Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore defended the big hike in allocation of funds for the Khelo India scheme in this year’s sports budget at the expense of SAI, saying it will give a massive push to upgradation of infrastructure.

Addressing a press conference to discuss the sports budget, Rathore asserted that the Khelo India initiative was aimed at not only bringing a sporting culture but also raise the fitness level of the population.

“The National Programme for Development of Sports, in the form of revamped Khelo India scheme, has received a massive boost in allocation. From Rs 158 cr in 2016-17, the allocation for the programme stands at Rs 575 cr for FY 18-19,” he said.

“Khelo India will see a massive push towards development and upgradation of sports infrastructure in the country.”

In the budget, the government had hiked the sports ministry’s allocation by Rs 258.2 crore from the previous year (Rs 2196.36 cr as compared to Rs 1938.16 cr last year).

The category that had received the maximum financial assistance is the government’s pet project ‘Khelo India’, which has got Rs 520.09 crore after the Rs 350 crore it got last year.

In fact, ‘Khelo India’ constituted 23.67 percent of the total sports budget this year.

One distinct feature of this year’s sports budget was the reduced funding allocated to the Sports Authority of India (SAI). SAI had received Rs 495.73 crore in the 2017-18 financial year 2017-18, but this year the allocation has been reduced to Rs 429.56 crore, a cut of Rs 66.17 crore.

Asked about this, Sports Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar said, “Many activities which is now in Khelo India have been done by SAI in the past. So, now these schemes or activities will get funding from Khelo India and will be out of SAI.

“Then some schemes like the National Centre of Sports Science will no longer be under the SAI, they will be done separately.”

In the sports budget, there was no specific mention of assistance for athletes who are preparing for the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Games, but Rathore did not see anything wrong in it.

“The training of the elite athletes inside and outside the country is funded from the National Sports Development Fund. The Finance Ministry contributes an equal amount of sum in this fund. We are trying to bring in more PSUs to contribute in this fund.”

The sports minister termed Khelo India as a 21st century scheme and asked the National Sports Federations to also think about new ideas.

“Fund is not the limitation for transparent NDFs. There are so many leagues coming up. There will have to be new ideas, new format in the 21st century. For these kind of NSFs, there will not lack of fans and funds,” said the 2004 Athens Olympics silver medallist shooter.

“Khelo India Games is a 21st century idea and we are ready to help the NSFs as they are also an essential part of the country’s sport. Our mandate is to support the NSFs and not to snap others’ survival.”

He said infrastructure development was one of the prime objectives of Khelo India. An amount of Rs 50 crore (at an approximate cost of Rs 25 crore per University, which may go upto Rs.50 crores per University depending on actual requirement) will be earmarked for supporting sporting excellence hubs.

A total of up to four such centers are being proposed to be set up per year with supplementary support from the UGC. These centers will cater to both university athletes as well as national level athletes.

Rathore said out of the talented players identified at various levels through different avenues, 1000 top athletes will be identified every year and provided annual financial assistance, at the rate of Rs 5 lakh per annum, for a period of eight years under a Long Term Athlete Development Programme of Khelo India.
For the next eight years, 1000 athletes will be added to this programme every year.

Pension doubled

Rathore also announced that the pension given to meritorious sportspersons has been doubled, with Olympic medallists set to get Rs 20,000 per month.

The medal winners at the Olympic Games were earlier getting Rs 10,000 per month while gold medallists at the World Cup/World Championships in Olympic and Asian Games disciplines were receiving Rs 8,000 per month. Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medallists were getting Rs 7,000 per month.

Rathore said the pension amount has been doubled across the board and the Paralympic medal winners have been brought at par with able-bodied sportspersons.

Rathore also said that 220 athletes have been declared eligible for ‘out of pocket allowance’ from September 2017 onwards under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme. This allowance of Rs 50,000 per month, per athlete is meant for miscellaneous pocket expenditure.

“This assistance is in addition to the amount sanctioned for training and competition exposure of athletes under TOPS. The NSDF has released a total amount of Rs 4.62 crore till date on account of ‘out of pocket allowance’ to 206 athletes. The payment is held up in the case of 14 athletes due to non-availability of Aadhar/NADA clearance etc,” he said.

“We have now made the TOP Scheme operating authority a separate one and 92 per cent cases have been cleared and there is no pending case relating to sanction of funds.”

Rathore said this year’s sports budget has increased the allocation for northeastern states from Rs 104 crore in 2012- 13 and 109 crore in 2013-14 to 148 crore in 2017-18 and 173 crore in 2018-19. He also said that the government has announced a special package of Rs 200 crore for the development of sports and related infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir. He also announced that a grievance redressal system meant for the athletes will also be put into place.

“We have around 10,000 athletes training under SAI. We are working on a grievance redressal and complaints system whereby any trainee can call up a number and register any complaint they may have against the center in question (e.g. oily food, poor equipment etc.). We will have call centers outside of sports ministry and SAI and the athlete will not know who is calling him.

“Trainees know best the day-to-day management of such facilities and this feedback system is important. We are also working to put in place a system of surprise checks and inspections across all the SAI centers,” he said.

Athlete feedback

He also said that a mobile application is being developed by SAI to enable athletes training inside the country or abroad or taking part in competitions send their feedbacks on the facilities provided or complaints against the officials accompanying them.

“SAI is developing a mobile app through which athletes can send feedback or complaints of how they have been taken care of by coaches or managers etc.

“This will be a kind of a reverse feedback and will be anonymous. By using this, athletes can directly communicate with the ministry and SAI. This will ensure that the coaches and managers do their job professionally and efficiently.”

Asked about re-structuring of SAI which he had proposed, Rathore said, “Only changing its name will not serve anything. We also want to change its work profile. We are working on a structural change and it is in an advance stage.

“The status of coaches will be enhanced under these restructuring of SAI. Coaches can be taken in at any position. For example, if Olympians want to coach, he can join at an appropriate designated level.

“There will be parallel induction at appropriate level for former sportspersons if they want to be drawn into SAI. There will also be promotion among SAI officers and one position of joint secretary will be increased from among SAI officers,” Rathore added.