facts and staring at you in the face are enough for courts to take suo moto action, why not for our Prime Minister? Or has he made a virtue out of turning a blind eye to everything?