Tired of politely asking for their mandatory training kits and playing equipment, trainees at the elite Sports Authority of India's (SAI) Training Centre in Bhiwani finally came out in the open on Monday, sporting black armbands and threatening the government body to give them their due or face hunger strike.
Bare-chested and hungry, the trainees sat all day long outside the centre threatening to demonstrate outside Parliament if their hunger strike did not have the desired effect.
"For the last two years, the SAI hasn't even given us a single T-shirt. Whenever we inquired about the kits, the authorities tell us they are on the way," said national medallist boxer Naveen Belahara.
This is the same academy that has produced Beijing Olympic bronze-medallist Vijender Singh and many more top international pugilists. "Forget about training kits, the SAI has not even given us boxing gloves, punching pads and punching bags for the last two years," added Youth Asian medallist boxer Manoj Kumar.
Every residential and day-boarder trainee is entitled to a kit worth Rs 4,000 every year. The kit includes among other things a tracksuit, two T-shirts, warm-up shoes, two shorts, two pairs of socks, a bag, playing shoes and kits for specific games. But since April 2009, the players have got nothing except empty promises.
In Bhiwani, there are 140 trainees (90 residential and 50 day-boarders) in four disciplines - boxing, wrestling, athletics and kabaddi. This year the centre got 12 gloves for a total of 70 boxers. "How can 70 boxers with 12 gloves?" asked Manoj.
Mukesh Kumar, the director in-charge, Northern Regional Centre, Sonepat told HT, "We have asked the Bhiwani officials to come and collect last year's kits. They will be distributed to the trainees by tomorrow. The tender process for this year's kits has been put in motion," he added.
In November last year, HT, in its expose, ' heroes live in pathetic conditions' had highlighted the plight of the Bhiwani SAI hostellers and only after that the authorities swung into action.