Despite fund-cut, Sports Ministry happy with the budget

As reported on Tuesday, the latest Union Budget held no reason for joy for the Ministry as its allocation was slashed from 2826.92 crore to Rs. 2,596.14 crore - a decrease of over eight per cent.

Kiren Rijiju

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju chose to compare the figures for 2021-22 with those of 2019-20, and sounded pleased with the figures.   -  Getty Images

Ignoring the budget allocation for the current financial year citing the pandemic, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju chose to compare the figures for 2021-22 with those of 2019-20, sounded pleased despite the truncated allocation and assured, "there was no dearth of funds for the athletes".

As reported on Tuesday, the latest Union Budget held no reason for joy for the Ministry as its allocation was slashed from 2826.92 crore to Rs. 2,596.14 crore - a decrease of over eight per cent. Ironically, Sports Secretary Ravi Mittal went up to the extent of saying, "We are very happy with the budget."

The minister was speaking at a hurriedly-organised media conference on the sidelines of the inauguration of the FIT India office at the Nehru Stadium on Wednesday. This interaction was in line with the government's directive to all Ministries to brief the media about the available funds for the next financial year before February 14.
 

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Leaving no opportunity to strike an optimistic note, the Sports Ministry conveniently left out the “ongoing Covid year” and chose to highlight the higher percentage of gains as reflected in the two-year period.

Shocking were the assertions made in the briefing pertaining to the “increase” in funding for the Khelo India scheme. The Games could not be held last year due to the pandemic. The figures for Khelo India clearly show a massive cut in funds - from 890.42 crore last year to 657.71 this year. But what was highlighted in Wednesday’s briefing was, the allocation which was Rs. 500 crore in 2019-20, at present stood at 657.71 - an increase of 157.71 crore!

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Even the funds meant for Sports Authority of India provided the Ministry a reason to project a higher percentage of increase. Indeed, the funds provided saw an increase from Rs. 500 crore last year to 660.41 crore this year. But the Ministry chose to go by the 2019-20 figures of Rs. 450 crore and projected a higher percentage of raise this year.

However, the Ministry could not make similar projections in the funds meant for National Sports Federations. The allocation, constant for two previous years at Rs. 245 crore, has been raised to Rs. 280 crore.

No doubt, the Ministry can always seek additional funds citing valid reasons during the financial year.