The Commonwealth Games controversy may have hit the headlines last year, but replies to an RTI application by activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal have revealed that the then sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyer had raised a red flag way back in 2007.
The maverick Congress leader, who has often been sidelined inside his own party due to his iconoclastic views, even issued a specific warning to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the bona fides of sports federation heads — perhaps the earliest attack on Suresh Kalmadi in the context of the Games.
Forwarding a report questioning the logic of making big investments for a 14-day event, Aiyer wrote:
“We are committed to the Commonwealth Games, but I believe this document must make us pause and think before we continue down this disastrous path that heads of sports federations, doubling as statesmen in Parliament, are attempting to take us down.”
According to the documents obtained by Aggarwal, and distributed by environmental activist Dunu Roy, Aiyer’s letter was well received in the Prime Minister’s office. A director in the PMO, Shaleen Kabra, even put up a note saying that there seemed to be a conflict between the Aiyer’s ministry and the Organizing Committee headed by Suresh Kalmadi.
“The whole issue of Commonwealth Games cost and benefits is repeatedly coming in focus due to serious difference between the Ministry and the Organizing Committee — while the Ministry insists on transparency and accountability, the OC wants to preserve its fiefdom,” he noted.
However, the processing of the report was brought to an abrupt stop by a Joint Secretary in the PMO, Sanjay Mitra, who scribbled on the report: “No further action is required on this.”
“What was the role played by the bureaucrats in all this? What is the basis on which he said that no action needs to be taken,” Dunu Roy, one of the most respected environmental activists in India, said after releasing the letters.