By Brijesh Pandey
THE 2010 Commonwealth Games’ tryst with controversy continues. As advance delegations raise a stink about the unclean facilities at the Games Village, the latest scam to come out in the open is related to the construction of 28 illegal studio apartments inside the Village.
Acting on a tip-off, an Assistant Engineer of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) paid a visit to the Games Village to ascertain whether multinational developer Emaar-MGF was constructing anything illegally.
In a letter addressed to the developer on 20 July, the official wrote, “After inspection, it was found that construction of extra dwelling units were found to be in progress in upper basements. The unauthorised construction falls within the DDA’s development area and had been started without getting prior approval. You are hereby directed to discontinue forthwith the aforesaid illegal and unauthorised development in the above referred property.” But this letter failed to evoke the desired response as the stubborn developer refuted all charges.
When the illegal construction continued, DDA Executive Engineer Amar Singh sent another missive on 5 August to Emaar-MGF. “It is to again intimate that additional accommodation being constructed is not included in the drawings approved by the DDA,” he wrote. “If the developer wants to continue, it has to seek the DDA’s permission. You have been asked to discontinue the construction. If you fail to comply, legal action will be taken.” But the developer failed to pay heed.
Miffed DDA officials swung into action and ordered the demolition of the illegal construction. Finally, alarmed Emaar-MGF officials woke up to reality and moved the appellate tribunal at the Tees Hazari Court.
ACCORDING TO DDA sources, Emaar-MGF had claimed that there were no double basements and only some plinths were built, but later on they had converted the area into studio apartments. Going by the property rates, which are at an all-time high, the extra apartments will fetch the developer anything between Rs. 40 crore and Rs. 60 crore. TEHELKA tried to contact Emaar-MGF and the DDA, but they declined to comment.
However, corruption is just one aspect of the ongoing controversies plaguing the high-profile Games. The preparedness and the cleanliness of the Games Village have come under scathing criticism from many quarters. Unclean toilets inside the Games Village, which was touted as world-class, has become the butt of all jokes.
Despite repeated missives from the DDA, Emaar-MGF failed to stop the illegal construction
Advance teams from New Zealand, Canada among other countries have given their thumbs down to the facilities. New Zealand’schef de mission Dave Currie said he was extremely disappointed after seeing the half-baked nature of the proposed accommodation. Lack of maintenance was visible all around the Games Village, while plumbing and wiring work remained to be finished.
The condition at the Games Village was so dire that Commonwealth Games Federation President Michael Fennell was forced to ask the Indian government to take immediate steps to fix the mess. “The Village is the cornerstone of any Games and the athletes deserve the best possible environment to prepare for their competition,” he wrote to the officials.
As if the criticism was not enough, a foot overbridge inside the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium collapsed on 21 September, injuring more than 25 labourers. It seems Kalmadi and Co. will need all the luck in the world to have a trouble-free Games.
Photo: Naveesh Tejpal