Sports minister says, Mr Aiyar told the prime minister at the time that work on infrastructure was making progress, but this was not true
In the days before the arrest of tainted Commonwealth Games organising committee chief Suresh Kalmadi, a letter by former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar became the focus of attention, for it contained a warning from the minister to the prime minister about Mr Kalmadi's extravagant ways. But Mr Aiyar may have to answer some questions himself, for the current sports minister believes that Mr Aiyar's 'obstructionist' role may have also been responsible for delays and consequently increased cost of the project.
In a letter to the prime minister dated 8th July, Ajay Maken has said, "Shri Aiyar, as minister-in-charge for about two years, ironically played an irreparable obstructionist role that led to inordinate delays resulting in huge cost and time overruns. This, even as he kept writing to the prime minister, saying that the infrastructure works are satisfactorily under progress."
A copy of this letter was accessed by RTI activist Subhas Chandra Agrawal through an appropriate application. Mani Shankar Aiyar declined to comment on Ajay Maken's letter to the prime minister.
In a 'Report on CWG Issues' to the prime minister, Mr Maken says that even though Mr Aiyar had declared that he had forewarned the prime minister about the escalation of budgetary sanctions for the organising committee (OC) of the CWG, he had approved allotment of Rs767 crore to the OC as a minister-of-state. The sports minister wrote that the "corruption charges" over the CWG "emanated essentially out of the inordinate delays in the execution of various infrastructure projects".
He also stated that "the favourable clique of the sports minister and sports secretary during 2003" was responsible for Mr Kalmadi's appointment as chairman of the organising committee of the CWG. Mr Maken mentioned that the host city contract (signed by the then Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government in 2003), mandated that the chairman of the India Olympic Association (IOA), Mr Kalmadi, become the chairman of the OC of the CWG. Mr Kalmadi's appointment was 'inevitable' because then there were no other candidates available. Hence, Mr Maken writes to the prime minister, the issues raised by Mr Aiyar and which received media attention, are 'non-issues'.
To underline the issue, Mr Maken has forwarded copies of letters written by Mr Aiyar, CWG contracts and the ministry's observations on them. He says that despite the 'forewarning', Mr Aiyar also wrote to the prime minister on 25th October 2007 saying that physical infrastructure was making progress, which was not true.
In the same letter of 25th October 2007, Mr Aiyar warned about the escalating costs, saying that other sports events hosted by India in the past had cost the exchequer considerably less. He said that Mr Kalmadi should approach the market for money instead of asking for astounding amounts of government funds. He expressed dissatisfaction over the functioning of the OC and urged that it be recast.
After the CWG scam broke, the sports ministry asked for the attorney general's advice on the removal of Mr Kalmadi. The attorney general responded, saying that the government which had appointed him could also remove him, and that the appointment was not binding. Mr Kalmadi was dismissed a few weeks after the conclusion of the Games.
All the MLM company’s officials—except one who is in jail—are absconding. First, Speak Asia cancelled a scheduled meeting with the RBI, then it withdrew a petition in the Supreme Court. Now panellists are feeling the heat over repayments from their down-lines
Speak Asia Online Pte Ltd, the Singapore-based multi-level marketing (MLM) company, is in a withdrawal mode with most of its officials absconding, and police now considering issuing red-corner notices to track those associated with the company. Some agents (panellists), especially those who had enrolled several people in their down-line, are now facing the heat over repayments and they could file complaints against Speak Asia and the up-lines. More about this later.
On Tuesday, the matter came up for hearing before the Bombay High Court, and many panellists expressed their wish to become party to the case. The High Court asked the petitioners to consider which side they would want to become party to and that they should first approach the Economic Offences Wing (EOW), Mumbai. The next hearing is scheduled in two weeks.
There has been much boast by some persons on the Internet claiming that enforcement agencies and the judiciary would give the company a 'clean chit' and criticising the media for its negative stance. Unfortunately, the reality is different. Speak Asia's chief operating officer (COO) Tarak Bajpai has been reluctant to come out of jail in Thane, even after being granted bail, as he fears arrest by police from other states.
