Baskaran: RSPB's decision to sell its sports facilities is shocking

As Railways looks to monetise 15 sports complexes, V. Baskaran, a former Southern Railway senior sports officer and ex-India hockey captain, is against the move.

File picture of V. Baskaran.   -  The Hindu

Railway Sports Promotion Board’s (RSPB) decision to sell its sports facilities and entrusting that responsibility to Railway Land Development Authority (RLDA) is shocking to say the least. The given reason - “techno economic services for commercial development” - puzzles me to no end.

How the Railway General Managers will kickstart the exalting mission of changing the ecosystem of the existing ground/stadia with such great facilities in almost 50 popular sports and games is something I fail to understand.

There is no vacant area in any of the stadiums for RLDA to invest in the ecosystem. All this at whose cost? You mean to say RLDA will destroy the stadiums and turn them into commercial complexes and that will improve the financial crunch on the Railways?

As far as I know, there cannot be any commercial development/shops or private bodies that can encroach on the stadiums.

Few of the cricket stadiums in India, owned by the respective associations, are on lease on the condition that they won't make money for other commercial purpose. There is an existing rule in this regard.

Railways are the premier sports promoters with a huge history of recruiting sportspersons, who have made the country proud at various international events across the globe. Will it mean that RSPB would cease to function?

Most of the Padma and Arjuna awardees are all products of RSPB. The Railways’ sportspersons also have a rich tradition of winning medals in the Olympics, World Cup, Commonwealth and Asian Games etc.

For years, Railways has provided good training facilities to all top sportspersons.

Interestingly, most of the women players in the current Indian hockey team are from Railways. If you take any sport such as cricket, basketball, volleyball, boxing, athletics and kabaddi, a significant portion of players would be from Railways.

Finally, RSPB is financially sound due to the systems in place. Railways employees contribute certain funds (staff benefit fund). I only hope GMs raise this point. On one hand, the Sports Ministry talks about the FIT India movement, while on the other, RSPB is trying to ruin the existing sports ecosystem.

Mr. Kiren Rijiju, our Union Sports Minister, is aiming for more than 24 medals in 2028 Olympics. But with the decision of RSPB, one wonders how will that be possible. I strongly feel the Union Sports Minister should put an end to all this.

(As told to K. Keerthivasan)

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