Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore today defended the big hike in allocation of funds for the Khelo India scheme in this year's sports budget at the expense of SAI, saying it will give a massive push to upgradation of infrastructure.
Addressing a press conference to discuss the sports budget, Rathore asserted that the Khelo India initiative was aimed at not only bringing a sporting culture but also raise the fitness level of the population.
"The National Programme for Development of Sports, in the form of revamped Khelo India scheme, has received a massive boost in allocation. From Rs 158 cr in 2016-17, the allocation for the programme stands at Rs 575 cr for FY 18-19," he said.
"Khelo India will see a massive push towards development and upgradation of sports infrastructure in the country."
In the budget, the government had hiked the sports ministry's allocation by Rs 258.2 crore from the previous year (Rs 2196.36 cr as compared to Rs 1938.16 cr last year).
The category that had received the maximum financial assistance is the government's pet project 'Khelo India', which has got Rs 520.09 crore after the Rs 350 crore it got last year.
In fact, 'Khelo India' constituted 23.67 percent of the total sports budget this year.
One distinct feature of this year's sports budget was the reduced funding allocated to the Sports Authority of India (SAI). SAI had received Rs 495.73 crore in the 2017-18 financial year 2017-18, but this year the allocation has been reduced to Rs 429.56 crore, a cut of Rs 66.17 crore.
Asked about this, Sports Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar said, "Many activities which is now in Khelo India have been done by SAI in the past. So, now these schemes or activities will get funding from Khelo India and will be out of SAI.
"Then some schemes like the National Centre of Sports Science will no longer be under the SAI, they will be done separately."
In the sports budget, there was no specific mention of assistance for athletes who are preparing for the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Games, but Rathore did not see anything wrong in it.
"The training of the elite athletes inside and outside the country is funded from the National Sports Development Fund. The Finance Ministry contributes an equal amount of sum in this fund. We are trying to bring in more PSUs to contribute in this fund."
The sports minister termed Khelo India as a 21st century scheme and asked the National Sports Federations to also think about new ideas.
"Fund is not the limitation for transparent NDFs. There are so many leagues coming up. There will have to be new ideas, new format in the 21st century. For these kind of NSFs, there will not lack of fans and funds," said the 2004 Athens Olympics silver medallist shooter.
"Khelo India Games is a 21st century idea and we are ready to help the NSFs as they are also an essential part of the country's sport. Our mandate is to support the NSFs and not to snap others' survival."
Asked about the BCCI's refusal to come under the purview of National Anti-Doping Agency regarding dope-testing of cricketers, Rathore said, "Sports Ministry wants every athlete to be dope tested. Otherwise the fans will be cheated and their confidence lost.
"Who is doing dope test (for the cricketers), it is not a problem for the ministry. What we want is all the sports and sporstpersons should be free of doping."
He said infrastructure development was one of the prime objectives of Khelo India. He added grants-in-aid will be provided to states/UTs, SAI, universities to develop critical sport infrastructure and other infrastructure.
An amount of Rs 50 crore (at an approximate cost of Rs 25 crore per University, which may go upto Rs.50 crores per University depending on actual requirement) will be earmarked for supporting sporting excellence hubs.
A total of up to four such centers are being proposed to be set up per year with supplementary support from the UGC. These centers will cater to both university athletes as well as national level athletes.
Rathore said out of the talented players identified at various levels through different avenues, 1000 top athletes will be identified every year and provided annual financial assistance, at the rate of Rs 5 lakh per annum, for a period of eight years under a Long Term Athlete Development Programme of Khelo India.
For the next eight years, 1000 athletes will be added to this programme every year.