The Major Dhyanchand National Stadium has now become inaccessible to hockey players after the Sports Authority of India (SAI) rented the main building to Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Apart from the hockey players, the national stadium is out of bounds for young sport enthusiasts as well, who used to come to the complex under the government's 'come-and-play' scheme, according to a Times of India report.
TOI reported that players can only have access to the ground outside the main building, which proved to be extremely uncomfortable owing to no access to proper sanitation facilities and changing rooms. The players using that ground had to force themselves to use filthy washrooms, especially the female players, whereas male athletes changed in the open.
The building was rented out by SAI to the union ministry of home affairs for Rs 40 million per annum to meet rising expenses for proper management of the complex, reported TOI. Under the agreement, the MHA also set up certain departmental wings to take care of facility, which eventually became the 'no-entry' zone for academy players and those who came under 'come-and-play scheme'. The facility also houses the office of SAI's stadium in-charge A K Bansal and his staff.
The ministry has requested the MHA to vacate the building by March-end, SAI sources told TOI. After further TOI investigation, when hockey Olympian M P Ganesh, who is the high-performance director and CEO of the academy, was approached, he refused to comment. "I have nothing to say in this matter, kindly meet Mr Bansal", he told TOI. TOI also learnt that Ganesh had earlier written to then sports minister Vijay Goel to strongly object to the decision. The decision of vacating the building by March-end was taken during the tenure of Goel and sports secretary Injeti Srinivas. At that time, Goel opposed the idea, sources told TOI.
According to SAI officials, MHA shifted to the stadium from the North Block three-four months back. "MHA people had come here as tenants, now they have become the landlords," a SAI employee attached to A K Bansal's staff shared with TOI.
On the contrary, A K Bansal negated the poor situation of the players and their difficulty in accessing the main building as well as refused to comment much over it. He went on to tell TOI, "I haven't come across such a problem. We have designated separate washrooms for the come-and-play trainees. Don't believe these kids. I can't talk much on the issue."
MHA spokesperson Bharat Bhushan, however, put the blame on SAI. "SAI should issue these athletes proper identity cardssothat they can be allowed to access the building. It was mutually agreedupon between the MHA and the SAI that these athletes would obtain I-cardsfrom SAI," he revealed to TOI.
As the blame-game continues, the major sufferers are the players who are devoid of practice grounds, changing rooms as well as proper sanitation facilities. Even those who have been playing on the ground for at least 10 years are not allowed in the internal complex without proper passes, reported TOI.