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Caterers lament not being paid for services

The Commonwealth Games catering fiasco is far from over. Avishek G Dastidar reports.
Hindustan Times | By Avishek G Dastidar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 25, 2011 12:57 AM IST

The Commonwealth Games catering fiasco is far from over. Caterers, who served food to thousands of officials, players and volunteers at the sporting venues during the international sporting extravaganza, haven't been paid yet.

With many of the top brass of the Organising Committee (OC) either going to jail or being sacked, the caterers, most of them Delhi-based, are a worried lot. The combined amount of money due to them runs into several crores.

On Monday, with news of OC Chairman Suresh Kalmadi being removed from his post coming in, some caterers rushed to the OC headquarters, fearing that the whole organisation was shutting shop.

"They are not releasing the payment and we don't know how to pressure them into paying up," said Ramesh Dang of Seven Seas, which won the biggest chunk of the venue catering contract.

Dang says Seven Seas, which catered at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, among other venues, is to receive around R4 crore more from the OC.

Some of the caterers have been given the explanation that the ongoing probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has made it difficult for them to release funds.

Since Games contracts were large in size, some caterers had borrowed heavily from banks, which have been pressing them for repayment ever since the Games ended.

"They had promised to clear all dues before the Games were over. They have paid off smaller caterers who were hired on ad-hoc basis during the Games but they have not paid the original contract holders like us," said Patanjali Shukla of Aggarwal Food Products, which is yet to get its R4 crore.

The OC also owes money to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation and Mumbai-based Gravis, which were the other caterers.

Meanwhile, the OC said that money would be paid but release of payments needs approvals, which sometimes get delayed. "I think we have already paid off a majority of the dues. Some dues remain, which will be cleared eventually," said Sanjiv Mittal, head of catering at the OC.

By several accounts, catering was one of the black marks on the OC's performance sheet during the Games.

Volunteers and officials often complained of stale food being served, while several venues did not get food on time. The OC was forced to bring in local caterers in the middle of the Games to tide over the crisis.

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