India is not deficient in infrastructure, but utilisation is the issue, says SAI DG

Injeti Srinivas, secretary (sports), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and Director General, Sports Authority of India, visited the SAI South Centre here on Wednesday.

Injeti Srinivas says the TOP scheme will continue.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Injeti Srinivas, secretary (sports), Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, and Director General, Sports Authority of India, visited the SAI South Centre here on Wednesday. He met national campers and SAI staff and will on Thursday inaugurate an aqua-therapy facility on the premises. Srinivas spoke to the press on a number of topics.

The excerpts:

On the possibility of extending the Lodha committee's cricket reforms to other sports

The National Sports Development Code is aligned to the Olympic charter and it will continue to be aligned. If we want to be a part of the Olympic movement, we cannot fall out of sync with the Olympic Charter. If you look at it broadly, there is not much difference between what the Lodha Committee has said and what the code has said. 70-80 per cent of it is common. Certain differences are mainly because this is cricket specific. This may not be relevant for Olympic sports. So long as we are keeping the Olympic charter as our touchstone, I don’t see any possibility of us going wrong.

On the restructured sports code

There are the age and tenure guidelines. Then, it’s about having fair and transparent elections. With issues like players’ welfare, there is a big gap. There is a clear policy prescription in the code that sufficient representation of athletes should be there in the decision-making process, say 25 per cent. It is more advisory than mandatory. It has to be more mandatory than advisory.

Then comes the area of disputes. The government is certainly of the view that the IOA should hold the pre-eminent position of settling disputes in a fair and transparent manner. Empirical evidence shows that it has miserably failed. More than half a dozen Olympic sports are under huge dispute and it is damaging the prospects. Maybe something else has to be thought of. Will it be a tribunal, a panel, or an ombudsman? We need to look into that. Whatever we do, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Then, there is the management of federations; this has to be professional. Working part-time, voluntarily, out of the goodness of heart...this will not do. It is a very competitive world today. Then there are selection issues, grievance redressal, governance issues, conflict of interest etc.

Another major issue is whether this will be in the form of a code or a legislation. These are decisions to be taken by the government at the highest level and then by the parliament. The committee is more or less coming to a conclusion. A few sittings and they should wind up their work.

On reviewing the aspects of the Target Olympic Podium scheme

It’s a fair comment (that the federation rather than the athlete should choose the latter’s training venue and schedule). This sort of total independence to an athlete need not be generally correct. Very few athletes have that understanding of where they should go to train. So appropriately, the federation should have a say on that.

The task force is a group of eminent people. They have to talk to all stakeholders and come up with sharp reactions and analysis. It should help certainly. More than anything, a task force of reputed athletes in each sport will show our seriousness and it will help SAI and others push certain reforms. To think that the task force will lead to more medals is not real. It’s the facilitator.

The TOP scheme will continue. Now we will focus more on a structured camp approach and camp discipline. I feel many times there are injured athletes...athletes with chronic injuries also participate in competitions. This will not help us. This will have to be arrested. 99 per cent of the time, we may have to address issues for the athlete, but 1 per cent of the issues, the athlete also will have to address. Discipline is very important. There will be zero tolerance for unauthorized absence from now. This can mean expulsion from the camp. The system cannot work without discipline.

On public-private partnerships

At the foundation level, it may be unrealistic to expect too much private investment. We have the school level, university level, league and club level, then decent amateur performance and then the commercial part of it through private funding. To expect that the transformation will be driven by private investment...I have my doubts. There may be some CSR here and there but that cannot impact the nation. It has to come into the school education system if it has to impact the nation. Then naturally a sports culture develops. There has to be a lot of social investment.

Municipalities will have to consciously think about open space management. Is there an open space concept in the municipal corporation? Do they realise that human beings require open space? Is play also a worthy purpose? We have to think of all this.

If you really look at it, India is not deficient in infrastructure. It is the utilisation of infrastructure that is the issue. There’s so much infrastructure with the SAI, state governments, the defence, the PSUs...a lot of it. You have to open it up.

On what we can expect from the task force for the next three Olympics

The task force is a group of eminent people. They have to talk to all stakeholders and come up with sharp reactions and analysis. It should help certainly. More than anything, a task force of reputed athletes in each sport will show our seriousness and it will help SAI and others push certain reforms. To think that the task force will lead to more medals is not real. It’s the facilitator. Federations and others have to also come in. The state governments have to play a big role. Not many have a vision for Olympics as of now. We have a dozen states who are self-sufficient and on par with small countries. This dependence on SAI and National Sports Federations won’t work. They are important players but not the deciders of everything.