iconimg Thursday, September 03, 2015

HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 20, 2013
Vidyasagar’s family has been a loyal worker of Rashtrapati Bhavan since the British era. Vidyasagar too, is a gardener there, representing the large faceless force behind the glitz and the aura of the magnificent building.

But his son, Sachin, has crossed a boundary that was unthinkable till a few months ago. The Class 7 student now learns table tennis along with children of class 1 officers at the sports complex of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Like Vidyasagar, Shehzad Ali, a syce (keeper of horses) or Dharampal, a mechanic at the AC and refrigeration section of the President's office are also proud fathers. Shehzad's son Etteshim Ali has adopted table tennis and Dharampal's daughter Nisha has become a squash enthusiast, getting training from professional coaches.

As a part of the conscious effort for forging a stronger tie between the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the aam aadmi, sports facilities are now made available to the families of all its employees. Earlier, only VIPs and class 1 and above officers were entitled to use them.

"We have started the pilot scheme with three disciplines — table tennis, tennis and squash. We hope to expand this further in coming days," said Venu Rajamony, press secretary to the President.

"Not only free meals and coaching are provided, but president has given them kits worth R5000 to each of them," added Pranab Mukherjee's OSD Suresh Yadav.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan has 1,800 employees and their family members — almost 8,000 people — live inside the Presidential estate. The coaches have currently selected 15 trainees.