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Thanks to Games, sports may have a field day

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It is that time of the year when the various ministries make a strong pitch for increase in budget allocations. With the 2010 Commonwealth Games round the corner, the Sports Ministry’s demand for increase in outlay is but understandable. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Suresh Kalmadi, former All India Council of Sports (AICF) chairman Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who also heads the Archery Association of India, and such others have always been critical of the government’s “meagre” spending on sports and put it as the reason for the sor ry state of sport in the country.

However, this time there is hope that with a mega event just three years away, the government will accede to their demand. While Malhotra’s demand for a Rs 1,0000-crore out lay per financial year looks far-fetched, there is a strong likelihood of this funds allocation for sports seeing a quantum jump in this budget.

This feeling is strengthened by the fact that the 11th Five-year Plan is being draft- ed and with each Five-Year Plan, sports has got a sizeable hike. If one looks at figures from the sixth Plan onwards — where the budget for the Ministry for Youth Affairs and Sports was Rs 26.54 crore, to the present where it is Rs 1,145.36 crore — there is reason to believe that the ministry will not be disappointed.

The proposals that the Sports Ministry has put forward for the 11th Plan is in the range of Rs 8,000 crore, a sevenfold increase from the 10th Plan, and given the way funds have been earmarked for infra structure for the Commonwealth Games, the figure could settle somewhere in the range of Rs 3,000 crore, which comes to around Rs 600 crore per financial year.

According to Sports Authority of India Director-General RP Watal, “We are fortunate that the Commonwealth Games are taking place during the drafting of the 11th Plan. We are quite certain that it will shift the focus on more allocations.” Veteran sports administrator VK Mal hotra too feels it could take a turn for the better but adds a cau tion.

“The budget outlay for 2006-07 was about 279.71 crore, an 11 per cent increase from the previous year, whereas the total increase in plan was 40 per cent. And out of the 279.71 crore, a sum of Rs 45 crore was earmarked for the Commonwealth Games. This is basically a decrease of 7 per cent from the 200506 budget for sports.” The grudge of many sports administrators is that a sizeable chunk of the budget (less than half) goes to the Sports Authority of India, which leaves little for other things like equipment procurement, sending more teams abroad, training and hiring good foreign coaches.

However, if the proposals sent in the 11th Plan are taken into consideration, there are a lot more fields added, with the Yuva Khel Abhiyan being uppermost on the ministry’s mind. It takes the lion’s share with a demand of Rs 4,000 crore during the five-year period. Besides, there is a provision for more support to sports federations provided they sign an MoU with the government in order to streamline works.

The Rs 2,000-crore proposal that the ministry has sent under the head “Commonwealth Games” is unlikely to come under the Finance Ministry’s axe as it is an international commitment, feel sports officials. This in itself is a proof that this year’s budget will have much more than previous years.

According to former hockey captain and retired sports official MP Ganesh, “We need more money and funds from the state and central governments. At present, what is being done is not enough to develop sports infrastructure at the grass-root level. We just have 1,000-1,500 coaches and that is not enough for a country as big as ours.”

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