The sports Ministry may have doubled the food allowance for 'core group' sportspersons preparing for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but news trickling out of the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune could well evoke frowns in the Capital's Shastri Bhawan.
Despite sanctioning a sum of Rs 350 per day for food --- more than double the earlier daily allowance --- campers are feeling short-changed with the food being served at the camps currently underway at the Balewadi complex.
After enduring the "poor quality of food" for almost a fortnight, national shooting coach Sunny Thomas vent his anger on Thursday saying that he was "appalled" with the way things were going on.
HT has learnt that the hockey campers too had come down heavily on the quality of food, following which the caterer and dining areas were changed. But some 105-odd pistol and rifle shooters continue to suffer.
"After enduring this treatment for more than a fortnight, I finally decided to give it in black and white. The camp coordinator and assistant director of the complex have been told to change the caterer, as the food being served is not worth the amount we are entitled to. It's unfortunate," said Thomas, who is in-charge of the June 7-July 2 camp.
"If the quality of food and service cannot be improved, the shooters and officials do not want to eat in the canteen," said Thomas.
"We are not asking for any special attention or treatment. We need good food worth the money that is being paid, and that too served properly and on time," he said.
Another coach attached to the team said, "After the hockey team made a hue and cry, the caterer and dining area was changed. You feel like throwing up if you happen to peep inside the canteen," he said.
There is no doubt that conditions in the canteen are bad as HT found out during a visit to Balewadi on Wednesday. Though the room where the hockey players were being served was well maintained, the area where the kitchen utensils are washed had a peculiar stench.
Though the Balewadi complex belongs to the Maharashtra government and is maintained by its sports department, the Deputy Director, Western Region, Sports Authority of India, handles arrangements for national camps.
Virendra Bhandarkar, SAI deputy director, who is camping in Pune since the start of the week, told HT that he had given marching orders to the caterer and was in the process of appointing a new one.
"The shooting coach brought the matter to my notice on Thursday afternoon and I am changing the caterer.
“The canteen was not in a good condition but I got it cleaned today and we are also installing an insect trap as monsoon will start soon. I have called a meeting of the officials concerned and we will decide the new caterer tonight," he said.