SAI Bengaluru: Zero tolerance for sexual harassment

Fifteen months ago, the SAI Southern Centre in Bengaluru had been rocked by a case of alleged molestation, with a senior kabaddi coach accused of misbehaving with a young pupil.

SAI Southern Centre Senior Director Capt. Ajay Kumar Bahl accepts a rose from a young girl on the occasion of National Girl Child Day in Bengaluru.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT


A week after it emerged that over 40 complaints of sexual harassment had been reported at Sports Authority of India campuses across the country over the last decade, the SAI Southern Centre here reiterated that it had a zero-tolerance approach to such incidents. On Friday, the SAI observed National Girl Child Day, organising a 'walkathon', a lecture on sexual harassment and a self-defence demonstration class.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Capt. Ajay Kumar Bahl from the Indian Navy, Senior Director, SAI, stressed that spreading awareness and education was the way forward.

"What happened in the past is out of my purview. How we are proceeding now is what I can tell you. We are pursuing a three-pronged approach -- creating awareness, educating them, and then creating physical barriers. We are having education programmes – frequent lectures, classes etc. Anyone who comes in is told that there is zero tolerance to sexual harassment. Even intentions of that kind will not be tolerated. What actions you will take comes afterwards. Once you get this message to penetrate society, the chances of such incidents become low," he said.

Fifteen months ago, the SAI Southern Centre here had also been rocked by a case of alleged molestation, with a senior kabaddi coach accused of misbehaving with a young pupil. Male coaches were being given strict instructions, stated Capt. Bahl. "A coach should know about the extent to which he can go. Because there are few sports like wrestling and boxing which are combat sports. A certain amount of contact will be there. But if a girl or a kid knows the difference between a bad touch and a good touch, they are aware. And now we can put cameras everywhere. So you have to educate them, keep them under surveillance and finally it has to grow into the society," he said.

Young female athletes did not have to withhold complaints against coaches for fear of their careers being jeopardised, Capt. Bahl stated. A project to install complaint boxes – with no camera surveillance in the area, guaranteeing anonymity – is already under way. “There has to be that kind of a confidence where she says an individual (coach) doesn't make the system,” he said. “The onus lies on the hierarchy of the system. We have to safeguard the interest of the athlete."

Athletics track

There was a proposal to renovate the track and field area at the SAI South Centre here, Capt. Bahl revealed. "We have proposed it to the DG and it is taking shape. It has to have a track, a sand-pit, throwing areas. A multi-gym is also planned. It will take time. Expert agencies are involved. As of now, it is at a conceptual stage, but I do not think it will take more than six months or so to start work."

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