In this year of the Olympics and a bare two-odd years away from the most ambitious sporting event ever organised in India, the 2010 Commonwealth Games at New Delhi, comes an incident that is scandalous not just because it puts at stake the careers of hundreds of people and the lives of their families but also because it is so very bizarre as it has effectively derailed the training of the budding athletes throughout the country.
On two dramatic days of July 2005, in an event that had no precedence in the history of Indian sports, a whopping 736 Sports Authority of India (SAI) coaches (out of 1472, i.e., 50 per cent of the total strength) around the country were suddenly transferred. Sporting circles dubbed the move as the ‘tsunami of transfers’. And now, in an equally strange development, the Hindustan Times has learnt that the official file connected with the transfers has gone missing.
So why’s that a problem? Simply speaking, it means that the vital documents, which justified a move that cost the exchequer something in the region of Rs 4-4.5 crore, are not available any more. And no one seems to know what’s happening. Little or no effort was made then to see whether the coaches being transferred would be effectively utilised in their new destinations. There are scores of instances where coaches are just biding time without there being trainees under them. Several coaches have complained that no distinction was made between the better ones who were producing results and those who were just cooling their heels; leave aside the family problems that come with transfers.
The transfers, which were kept secret right up to when they happened with un-SAI-like swiftness, were opposed by coaches and their wards alike. The SAI was predictably taken to court (Central Administrative Tribunal) by the Coaches Association.
In the time since, the SAI has informed the Tribunal (CAT, Chandigarh Bench) in writing several times that the file, “bearing no. SAI/786/CD/Misc/2005, which contains all the original Office Orders as well as the notings appended by the Competing Authority as well as other SAI officers is not traceable… all efforts to trace the said file have been made and are being made.”
This SAI affidavit, dated November 14, 2007, further adds: “Dealing assistants have submitted certificates about non-availability of the said file… a committee was subsequently nominated but the said file could not be traced.” However, the bottom-line is that it hasn’t been traced so far. A senior four-member panel was even set up to trace the file, but in a report submitted on Oct 30, 2007, it said the file was untraceable. The SAI meanwhile, has been seeking time from the CAT to figure out where the file is and the case comes up for hearing again on Wednesday.
The SAI, however, in its last affidavit filed on Jan 8, 2007, has said that it has found three files — 13(410)/05-Legal Cell (M-420), 13(410)/05-Legal Cell (M-420 Pt File) and 751/CD/SAI/2006-07 (OA No. 193) — “in which detailed reasons for passing of transfer orders have been given…. the orders were good and tenable in law and passed by competent authority and the content may be read as part of the affidavit.”
Intriguingly, the SAI DG, RP Watal, told HT that there was “no file” per se. “There is no file, only a noting paper which cannot be traced,” he said. “Individual files of coaches are there.”
But Watal’s statement does not explain why the SAI is then asking for more time in court and filing one affidavit after another (9/10/2007, 14/11/2007, 12/12/2007) that the “file” in question has gone missing? The HT has copies of all the case papers. It is also learnt that there are no notings in the individual files of the transferred coaches justifying the moves.
The scary part in all this is that it calls into question the SAI’s competence. The SAI is the executive arm of the Sports Ministry and thus is a key player in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games. It will handle a budget of Rs 700 crore (taxpayer's money) for training athletes for the Commonwealth Games alone. If it cannot handle affairs in its own house, why hope of building an ambitious future?