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INDIA

Swatch linked to Indian sport corruption scandal

India's former Olympics chief pleaded not guilty in court on Monday to an array of corruption charges related to his handling of the chaotic Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Suresh Kalmadi, a lawmaker for the ruling Congress party, faces charges of criminal conspiracy, forgery, abuse of office and intimidation over a contract awarded to Swiss Timing, which is part of the Swatch luxury goods empire.

Swiss Timing, which is named in the case but has not responded to a court summons, won a 1.1 billion rupee ($21 million) contract to serve as the official time-keeper and results provider.

Kalmadi signed a statement to declare his innocence of all charges and did not address the court.

"My client has pleaded not guilty," Kalmadi's lawyer, S. Agarwal, said outside the court.
 
"The court has formally framed charges today."

Agarwal said that Kalmadi may try to challenge the decision to order a trial in the High Court.

"We will examine the charges and take a further decision on the matter," the lawyer said.

Seven others on trial also pleaded not guilty in written statements submitted to a special court set up to try the suspects over the massively over-budget Delhi event.

They face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Also facing charges are Kalmadi's deputy during the Commonwealth Games Lalit Bhanot, who has since been elected number two in the Indian Olympic Association in a scandal-tainted process.

The dysfunctional organization of the Delhi event — the most expensive in Commonwealth Games history at $6 billion — led to Kalmadi becoming a public hate-figure and he was booed by the crowd during the two-week event.
 
In the police charge sheet detailing their evidence against the accused, Swiss Timing is accused of paying money to companies as kickbacks to Kalmadi and others via its local partner Gem International.
 
In one instance, Gem is accused of paying a Hyderbad-based firm for cabling work at an inflated price.

The company allegedly had no previous experience and was unable to produce proper paperwork to investigators.

The Delhi Commonwealth Games were intended to showcase India on the global stage, but infrastructure problems, delays and widespread corruption allegations instead highlighted many of the problems that blight the country.

They also led to criticism of the stranglehold of politicians over Indian sports associations.

Kalmadi, an MP of more than 30 years who smiled at the press as he entered court in a grey suit, ran the Olympics body for 16 years.

The former air force pilot stepped down at the end of 2012 and was replaced by Abhey Singh Chautala, a local politician from the state of Haryana seen as a close ally of Kalmadi.

Bhanot was also elected unopposed as secretary-general of the Olympics body, which led the International Olympic Committee to suspend India because of the tainted nature of the leadership transition.

The Delhi Commonwealth Games organising committee's director-general V.K. Verma, procurement director Surjit Lal, sports director A.S.V. Prasad, treasurer M. Jayachandran and three others are also on trial.

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INDIA

Where to celebrate Diwali in Switzerland

Diwali is the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. Here’s your guide to where festival events will take place across Switzerland.

Where to celebrate Diwali in Switzerland
Image: Rajesh JANTILAL / AFP

Diwali is the name given to the five-day long festival of lights celebrated in autumn in India, and by Hindus, Sikhs, and some Buddhists around the world. 

In 2019, Diwali Day, the final day of the celebration, falls on Sunday, October 27th. The celebrations however take place throughout October, with some happening well into November. 

It takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. 

With the days shortening in Switzerland, there's all the more reason to celebrate light, and for the country's Indian community in particular.

According to the Indian Embassy in Bern, there are 24,567 Indians in Switzerland, including around 1,000 Indian students. 

Switzerland’s Indian community is concentrated in the country’s big cities of Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Baden, Bern and Lausanne. 

How do Indians celebrate Diwali?

As reported by The Local Germany, there are a number of diverse ways in which Indians will celebrate Diwali. 

Exactly what is celebrated differs in different parts of India; for example, many northern Indians use the day to mark the return of King Rama to Ayodhya after defeating demon king Ravana, while in southern India it marks the defeat of demon Narakasura by Lord Krishna.

READ: For Indians, the silence in Switzerland can be deafening

The festival lasts five days, with specific rituals and activities assigned to each day. They begin with cleaning your house on the first day and decorating it, usually with clay lamps and patterns of coloured sand, on the second. 

The third day is when families meet for prayer and food, and the fourth day is seen as the start of the new year, with friends and relatives visiting each other with gifts.

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Image: Rajesh JANTILAL / AFP

On the fifth and final day, it's traditional for brothers to visit their married sisters and for the sisters' family to welcome them with a meal.

Food is a major part of the celebrations, which originated as a way of marking the year's last harvest before winter.

Bern

The Indian Association of Bern is holding its annual Diwali celebration on November 2nd in Bern’s Bürenpark.

The celebrations are set to include music, lights, cultural events, an Indian buffet dinner and prizes. 

Zurich

In Zurich, the Indian Association of Greater Zurich has planned an event for Sunday, November 10th at the Stadthalle Dietikon.

The event will include dancing and other performances, Indian cuisine and opportunities to network. More information is available here

Geneva

The Indian Association of Geneva is holding their Diwali celebrations on the 16th of November, which feature musical performances and dinner

Showing the reach and influence of Diwali across the world, the Malaysian Association of Geneva will also be holding a Diwali celebration, to take place on October 26th. 

Aargau

In the town of Frick, Aargau, cultural organisation Padmapada is holding a Lichterfest (festival of lights) on Friday, October 25th. 

Not far away in the town of Wettingen, Aargau, the Indian Association Wettingen will hold Diwali celebrations on the 10th of November, with tickets available here

Basel

Kalasri, an Indian art and culture organisation based in northern Switzerland, will hold a Diwali event on the 2nd of November.

The event will showcase a variety of diverse Indian dance styles, followed by a meet and greet with Indian snacks. 

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