For cash-strapped national sports federations, finance minister Arun Jaitley’s maiden budget speech must have been the silver-lining they were all waiting for. With nearly 50 per cent hike in the budget for the sports ministry, the federations would now be hoping for a windfall.
Besides, the Rs 100 crore earmarked especially for ‘training and preparation’ for the Commonwealth and Asian Games must have come as a bonus, even though no one knew how exactly it would benefit the athletes so close to the events. And yet, the federation heads are already jostling to grab the largest slice of the pie.
Hockey India (HI) secretary general Narendra Batra, who had threatened to withdraw the team from the two mega-events citing lack of funds, said he was hoping to receive at least Rs 25 crore.
Athletics Federation of India (AFI) president Adille Sumariwalla refrained from quoting a specific figure but insisted additional funds are needed to meet the federation’s long-term targets — Rio Olympics in particular.
Ditto Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). The association’s assistant secretary general, Vinod Tomar, conceded the money would be of little help for the CWG, but added it would come in handy to fund exposure trips ahead of the Asian Games.
They may, however, be in for some disappointment. Sports Authority of India (SAI) director general Jiji
Thomson said a large chunk of the money would be spent on improving existing training facilities, to be used by the athletes during preparations for the Asian Games as well as major events in the future.
That means the federations, all of whom claim to be cash-strapped, might not get their way.
“We will certainly provide additional funds to the federations who are in need. But the entire amount won’t be distributed among them,” Thomson asserted.
The allocation to the ministry of youth affairs and sports for 2014-2015 saw a rise of Rs 561.24 crore — a 46.5 per cent hike — from the Rs 1,219 crore in the last fiscal year.
The Rs 100 crore Jaitley granted on Thursday for training purposes for the two quadrennial events was over and above the Rs 185 crore that was allotted to the federations earlier in the year. India will take part in 13 out of 17 disciplines at the Glasgow Games, which begins on July 23, and 30 out of 36 at the September Asian Games in Incheon.
Thomson said SAI had so far utilised most of the money that was earmarked on training and preparation.
“Hence, we couldn’t focus on improving the facilities which will be used for training purposes. Major part of the funds granted to us will be used for that. I do not think it will be used for exposure trips and such,” he added.
Thomson underlined the laying of synthetic athletics tracks at NIS Patiala and SAI facility at Shilaroo along with a new artificial hockey turf at SAI Bangalore as some of the priority projects.
“Athletes in Patiala have had to train on a worn-out turf. We want to provide them better facilities. Similarly, hockey players are forced to train in Delhi since the turf at Bangalore isn’t in a good shape,” Thomson added.
The federations, though, remain hopeful.
“Exposure trips are necessary ahead of a major tournament. All our athletes cannot afford trips outside India and we are unable to fund them. We have already cut down on our budget drastically and have already informed the government about the funds we need. Hopefully, they will grant it,” Sumariwalla said.