New Delhi: Suresh Kalmadi, the man at the centre of the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth Games (CWG) survived to fight another day, but three of his aides were suspended by the Games’ organizing committee (OC)
The committee, of which Kalmadi is the chairman, terminated the services of Melbourne-based sports marketing company that was given a contract.
Both were presumably done at the behest of the government, which has been at the receiving end of flak over alleged financial irregularities in appointing suppliers, and sourcing equipment and material for the Games. The committee also decided to hand over the investigation to the Enforcement Directorate, which looks at violation of laws regulating foreign exchange transactions.
Lalit Bhanot of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee talks about suspensions, firing controversial firm SMAM, and the appointment of a new treasurer
Kalmadi couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday evening.
At a press conference, OC’s secretary general Lalit Bhanot said that it had suspended T.S. Darbari, joint director general of the committee; Sanjay Mohindro, deputy director general; and M. Jeychandren, officer on special duty (finance and accounts).
A government official, who did not want to be identified, confirmed that all three were associates of Kalmadi.
In a letter to the committee earlier this week, India’s sports secretary Sindhushree Khullar had asked Kalmadi to “relieve” Darbari and Mohindro of their duties. Khullar said the allegations of corruptions against the two had tarnished the image of the Games.
With the government clamping down, Kalmadi has set up a three-member panel headed by Jarnail Singh, OC’s chief executive officer, to look into various charges.
After coming under attack from the opposition parties in Parliament over the mismanagement of the preparation for the Games, scheduled to be held in the Capital between 3 October and 14 October, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has assured that it would take action, but ruled out setting up of an apex committee to oversee the event.
“As far as corruption is concerned, government will take all actions. I will write to the authorities, including finance minister (Pranab Mukherjee) (and request him) ‘please go seriously into (the charges)’ ... if there is anything,” sports minister M.S. Gill said in the Rajya Sabha.
The Central Vigilance Commission, which looks at the functioning of government companies and arms, had in a routine investigation found irregularities in the award of some Games-related projects.
A minister in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, who did not want to be identified, said the Centre was not considering sacking Kalmadi.
Still, the sports minister admitted that the preparations for the Games were lagging behind. Replying to queries of the members of Parliament on the completion of projects, Gill said: “What is there to examine? Nothing is ready.” But he added: “Have faith in India, India will get there...God is with us.”
He added that all 13 stadia, including the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the main venue, are ready.
Under pressure from the government, political parties and the media, OC had terminated a contract with Sports Marketing and Management, which was expected to land sponsors and advertisers, after allegations that the company had not generated enough sponsorship.
Meanwhile, on an eventful Thursday, OC’s treasurer Anil Khanna resigned and A.K. Mattoo, who had quit the same post in January, was reinstated.
Khanna, also secretary of the All India Tennis Association, has put in his papers on moral grounds in view of the allegations. His son Aditya Khanna is the local distributor for multinational firm Rebound Ace, which won a contract to lay 14 synthetic surfaces at the RK Khanna Tennis Stadium.
“I don’t want to be seen as somebody associated with corruption or financial malpractices. I joined the OC in January 2010 after Mr Mattoo resigned and by that time the contract was done. So I don’t have a(ny) conflict of interest,” Khanna said.
Despite the exits and the allegations, Bhanot maintained that the Games would go ahead as planned. “We will deliver...”
PTI also contributed to the story.