Time is truly money and for 24 school children picked to represent India at world championships in China, it is fast running out as they have been asked to pay Rs 2 lakh each from their pockets for the visit.
Instead of fine-tuning their preparations for the World Schools Championship athletics in Wuhan that begin June 27, three athletes have already left the national camp being held in Bhopal to arrange the money.
Though the sports ministry has assured all financial support, the School Games Federation of India (SGFI) has asked the children, most of who come from low-income families, to arrange funds.
Uttar Pradesh’s Gaurav Yadav, Ram Chandra Yadav and Dhirendra left the Sports Authority of India (SAI) facility a few days ago but haven’t met with much success.
“It’s a very strange situation...The SGFI has left us in the lurch. Unable to arrange funds, all three have returned and now are waiting for a miracle,” Md Rustam Khan, who coaches Gaurav and Ram, told HT from Allahabad.
SGFI — an autonomous national body that oversees school competitions — was yet to receive a communication from the ministry approving the money, secretary-general Rajesh Mishra said Wednesday. “We are running out of time. We have to book air tickets and make other arrangements,” he said.
He denied students were asked to arrange for the money. “My office hasn’t demanded money from them... we have demanded bank drafts from the state units whose children have been selected,” he said. SGFI didn’t have the funds and asked the states to meet the expenses, he said.
A SAI official, however, said the ministry’s approval had come and the money would be deposited in the SGFI account.
“We delayed the process a bit because the SGFI was reluctant to share details of the coaching staff which would accompany the 24-member contingent,” the official said on condition of anonymity. The government releases funds for sports bodies through SAI.
In April, the sports ministry had refused to fund a Poland-bound swimming contingent for the world school meet because the SGFI had withheld the names of the coaching staff. “If the government is spending money, it expects coaches who have trained athletes in the camp to accompany them,” the SAI official said.
Mishra said the details of staff for the Wuhan meet had been sent to the ministry.