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Pay and play: UPA's packs a parting punch to Indian sports

Sunday, 1 June 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Cong-led coalition cuts grants for poll expenses, forcing federations to charge participants

Federations most affected by grants cut
Rowing, swimming, gymnastics, taekwondo, baseball, basketball, bowling, cycling, equestrian, fencing, handball, judo, kabaddi, kho kho, netball, rugby, volleyball, weightlifting, winter games, wushu, yachting

Federations least affected but taking grants regularly
Hockey, soccer, tennis, table tennis, archery, shooting, golf, wrestling, squash

This is a killer. If the sports ministry's decision to cut down on funds granted to National Sports Federations (NSFs) to hold championships across country continues, all top athletes of the country will have to cough up hefty money to participate in sports fixtures in future.

What led to this kind of a situation was the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance's (UPA's) decision to cut down grants to all NSFs. What's more, the grants were cut for general election expenditure.

Earlier, every NSF used to get Rs 2 lakh for conducting senior nationals, Rs 4 lakh for junior nationals and Rs 6 lakh for sub-junior nationals. But the UPA govt decided to fix a flat Rs 2 lakh for all games from April.

In fact, the ministry is denying even this amount to federations. The Rowing Federation of India (RFI) was denied this grant for holding the sub-junior meet in Kolkata next month.

So, if the RFI is to go ahead with the meet, every sub-junior rower will have to pay at least Rs 1,750 to the federation for participation. Rowers are being told to pay Rs 250 per day for the seven-day long championship.

The new move would mean that lesser-known games like rowing, swimming, gymnastics, taekwondo, baseball, basketball, bowling, cycling, equestrian, fencing, handball, judo will find it hard to survive.

Big-ticket events like national athletic meet and games like football, tennis and hockey may hardly be affected as they enjoy corporate sponsorships. Yet, even the rich associations accept these government grants without fail, dna learns.

RFI president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo has shot a letter to the ministry as well as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to lodge a protest.

"Rowing is a game which hardly attracts any sponsor. We completely rely on government grants. Even the earlier amount of Rs 6 lakh was short. Without any money now, there is no way out for us," Deo said on Saturday.

Deo also questioned the timing of the circular in her letter to the ministry. "Why such an important decision taken when the Elections Commission's code of conduct was in place?" he said.

A senior sports ministry official told dna a review of grants allotment will be undertaken soon.

"We've received too many complaints from different associations. We understand that some of the NSFs are not even in a state to hold their routine nationals for lack of funds," said the official.

At least two senior officials from swimming and gymnastics federations have threatened to stop holding the meets if this circular is not withdrawn immediately.

Now that Narendra Modi is at the helm, let's see if there are "good days ahead for sportsmen."

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