Mani Shankar Aiyer wrote letters to the prime minister complaining about Suresh Kalmadi. According to documents procured by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Mr Kalmadi labelled Mr Aiyer and sports ministry officials as 'cartoons', for objecting to his dictatorship in the CWG
The Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2010 is history, and following the exposure of various frauds, its organisers are cooling their heels in Tihar Jail, even after many responsible persons, including the prime minister claimed ignorance about the offence. However, according to documents procured by Subhash Chandra Agrawal, using the Right to Information (RTI), Mani Shankar Aiyer, former minister for youth affairs and sports, informed the prime minister about the spiralling cost of the CWG and the dictatorial ways of Suresh Kalmadi, who was chairman of the Organising Committee (OC) for the CWG. A copy of the documents is with Moneylife.
The letters written by Mr Aiyer to the prime minister were known. However, the documents procured by Mr Agrawal show how specific the minister was in his communications and the noting by all concerned persons on these letters. Yet, all the warnings were ignored by the authorities, including the prime minister and the prime minister's office (PMO), and this inaction led to one of the biggest frauds that the country has witnessed.
In a letter to the prime minister on 25 October 2007, Mr Aiyer said, "Finding that even the presence of a mere two Secretaries to the Government of India (GoI) in the Executive Board is an impediment to the virtually dictatorial functioning of the Chairman (Kalmadi), he is increasingly resorting to establishing sub-committees of the Executive Board which exclude the Government nominees, take decisions endorsed by the Chairman alone and without referring even the minutes to the (Sports) Ministry. If I may mix my metaphors, the Chairman sees the Ministry as a milch cow to extract as much money as he can and a rubber-stamp to endorse every spending decision he takes, however outrageous."
In order to silence his critics, Mr Kalmadi used various methods. One of the best examples of this was Mike Hooper, the chief executive of CWG Federation, who had criticised the organisation of the Games in New Delhi. According to Mr Aiyer, the Organising Committee chairman (Kalmadi) signed a contract with Mr Hooper and appointed him as an international consultant at a cost of Rs1.5 crore to Rs2 crore. "Unsurprisingly, Hooper has been converted overnight as it were, from a trenchant critic of our arrangements to an avid enthusiast," Mr Aiyer said.
Taking exception to Mr Kalmadi's comments about himself and his ministry in public places, Mr Aiyer said, "I thought if I kept out of the picture and left it entirely to my officials to handle matters in the Cabinet Secretary's Committee and the Executive Board of the Organising Committee, personality clashes could be avoided. But abuse and scorn continue to be heaped at the Ministry in public statements made by the Chairman who stoop so low as to describe us as 'cartoons sitting in one room in Shastri Bhavan'."
In another letter written to the prime minister on 9 March 2006, Mr Aiyer also raised several questions over the vast gap between the original expenditure projections given in 2003 and projected figures of expenditure in 2006 of the CWG and overall lack of transparency and responsibility from the Organising Committee.
"The gap is not only gargantuan, it also seems to be growing. As against the figure of Rs150 crore for physical infrastructure projected in 2003, current estimates have been ramped up to over Rs5,000 crore. On the organisation of the Games, the 2003 expenditure projection of Rs250 crore has already been ramped up to nearly Rs900 crore," Mr Aiyer wrote.
The Union Cabinet also allowed the sports ministry to bid for the Asian Games 2014 on the basis of relatively modest expenditure projections given in the note in 2003. However, Mr Aiyer felt that the prospective bid for the Asian Games was being used to justify the vast gap between earlier and current (in 2006) projections for the CWG. He said, "There seems to be a desire also to build up a campaign for the Olympic Games, even perhaps as early as 2016. All these ambitions are feeding on each other to justify an expenditure of tens of thousands of crores of rupees."
Citing the example of the Asian Games held in 1982, Mr Aiyer said he consulted with, Buta Singh, then minister of state for sports, and Raja Bhalinder Singh, who was the president of the Indian Olympic Association at the time. The Special Organising Committee (SOC) saw three chairpersons-Vijay Malhotra, VC Shukla and Buta Singh-and under all the three, the IOA president was just a special invitee on the Organising Committee. The minister in charge, who functioned with financial and organisational autonomy, headed the SOC. This is in clear contrast to the supervisory role given to the sports ministry for the CWG 2010, compared with its more more autonomous role during the Asian Games in 1982. The Asian Games cost the exchequer under Rs55 crore, he pointed out.
