New Delhi: Three Union Sports Ministers, who held charge since 2004, had repeatedly warned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against the structure and working of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee and its chief Suresh Kalmadi, letters accessed by an RTI activist reveal.

While late Sunil Dutt had said the Organising Committee should be headed by a "Government nominee" like Sports Minister, his successor Mani Shanker Aiyar had criticised it for "squandering" money and M S Gill had said that the Executive Committee of the OC "rarely" met and endorsed "post facto decisions taken in high centralized manner".

Letters written by these Sports Ministers have been made public in an RTI reply to activist S C Agrawal.

In 2004, when the structure of the Organising Committee was to be finalised, the then Sports Minister Sunil Dutt had written to the Prime Minister saying he was surprised by the Indian Olympic Association resolution appointing its chief Suresh Kalmadi as Chairman of Organising Committee saying it was "at variance" with the decision of the GoM.

He had claimed that IOA was "aware" that GoM had agreed to appoint Sports Minister as OC Chairman for preparation of conduct and preparation of the Games.

Dutt had alleged that minutes of group of ministers meeting issued by Cabinet Secretariat do not reflect the decisions taken during the meeting on "various aspects of composition of Organising Committee".

The notes made on the letter mention "PM has seen" and later an acknowledgement was also sent to Dutt by the Prime Minister.

His successor Aiyar, in his letters to the Prime Minister, had highlighted that the OC was "squandering" money by appointing consultants with cost of upto 5,000 US Dollars per day and providing Rs two crore farm house and monthly first class air ticket to Mike Hooper of Commonwealth Games Federation.

Aiyar highlighted that unlike 1982 Asian Games Special Organising Committee which had "powerful public-minded representatives" like Rajiv Gandhi, the present Organising Committee is "packed with yes men (and a few yes-women)". He said OC Chairman had "dictatorial powers" as there was "no one of influence to press for an alternative option".

"Without a drastic overhaul of both the Executive Board and Organising Committee for the Commonwealth Games, I fear it will prove to be practically impossible for the Government to significantly address the excesses of Chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his cohorts," Aiyar had warned in October 2007, three years ahead of the Games.

Aiyar even suggested that either Organising Committee chief Suresh Kalmadi should raise funds from open market or a Minister of State be appointed as the Organising Committee chief with adequate number of government nominees in Executive Board with MPs with powers to veto decisions.

The then Sports Minister, in another letter, raised the issue of raising cost of the Commonwealth Games saying it has touched almost Rs 20,000 crore as against Military Games which were conducted in Hyderabad with three quarter of athletes at a cost of just Rs 200 crore.

M S Gill, who replaced Aiyar in 2008, had highlighted in his letter to the Prime Minister on September 26, 2009 that the Executive Board of the OC "rarely met" in the past, "generally endorsed post-facto decisions, taken in a highly centralised system" but he was trying to restore some order.

After a number of corruption cases surfaced during the conduct of the games, almost all top officials of the OC including Kalmadi have been arrested by the CBI.

Bhanot flouted procedure

In the CWG scam Former Secretary General of CWG Organising Committee Lalit Bhanot, arrested for his alleged role in a scam, flouted the standard procedures to be followed for drafting minutes of the Committee's meeting on purchasing of equipment, a senior OC official has told CBI.

In his statement to the CBI, OC Deputy Director General (Sports) Gurdyal Singh Bawa, who has been arrayed as one of the prosecution witnesses, said Bhanot then being Chairman of Committee of Sports Surfaces and Sports Equipment used to finalise the minutes of Committee without obtaining signature and suggestions of its members.

"On being asked it is stated that standard procedure of the draft minutes of a committee being circulated to all members, obtaining their suggestions and corrections/additions /alteration if any, and thereafter preparation of final minutes of the committee before the meeting of the next committee was not followed.”
   
"No signatures of the members of the committee were taken on the final minutes to be kept on record. It is stated that the minutes of the committee were finalised by Lalit Bhanot and, thereafter, I used to sign it," Bawa said in his statement which is a part of the charge sheet filed by the CBI in the case.
   
Bawa's statement is annexed with the charge sheet filed by the CBI in a Delhi court on May 20 against former OC Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, Bhanot and others for their alleged involvement in the Timing, Scoring and Result (TSR) scam in which a contract was illegally awarded to the Swiss firm.

According to the charge sheet, the accused allegedly awarded Rs 141 crore contract to the Swiss firm to install a TSR system for the games at an exorbitant cost, causing a loss of over Rs 90 crore to the exchequer.
   
Detailing Bhanot's role in the Committee, Bawa, who was the convener of the Committee, said he had recommended the name of Swiss firm Omega for the TSR system saying it has the monopoly in multi-sporting events.
   
"It is seen that no scope of work, different verticals and technological parameters of TSR systems was placed before the committee or discussed...In fact none of the members of the committee including myself knew about this matter of high technology.”
   
"When Bhanot recommended the name of Omega timer for all games, nobody said anything. After the proposal of the chairman Lalit Bhanot, a unanimous resolution was recorded to recommend Omega timer and photo finish system for all games except shooting," Bawa told the CBI.
   
He said that 'SUIS ASCOR' was recommended for shooting, but its name was never even mentioned in the papers.
   
"It is also seen to be unanimously resolved to recommend 'SUIS ASCOR' for shooting, and after going through the minutes I state that this is never even mentioned anywhere in these papers not even in the proposal/statement of Bhanot," he said.

Rlys to take possession of games village kitchen

Railways has agreed to take possession of Rs 14 crore state-of-the-art kitchen equipment lying at the Games Village from the Organising Committee (OC) of the Commonwealth Games free of cost.
   
The costly, high capacity gas-based kitchen equipment was imported from London by the OC for the Games Village to prepare 7,000 meals daily.
       
The OC had imported about 500 bulk cooking and serving equipment, including giant trolleys and display units, for the Games Village.
                 
The OC has earlier given the Rs 40 crore aerostat balloon to the DRDO free of cost. With Railways agreeing to take away the Rs 14 crore imported kitchen equipment, OC is left with a few computers, laptops, massage tables and gift items including mementos, Shera toys, umbrellas and towels to do away with before handing over the two-floor office to the NDMC.
   
As per the new catering policy, Railways has recently taken away the catering responsibility from the IRCTC and is doing it departmentally.
   
(JPN/Agencies)