During this period, Speak Asia requested the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), to postpone its meeting, citing non-availability of its officials. This after the company got an order from the Bombay High Court to help it get the appointment with the central bank. Yet, the company decided to request the RBI to postpone the appointment from 24th August, to a later date.
In another instance, some panellists made a noise about how Speak Asia would go to the Supreme Court and get an order in its favour and how everything would be sorted out. Unfortunately, this too has turned out to be a hoax. While the company did file a writ petition (criminal) in the Court, its counsel, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar requested the permission of the Court to withdraw the petition.
The subject category of Speak Asia's writ petition is mentioned in the "Criminal matters - matters relating to bank scams, cheating, forgery etc" category on the Supreme Court website. After hearing the company counsel, a bench of justice Markandey Katju and justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad allowed the petition to be withdrawn.
The status of the case (number 176/2011) is clearly listed as disposed on the SC site, but some panellists have been talking as if this is only some more negative reporting by the media about the company.
There are several comments posted by agents of Speak Asia asking for help or relief to deal with pressure from their down-line for repayments. One such comment reads: "Three of the members in my team have joined on 17th April by borrowing one lakh thirteen thousand (Rs1.13 lakh) each in (on) interest from the market. And now they are neither in a position to give the interest nor can stay at home. I have tried to educate them about exit options and all the latest updates of SAOL management (chairperson & CEO). All of them will wait up to 11th September, otherwise they will lodge an FIR against me as well as against the company and indirectly threatened me that they will get their money back from me by any means."
Another panellist wrote: "Do you think weak management consisting Haren Kaur, who is seating in Singapore, and Manoj Kumar, who is hiding in Dubai, would be able to do anything good till 10th September? Thinking positive is good thing, but it should not be blindfold following. While the Supreme Court has disposed Speak Asia's petition, BizBasket found something positive in it too. They are saying that the Supreme Court has not passed any comment against Speak Asia. Tomorrow, these people will say the government is against us, not the country! However, the hard to digest truth is that the company's CEO is absconding and the courts may declare some prize for his arrest. It would be better if the company forgets its dream to get registered in India, at least for now".
"Speak Asia ab sab ko fool bana rahi hai, koi payment nahi anne wali...I am sure about this...sab ka paissa dub gyaaa.....ab to God ko pray karo my friends .....Rs70,000 ka chuna laga hai mujhe ...," said one of the panellist on a Facebook page.
As common with all multi-level marketing (MLM) companies, here too many panellists enrolled their family members and close friends, without realising the side-effects. One such panellist has said, "Mere ko 12 lakh ka chuna laga hai maine to apne sare rishtedaronko join karwaya hai aur bahut se dost bhi hai. Par ab voh dost nahi rahe, kyon ki ab voh ye puchhate hai ki payment kab aayegi aur izzat bhi nahi karte. Ab to izzat bhi kharab ho gai hai. Aur kahi rishtdari mai bhi muh nahi dikha sakte yaar. Jawab dena bahut mushkil ho gaya hai. Sara din phone aate rehete hai ki paymant kab aayegi."
While, several panellists are feeling that it is the RBI that has stopped their payment, they fail to understand that the central bank does not have any jurisdiction in Singapore from where the account freezing process started. Banks in India have not frozen any account of Speak Asia, as the company does not have an account in the country under its own name.
Indian banks have frozen several accounts of distributors after the investigations by the income-tax and sales tax departments. Unfortunately, many agents are still under the impression that the RBI has frozen Speak Asia's bank accounts and that they would get their money as soon as it is released. It is estimated that the company owes over Rs2,000 crore as payment for surveys and police have found about Rs150 crore in distributors' bank accounts. How the company will be able to pay such a huge amount is a question that's worth not more than a few hundred rupees!
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