THE SPORTS ministry has asked the Quality Council of India, a semi-government body, to make on-site assessments of 18 Sports Authority of India (SAI) centres following complaints, including from athletes about officials and coaches eating into their daily quota of dry fruits and fresh fruits.
Most of those who are reportedly missing out on the government-sponsored “kaju and badaam” at these elite training hubs are junior athletes — many of them wrestlers and throwers. In their letters to SAI, they have alleged that their coaches and administrators pocket 50 per cent of their “nutrition quota”.
“There have been a few cases where we received anonymous complaints, but action has been taken instantly. We have engaged QCI to assess the centres. They will look into every aspect of running the centre,” Sports Secretary Injeti Srinivas told The Indian Express. “The audit is not just for that (allegations of wrongdoing). We have several parameters and this is one of the points.”
According to the SAI website, there are 56 training centres across the country with a total strength of 5,394 trainees (3,807 boys and 1,587 girls), all aged between 12 and 18 years.
Dry fruits form an essential part of the diet of athletes, primarily in power sports like wrestling and boxing, and a few athletics disciplines like discus throw.
Every athlete training at a SAI centre is entitled to a government allowance for his daily diet and energy supplements, among other things. The athlete’s diet requirements are decided by his coaches, physiotherapists and, in some cases, nutritionists at the start of every camp. The head of the training centre is notified accordingly, and he in turn informs the caterer.
The allowance varies for every sport and age group. Instead of giving the money directly to the athletes, the government provides the supplies to the caterers at the centre. Those in the know alleged a nexus between caterers, coaches and officials.
“It does not happen much at the senior level because these athletes are aware of what they are entitled to. But in case of juniors, it is their coach who tells them what to eat and how much,” said an official who did not want to be named. “So, for instance, if an athlete is entitled to 500 gm of almonds per week, there have been cases where they have received just 250 gm. If they are to get two apples or two mangoes every day, they are given just one,” he said.
Like the athletes, the coaches too are entitled to a quota of dry fruits. But SAI officials said there have been cases where the coaches have asked the caterers to give them cash instead of dry fruits.
Srinivas, who is also the SAI director general, said the ministry is looking at a ‘Direct Benefit Transfer’ system under which the athletes will directly receive the money they are entitled to.
He said the QCI audit will look at 100-150 parameters, which will include food, cleanliness, deployment of coaches, supply of consumables, etc.
“We will have DBT to the extent we can. And the third-party audit will help us in developing a robust system, which will help in having a whistleblower policy,” he said.