Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman slashed the allocation of sportspersons incentives by over Rs 40 crores in the Union Budget 2020. The amount has been reduced to Rs 70 crores from an earlier Rs 111 crores. This comes in the year which will witness the participation of several Indian athletes in the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020.
The government has also cut the allocation to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to Rs 500 crores as against Rs 615 crores in last year. SAI, the apex national sports body of India caters to the development of sports, managing the national camps, providing infrastructure to the country's best performing athletes on a daily basis.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Vedam Jaishankar, senior sports journalist and author, said: "We don't really need a government budgeting, what we need is more of CSR initiatives and the government needs to get sponsors for coaches and camps. In Bengaluru, the number of shuttle camps coming up are all private initiatives. This has become a trend everywhere. The government should really encourage this. This planning is not just for the Olympics, but for all the games in future."
The Union budget has provided a substantial hike of Rs 291.42 crores to the government's flagship Khelo India Youth Games, which aims at developing the culture of sports at the grass roots level of schools and colleges. The steepest reduction was in National Sports Federations with Rs 245.00 crores allocation in the union budget, which is Rs 55 crores less than Rs 300.85 for 2019-20.
In the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics 2020, the budget for the ministry of youth affairs and sports has started a debate on whether a flagship scheme like Khelo India will promote sports in India. Heads of several federations have voiced their concerns claiming that with prices of equipment rising up and a reduction in funds, federations will now have to struggle to get funds for an athlete's preparation.
The budget allocation for Laxmi Bai National Institute of Physical Education has also been increased to 55 crores, a Rs 5 crore rise from the previous budget. National Welfare Fund for Sportspersons will continue to receive the same amount of Rs 2 crores and there were no revisions made in the allocation for the enhancement of sports facilities in Jammu and Kashmir which currently stands at Rs 50 crores.
The government has revised the total of Rs 2826.92 crores for the sports budget for the next fiscal year, which is a meagre rise of Rs 50 crores from the revised estimate of 2019-20.
Kiren Rijiju Defends Budget Cut
Sports minister Kiren Rijiju on Wednesday said that there will be no shortage of funds for the National Sports Federations, despite the government cutting its allocation at the start of an Olympic Games year. The government initiated a hike of Rs 312.42 crore to its flagship Khelo India programme but slashed allocation to the National Sports Development Fund and incentives for sportspersons.
"If there is a shortage of funds for the federations, these can always be taken up, that is why there is a provision for revision. If they need more money, they will get more money," Rijiju told the media.
"Thailand has hundreds of golf courses, that is because they have no land tax. We should not charge hefty amounts for sports infrastructure," he said, adding, "If you expect money from the government, that money will disappear. Rather give it in the hands of those who can come up with something better, something that is accessible to all."
The overall sports budget for 2020-21 did not seem to be enough with the budget being slashed in several sections and the Tokyo Olympics around the corner.