Everyone recognises the potential of the country’s hinterlands to produce world beaters in sport, but when it comes to brass-tacks, no one really seems to bother whether a whopping Rs. 11,000 crore has been properly utilised, or simply gone down the drain.
Take for example the Panchayat Yuva Krida and Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA) scheme, launched in 2008-9 with the aim of scouting talent in the 6-16 age group who could be nurtured for the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Five years down the line — in 2014 — the project had to be given a quiet burial after nearly Rs. 300 crore was pumped in by the sports ministry to unearth the latent force in our villages. There is no record or data regarding those who were shortlisted for the ministry’s pilot project.
Under the scheme, the ministry, through state governments, organised district and state-level competitions before selecting state teams to compete at the national level in disciplines such as athletics. And each year, the officials responsible for running the PYKKA department in the ministry, spotted more than 400 athletes in the under-16 category through national-level competitions. But today, a visit to the department only elicits stares and blank looks when one asks about the record of the so called ‘talented sportspersons’ shortlisted during the five-year exercise.
Didn’t fit in
Sources say, as a rule winners in respective events were recommended to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to be considered for their regular schemes. But since SAI has a limited number of residential facilities, a majority of them could not be accommodated and their fate is unknown.
SAI, though, says it has all the details. “We have all the records,” asserts secretary sports, Ajit Sharan, but his office categorically states that it has no data on the 2000-odd sportspersons whose names were forwarded by PYKKA.
To begin with, it seems, the scheme was commissioned without analysing the issues that could crop up later. A senior official from Haryana, the state which dominated the PYKKA-run national-level competitions, says as of today her department has no data on the athletes. “Once the athletes crossed 16 years — the maximum age to be eligible for PYKKA scheme — we did not keep a record of their performances,” said Aruna Sood, deputy director, Haryana Sports Department.
Haryana could have been a role model for the scheme as a whopping 76,227 athletes participated in the 2009-2010 edition. The numbers rose to a record 1.72 lakh in 2010-2011 but dropped to 1.34 lakh in 2013-2014 because participants felt the scheme was leading them nowhere.
Massive fund wastage
The scheme launched with great fanfare thus wound up last year with the overall expenditure to the ministry pegged at Rs. 11,000 crore — Rs. 300 crore towards competition and the rest towards preparing playgrounds at village and block levels.
“The scheme was well-conceptualised and on paper looked impressive. But things went wrong with its implementation as people who had to enforce it were appointed on an ad hoc basis,” said C Chinnappa, a former PYKKA official.
Since the officials knew they were there only for short stints, monitoring to evaluate the annual progress wasn’t done sincerely. Besides, there was hardly any attention given for coordination with the states. During the course of investigation, HT came across a startling fact — number of states never bothered to submit utilisation certificates (UCs) and PYKKA officials sitting in Delhi conveniently forgot to fix accountability.
A PYKKA official told HT on condition of anonymity that UCs for no less than 10,000 playfields were pending, while grants were given to nearly 2000 blocks across the country.
Siphoning off funds
Due to a lack of accountability and time-bound inspections, PYKKA inspectors were shown well-maintained playfields not under the scheme and grants were given on that basis. “The ad hoc employees never cared to verify the playfields and funds were siphoned off. Well-maintained private playfields were passed off as PYKKA-scheme playfields during inspections and funds taken,” said a ministry official.
The efficacy of the scheme can be gauged from the fact that only 35% work was done between 2008-2012 in the 20 states where it was implemented; a case in point being Agroha village in Hisar, where the stadium, which claimed to have reached out to hundreds of children, lacks even basic facilities like clean toilets and drinking water.
The toilets at Hisar's Agroha village stadium are in a decrepit state. (HT Photo)
In 2012, an independent panel was constituted to evaluate the scheme. The report was not encouraging and the focus was on complete overhaul. Seeing a window of opportunity, the state governments started hankering for more funds. Finally, the government, bogged down by fund crunch, decided to close the chapter. Given that the scheme is now defunct, it is unlikely the state governments would bother to submit UCs anymore.
The sports ministry, as a matter of routine, keeps sending reminders to the states to furnish utilisation certificates (UCs) for the central grants given to them under PYKKA. But it’s one-way traffic.
Despite several reminders, the Bihar government, one of the states to be allocated Rs. 15 crore under the scheme, hadn’t bothered to reply. In 2008-09, the ministry released a grant of Rs. 10 crore. Despite not furnishing the UC, mandatory for getting additional grants, the ministry allotted another Rs. 5 crore in 2009-10.
Repeated calls by HT to the Bihar sports department failed to elicit response.
Chhattisgarh was allocated Rs. 10 crore in 2008 and Rs. 5.5 crore in 2009-10. The BJP-ruled state also hasn’t responded to several ministry reminders.
Jharkhand doesn’t even know if a PYKKA scheme existed. Ravi Ranjan Prasad Sinha, an under-secretary, said he doesn’t have any idea about the scheme. Anil Kumar, director, department of youth affairs and sports, Jharkhand knows about the project but says he never dealt with it and won’t be able to say much.
Well, ignorance is bliss.