Bid for CWG was secretive, hasty: RTI query

November 2nd, 2010 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

By Prathiba Raju
New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) The decision to bid for the just concluded 19th Commonwealth Games (CWG) was taken secretively and hurriedly before the then youth affairs and sports minister Vikram Verma left for an overseas trip in May 2003, a right to information (RTI) query has revealed.

The RTI plea was filed by Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), an NGO, which says it was not a “well debated” or “well considered” decision. India pulled off the Oct 3-14 event with aplomb, but it was marred by allegations of corruption, glitches and delays.

That the decision for the bid was taken in a hurried and secretive manner was revealed in a letter marked “secret”, dated May 21, 2003 and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) by the ministry of youth affairs and sports, the RTI applicant said.

The letter read: “This is to inform that the union minister for youth affairs and sports is proposing to leave for Gaborone, Botswana, on May 26, 2003, for attending the Commonwealth youth ministers’ conference to be held at Gaborone on May 27, 2003.”

“After attending the above conference, he is scheduled to leave for London for attending the Commonwealth Games bidding ceremony…As such, there is an urgency for a decision on the issue of bidding for Commonwealth Games,” the letter said.

“It is further indicated that suitable guarantees are also to be incorporated in the bid documents…Accordingly, the cabinet secretariat is requested to kindly seek the approval of the prime minister in the matter at the earliest,” said the letter.

The letter sent by the then secretary (sports) Rajiva Srivastava to the cabinet secretariat and the PMO sought the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s approval to the proposal of holding the 19th Commonwealth Games under rule 12 of the transaction of business (ToB) rules, the NGO said.

Rule 12 of the ToB empowers the prime minister, in any case or classes of cases, to permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent deemed necessary.

However, the proposals under rule 12 should be accompanied by a detailed justification clearly bringing out the urgency of the matter and the exceptional circumstances to condone the departure from rules. It is also necessary to specify why it could not be processed for obtaining the approval of the competent authority in time, the NGO said.

A report by the NGO titled “The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons?” said the decision to bid for a mega sporting event usually entailed some amount of discussion and debate in the bidding country. None of this was done in India.

“It was not discussed in parliament, neither was there any public debate, consultation or opinion poll among the residents of Delhi,” said Miloon Kothari of the HLRN.

Shalini Mishra of HLRN told IANS: “The fact that permission to bid for the 2010 Commonwealth Games was sought and granted under rule 12 makes a mockery of the entire concept of a well-debated, well-considered and well-thought-out decision to bid for a mega event. Investigating authorities should look into this matter.”

The report by the NGO cited instances of countries which withdrew their bid for the Commonwealth Games after a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

New Zealand, which had thrice earlier hosted the CWG, stated that hosting the event was very expensive and the economic loss and payback was so great that they couldn’t justify holding such a mega sporting event again.

“India, on the other hand, went ahead with its 2003 bid with no clue about what the implications would be for the country in terms of the costs involved,” said Mishra.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago conducted a full review as well as an open, constructive and candid discussion and concluded that making a bid for the Commonwealth Games was not a prudent or responsible course of action, Mishra said.

(Prathiba Raju can be contacted at prathiba.r@ians.in)

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