Is red tape strangling India's equestrian hopes at Tokyo?

Patrons and riders voice concerns over bureaucratic delays hampering India's preparation ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The hurdles facing the Indian Equestrian setup are many, raising concerns ahead of the Olympic games in Tokyo.   -  Parth Sanyal

Embassy International Riding School (EIRS), one of India’s leading promoters of equestrian sport, called on the Union government, sports ministry and SAI to cut red tape and ease the funding path in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Fouaad Mirza, an athlete funded by Embassy, had helped India secure two silver medals at the 2018 Asian Games (the country’s first since the 1982 edition), and EIRS felt it was important to professionalise things in order to build on that success.

“We spent around 3 million euros before the Asian Games in 2018 and thus far I have been able to make payments for only 1.4 million,” said Jitu Virwani, chairman and managing director of the Embassy Group, on the sidelines of the Equestrian Premier League finale.

“The RBI didn’t allow us [to transfer] and wanted an NOC from SAI. We asked SAI but nothing has happened on that front. We are not asking for any money or grant from the government. It's all our CSR money but we aren't being allowed to spend!”

Incidents such as these will affect India’s future preparations, felt Virwani. “We recently procured a European sport horse for 300,000 Euros for Fouaad from Germany and that guy waited for two months for me to pay. He understood the situation because he had done business in India. But can you imagine somebody else waiting for that long?”

Sandeep Dewan, a show-jumper with the Nilgiris Equestrian Center and a retired Indian Army Lt. Col, bemoaned that fact that despite the Asian Games success, Equestrian was still not being taken seriously.

“They have put it in the lowest priority sports category,” he said. “To import horses there is a 42% duty and compulsory quarantine period of a month abroad. On top of it, they ask for an additional month of quarantine in India which is unreasonable. Conditions in India are generally terrible and it’s a tremendous risk. We are also asked to do the same tests that we have already done in Europe. I hope these things are sorted out.”