Commonwealth Games: Army asked to work at no cost

New Delhi: After busting the budget several times over, the Commonwealth Games are apparently still short of money. So the Army is now expected to spend 11 crores for the help it's been asked to provide.

In February, the Organising Committee of the Games, headed by Suresh Kalmadi, asked the Sports Ministry to call in the Army for assistance. The officers and jawans deputed on Games duty would be compensated for travel and other expenses as they moved between the CWG venues.

Nine hundred jawans and 60 officers of the armed forces are being stationed at those venues. The Army has also spent close to 8 crores renovating its hostels where it was asked to house 2500 artists who are in Delhi to practice for and perform at the opening ceremony.

In return, Urban Development Minister Jaipal Reddy, who heads a group of ministers in charge of managing the Games, has written to the Army on August 11, asking that it waive its Rs 11 crore bill. Effectively, the Army will have to dip into the Defence fund.

When asked about this letter, written not even a fortnight ago, Reddy said, "I confirm that I wrote the letter... but I don't remember the contents."

Kalmadi, who had asked Reddy to summon the Army for assistance, said that asking the Army to foot its own bill was not something that involved him. "Mr Jaipal Reddy had requested Defence Minister that the Army should do it free of charge... they have agreed to do something free of charge, and something they are charging," he said on Friday.

Sources, however, suggest that it was Kalmadi who complained to the Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Reddy about the Army's fee.

An audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India faulted Team Kalmadi just a few weeks ago for spending close to 5 crores to renovate the office of the Indian Olympic Committee (IOC) in South Delhi - an office which the Games' organisers occupied for just a few months.

Financial mismanagement and self-interest have emerged as metabolic among those in charge of organising the Games. But this latest example bends even their record to a new low.
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