Sports ministry tightens belt, but athletes’ allowances not affected

Written by Mihir Vasavda
| New Delhi |

Published: April 10, 2020 1:09:26 am

The out-of-pocket allowances for athletes will not be impacted even though the sports ministry may have to cut its spending by 10 per cent for the first quarter of this financial year. (Express Photo)

The out-of-pocket allowances, a monthly stipend, for athletes and their training-and-competition expenditure will not be impacted even though the sports ministry may have to cut its spending by 10 per cent for the first quarter of this financial year, following an order by the finance ministry to all government departments.

The Budget Division of the Department of Economic Affairs – fearing a ‘cash stress’ because of the nationwide lockdown – issued an office memorandum to all ministries on Wednesday. In it, the department has asked ministries – categorised ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ – not to spend the entire portion of their budget for this quarter.

This means that the sports ministry, which falls in Category C along with 51 other departments and ministries, will be able to spend 15 per cent of the Rs 2,100 crore allotted to them, 10 per cent less than what they could have normally utilised.

Consequently, the sports ministry is likely to halt its infrastructure projects but will not cut down on the allowances to the athletes. As on March 18, there are 94 athletes in the government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme. They receive an out-of-pocket allowance of Rs 50,000 per month while those in the Khelo India Scheme are entitled to Rs 10,000 per month.

Sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya said: “The budget allocation and quarterly ceiling would suffice for the needs of the Sports Department. We would have enough funds to ensure all possible ongoing activities, including payment of monthly allowance to players, salaries, pension and other committed liabilities.”

He added that the activities will pick up second quarter onwards. “With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and other international events, as well as the lockdown, our expenditure is going to be around 14-15 per cent of the budget in the first quarter of this fiscal year. We hope to pick up sports activities, training, infrastructure works, etc from the second quarter only. The expenditure is expected to pick up in the third quarter.”

IOA wants ‘massive dope tests’

The sports ministry, on Thursday, held a meeting via video conference with officials from 15 national sports federations, including the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

It is learnt that IOA general secretary Rajiv Mehta expressed concern that ‘some athletes might take benefit of the ongoing lockdown to consume performance-enhancing drugs, since out-of-competition testing has come to a halt’. Mehta requested the sports ministry to ‘direct the National Anti-Doping Agency to conduct massive tests on the athletes once the lockdown is lifted.’

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