Mr Kalmadi, reportedly said that the proposals for raising funds for the CWG were flawless and bankable as well. Replying to the 'bankable' theme, Mr Aiyer proposed that Mr Kalmadi should seek to raise money from the open market. In the letter to the prime minister on 25 October 2007, Mr Aiyer said, "My Secretary, has, suggested that since the Chairman of the Organising Committee (Kalmadi) believes his proposals to be 'bankable', it might be best for him to raise the required finances in the open market rather than have Government fund his demands and then be held responsible before Parliament." However, despite placing the suggestion before the cabinet secretariat and the PMO, the sports ministry did not get any responses.
(This is the first part of a two-part series. In the second part tomorrow, read about how Mr Kalmadi inflated CWG budgets.)
Standard Chartered Bank has tied up with Pinpoint India to accelerate reward points for customers when transacting at multiple Bonus Points Partners across India
Standard Chartered Bank has launched 'Bonus Points' to enhance the reward earning potential for its Premium Credit Cardholders. The bank has tied up with Pinpoint India Pvt Ltd to accelerate reward points for customers when transacting at multiple Bonus Points Partners across India.
In addition to reward points, Standard Chartered Credit card customers will automatically earn Bonus Points, every time they use their eligible credit cards to shop at participating merchants. These merchants include Croma, Vodafone, Wills Lifestyle, The Leela Palaces and Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Cox & Kings, Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta, VLCC and many more.
Cardholders can also earn Bonus Points across a large number of local merchants such as optometrists, beauty salons, boutiques, florists, jewellers, book stores and restaurants. Bonus Points are earned every day of the year, even during sales.
The Advertising Standards Council acts on complaints against 34 advertisers for incorrect claims or unethical depiction. Some companies withdraw their advertisements altogether
In order to highlight the 'body balance' advantage, TVS Wego's television commercial had two women pulling off dance-inspired stunts on the back seat of the scooty. It probably did attract a lot of attention, and who knows may have helped push sales for TVS too, but the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has pulled up the advertiser for displaying such stunts in regular traffic. (TVS Wego advertisement)
The TVS Wego commercial is one of several ads that the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of ASCI received complaints about during November 2010 to February 2011, and has ordered the advertisers to either modify their campaigns or withdraw them altogether.
Among the 34 names are such prominent companies like Dabur, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), ITC, L'Oreal, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Reebok India and Hyundai Motors; they range from FMCGs to autos, personal accessories to alcohol, and education to media.
Complaints against TV ads by HUL, P&G, L'Oreal, Dabur, Dish TV, Kent RO Systems, Shree Maruti Herbal questioned the comparisons they made or the comparative benefits they claimed. ITC's commercial for its Vivel personal care products has been discontinued for the unethical depiction of women with dark skin.
Explaining the process of scrutiny of complaints, Alan J Collaco, secretary general, ASCI, told Moneylife, "While screening the complaints we make a scientific comparison of the claims by these brands and then further action is taken. If we find their claims to be untrue, then we ask them to modify the commercial. For example, we ask them to drop their claim of being number one. The Vivel ad, which depicted dark women as having an unfair advantage, is incorrect and unethical. So the ad was pulled out."
The advertisements for T.I.M.E. Institute's MBA-CET 2010 and Noesis Education have been altered. Noesis Education's claim of a success ratio of one out of eight students sent to IIM was not substantiated.
As in the case of TVS Wego which screened dangerous acts, Ceat modified its campaign, whereas Hyundai withdrew its commercial altogether.
Pernod Ricard's Royal Stag advertisement was discontinued on a complaint that it was using surrogate advertising for an alcohol product through the medium of cricket matches. Similarly, Sab Miller India (Hayward & Hayward 5000) and United Spirits (McDowell's) were withdrawn for violating the Cable TV Network Rules and ASCI's code on surrogate advertising. In India, advertising alcohol brands even in a surrogate form is banned.
The Dainik Bhaskar and Pudhari advertisements have also been withdrawn on complaints about the claims they made. "Dainik Bhaskar claimed to be number one in Ranchi, which is not true. Others also made similar claims of being number one in their own regions. So their ads were withdrawn," Mr Collaco said.
ASCI also upheld complaints against television commercials by New Look Skincare, Lavanya Ayurvedic Cancer Hospital, Reebok India, Indiatimes Shopping and Lokmat newspaper for making unsubstantiated or misleading claims. American Tourister, Naaptol, Career Launcher and IMS Learning Resources were other advertisers against whom ASCI acted on complaints.
ASCI has been receiving a steady stream of complaints. "There is definitely a lot of awareness among people. This has helped us to take action against misleading and unethical ads," Mr Collaco said.