Head of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) Suresh Kalmadi (56) attempted suicide by hanging in a toilet in the Games Village today. However, the ceiling collapsed, taking with it a part of the wall. The incident happened at 1.23 p.m.
The suicide attempt came to light when an unnamed Games official, who was answering the call of nature on the other side of the wall, unexpectedly found himself spraying the inside of a toilet rather than the outside.
Mr Kalmadi, it is reported, suffered minor injuries and was discharged after first aid.
Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit dismissed the matter as a 'minor glitch' and said that it would have no effect on the success of the Games. She pointed out that while the said toilet was inside the Games village, it was not meant for athletes. The Urban Development Minister, Mr Jaipal Reddy, refused to react to media reports, saying only that such incidents are 'part and parcel' of any big sporting event. The Sports Minister, MS Gill, refused to take responsibility, saying that the PWD department was in charge of the construction of the Games village. The playing stadia are in perfect shape, he said, and invited Kalmadi to do a stress analysis test on any ceiling therein.
Mani Shankar Aiyar, MP, a long-time critic of the Games, held the rain gods responsible for the collapse of the ceiling. However, he clarified to Barkha Dutt on NDTV, he had not prayed to the said god. If he had, he added jocularly, the ceiling would not have collapsed.
Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell said this would not have happened if his warnings of nine months ago had been heeded. 'India had committed to delivering world-class games, so how can I be responsible?' he asked. When asked if delivering world-class games included non-collapsing ceilings, he said, 'absolutely'. When asked if he held Mr Kalmadi responsible for the collapse, he refused to comment.
A foreign official, on condition of anonymity, wondered in a lighter vein why Kalmadi sought to hang himself in a toilet. 'They're filthy', he said. Mr Kalmadi's close aide and spokesperson for the OC, Lalit Bhanot, refused to react to 'speculative' comments, saying only that 'their standards of hygiene are different from ours'. He also reiterated that these Games would be better than the Beijing Olympics.
The Cabinet Secretary, KM Chandrasekhar, said that it is everybody's national duty to see that ceilings do not collapse. 'We must all work together to see that India is not put to embarrassment.' He said that a number of steps had been taken to improve the condition and that authorities are 'on top of the situation'. Principal Secretary to the PM, TKA Nair, who is also part of the high-powered committee mandated to oversee the smooth functioning of the Games, said that the government will take action and the contractor responsible for the weak ceiling, if traced, will not go unpunished.
Congress Party Spokesperson Manish Tiwari refused to comment, saying that Mr Kalmadi was there in his personal capacity, and not as a Congress MP. He pointed out that the Prime Minister had convened a high-powered meeting to ensure that all ceilings could withstand their designated load. Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said that this is a matter of national shame. She reminded journalists that no ceiling collapsed under the NDA regime. Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi congratulated Kalmadi on his narrow escape and wished for his speedy recovery.
Mr Kalmadi was unavailable for comments.
Unconfirmed media reports have it that Mr Kalmadi has submitted a drycleaning bill to get his somewhat wet and stained white kurta-pyjama spotless clean and dry in time for the opening. While the amount is a subject of media speculation, it is rumoured that the bill runs into six figures.