Hours after senior government officials on Saturday said that they planned to take legal action against Sahara for disrespecting the Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games, they backtracked, blaming three members of the baton relay committee for the controversy.
The trio on Saturday morning diverted from the prescribed route and took a replica of the Queen’s Baton to Sahara Shahr - the residence of Sahara India Chairman Subroto Roy, in Gomti Nagar, violating security and other norms.
"Now it has come to the fore that Raj Kadyan, Shruti Menon and Alka Lamba were at fault. They had breached the norms and carried the baton to the Sahara Shahr," Lucknow District Magistrate Anil Sagar told reporters.
While Kadyan, a retired lieutenant general, is the head of the Queen’s Baton Relay committee, Lamba is an advisor and Menon a project officer in the committee, officials said. "We will write to central government to initiate action against the three members, who are primarily responsible for the entire confusion and controversy," Sagar said.
Asked whether any action would be initiated against Sahara as was earlier announced, Sagar replied: "As of now, no case has been made out against them (Sahara officials)". He declined to elaborate. The three members, who held closed door meetings with government officials at the district magistrate’s residence for around three hours, later admitted their fault before media persons.
The members also tendered a written apology for by-passing the norms and not taking a prior permission for taking the replica of the baton to Sahara Shahr. "Yes, we admit our fault...It happened due to some communication gap between us," Kadyan said, adding they should have taken the permission of the district administration. Asked why the replica was carried to Sahara Shahr, he said: "We carried the baton to Subroto Roy’s Sahara Shahr not because he is the chairman of Sahara India, but as the chairman of our protocol subcommittee... a member of our family (baton relay committee). But we should have asked the police and district administration officials."
Kadyan claimed it was for the first time the replica of the baton was taken to a private establishment. According to officials, Sahara officials at around 12.15 a.m. on Friday had approached the district administration to give them permission to welcome the baton at a function in Sahara Shahr.
"We made it very clear that the permission could not be granted at the last moment and that all the proceedings related to relay were finalised," said Sagar.
According to officials, after the customary relay run ended and the baton was proceeding towards Rae Bareli district, five vehicles that were a part of the official relay diverted from the prescribed route. "A team of district administration officials and the police followed the vehicles and found that some people alighted from the five vehicles and reached Sahara Shahr in private vehicles. These people carried the replica of the baton to Sahara Shahr," said an official.
Officials said that the original baton has reached safely to its next destination - Rae Bareli. "We have confirmed this with the officials in Rae Bareli. The baton is safe and being guarded by a number of security personnel," said Sagar.
The baton reached Lucknow on Friday and was handed over to the state Olympic association general secretary Anandeshwar Pandey, senior government officials and public representatives at Itaunja town.
In Uttar Pradesh, the baton will touch around 19 districts in two phases. It will reach Bihar on Tuesday and re-enter Uttar Pradesh from Jhansi district July 19, officials said.
The baton has travelled nearly 1,70,000 km through nearly 70 Commonwealth countries before arriving in India for the Games Oct 3-14 in New Delhi.