In the Union Budget for 2017-18, presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Parliament, the Sports Ministry got a significant hike of Rs 350 crore. Last year’s Sports Budget figure of Rs 1592 crore saw a rise to Rs 1943 crore.
This enhancement is in tune with the upcoming Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018 to boost India’s participation. But eminent Sports Journalist Mr. Rajaraman states, “In percentage terms, this works out to 20.82 percent (and 22.06 percent of last year’s original provision)…PIB media release also claimed that the budget for sports has been enhanced by 40 percent since last year. I have tried hard to figure out how this number was arrived at.”
This allocation is not entirely for sports. Youth programmes like National Service Scheme, National Young Leaders Programme, National Programme for Youth & Adolescent Development etc secure Rs 127 crore while the Ministerial secretariat takes up Rs 29 crore. The quantum allocated under the head Encouragement and Awards to Sportspersons have come down from the revised Rs 400.43 crore last year to Rs 330.10 crore for 2017-18. Incentives to sports persons are down from Rs 25.50 crore to Rs 14.00 crore; This can be a very discouraging factor to upcoming sportspersons.
As per the new budget, funds for promotion of sports among disabled hit a significant low of Rs. 1 lakh from last year’s 4 crores, the reason for this is that now of the funds will be allotted from Khelo India Programme. The Khelo India scheme has got a substantial raise as Rs 350 crore has been earmarked for it against last fiscal year’s Rs 140 crore.
Last year, India had sent its largest ever delegation in the history of summer Paralympics games i.e. 19 competitors in 5 sports. This was India’s best ever performance in the history of the summer Paralympics games with a total of 4 medals – 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 1 Bronze-with Devendra Jhajharia breaking the World Record to win a gold medal at the Paralympics. This was better than India’s performance at the 2016 Olympics.
Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan Yojana has been renamed as ‘Khelo India’ by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. Khelo India is a seven-member committee, in which Anju Bobby George and Pullela Gopichand are the two sportspersons. The committee is headed by Sports Secretary Rajiv Yadav. Khelo India organises National-level competitions for various sports for Under-14 and Under-17 children. Also, rural games are being planned to be held in the near future.
Khelo India competitions are being conducted not only to promote sports at grass-root level but also to help create sports infrastructure in the country. It is said that it will provide a platform to the budding talents to compete at national level. Talent identification would also be done in the process for grooming them to achieve excellence at international level.
But with no figure allotted it remains to see how much funds from Khelo India will actually go to disabled sports and in what way the sports ministry will utilise it. In a nation that is yet to make its basic infrastructure accessible to persons with disability, reduction in funds for this cause comes as a damper. In previous years, the Standing Committee for Sports, the S.A.I. has been indicted for under-utilisation of funds. This showcases the irony of the present approach of the premier sports body, even as disabled people look for basic support and an inclusive sports environment in the country. For the full participation in society of persons with disabilities and following questions need to be raised:
- Does public funding provided to cultural, leisure/touristic and sporting facilities and organizations require compliance with accessibility standards?
- Is there enough attention given to the diversion of technical and engineering skills in the country for creating special modifications?
- Is there adequate sporting gear available for persons with disabilities, who wish to take up sports?
- Do general accessibility plans include the elimination of barriers in culture, recreation, leisure and sport?
- Is the country providing support to disability-specific initiatives in the area of sports and culture?
Persons with physical disabilities are unable to enjoy leisure activities on an equal basis with others as long as transportation systems and public buildings continue to lack barrier-free access, a problem which has not been addressed on a consistent basis by the Government. The government needs to increase support and funding to conduct empirical studies on topics of disability sport. Its agenda should also include affordable technologies, and increasing accessibility in both the environment and the structures of sports coupled with research, and develop monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure quality sport programmes are being implemented effectively and meeting target outcomes.
The National Sports Federations has been allotted Rs 302 crore, a steep hike from Rs 185 crore. The allocation for the scheme for the Benefit of North Eastern Area has been revised to Rs 148.4 crore as compared to Rs131.33 crore last year. The National Service Scheme has got Rs 144 crore as compared to Rs 137.50 crore in 2016-2017 fiscal.
There has been no change in the Rs 75 crore allocation for sports in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the contribution to the National Sports Development fund has been reduced to Rs 2 crore from Rs 5 crore.
Another feature of the new budget saw a mere sum of Rs 50 lakh for identification and nurturing of sporting talent in the country. Funds have been separately designated for this by launching a talent search portal. In a country with a population of 1.2 billion, will an amount of 50 lakh suffice for a nation-wide search? How does the ministry intend to go about this? Also, does identification of disabled sports person also fall under this funding? What additional incentives will be provided as encouragement to the outshining candidates and what further opportunities will be provided to train them for the future?
We await the ministry’s agenda to see how effective this budget allocation is utilised this year.