The Assistant Secretary of the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI), Vasavan Kunnappata had served the national federation for 36 years and was widely known for his efficient work.
Yet, he retired as a bitter man in May 2022 as he was not paid a salary by the Sports Ministry for 23 months, from July 2020.
In all the National sports federations, the appointment of the Assistant Secretary is ratified by the Sports Ministry which pays the salary.
The Assistant Secretary plays a key role in office administration, and liaison with government, SAI, IOA, other government departments, Embassies etc.
The role also involves ensuring all work related to the participation of Indian teams abroad, including national and international competitions held within the country, including the formalities related to visiting teams.
“After serving an organisation for 36 years, going home empty-handed is an injustice to an employee. Kindly intervene and do the needful to release the outstanding salary. There are no other facilities like Provident Fund (PF), gratuity or pension for the Assistant Secretaries, serving the National Sports Federations. Since the employing authority is the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, it is the responsibility of the Ministry to release the salary of its employee”, wrote Vasavan to the Director General of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), with copies to the Ministry and VFI.
To date, there has been no positive response from the government to the pending salary of Rs.20,32,576. There is no element of interest added to it. “After serving for 36 years, there was no farewell or no retirement benefits. Despite repeated reminders, the salary has not been released”, said Vasavan, back home in Kannur, Kerala, unable to bear the cost of living in the Capital.
The problem started when the Sports Ministry withdrew recognition of VFI in June 2020, along with that of many other national federations. “The salary stopped abruptly from July 2020. There was no notice or any intimation then, till now”, Vasavan pointed out.
Vasavan continued to execute all the work during the period, in terms of the conduct of many national and international events, selection of teams etc. He was also deputed by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), as its representative, from July 2021, to ensure various volleyball activities across the country and be responsible for selecting teams to represent the country in various international competitions.
The IOA wrote categorically that it was extending the services of Vasavan till the Ministry revived the annual recognition of the VFI and sought his salary from the government, but to no avail.
There was also a provision for the SAI to utilise the services of the assistant secretary whenever a national federation was de-recognised and thus pay his salary directly.
However, in October 2022, the SAI dismissed the case, five months after the retirement of Vasavan, with a letter, stating that he did not report to SAI and that it had not utilised his services for the entire period.
To complicate matters, the VFI was helpless, as its account had been frozen as per court order because the federation had not paid Rs.6.5 crore to the concerned party following a breach of contract in the conduct of the volleyball league, PVL. “From 2020, I did all VFI activities, spending money from my pocket. I was the IOA representative for selecting various teams. I travelled to Bhubaneswar, Pondicherry and other parts of India several times. Two teams qualified for the World Championships. Nobody paid my travel and daily allowances for all these tours. I have become bankrupt. A huge loan is outstanding. This is what I have got after serving 36 years in VFI”, said Vasavan.
On its part, VFI did acknowledge Vasavan’s good work and resolved to fight for his salary with the government. But for that to happen, the VFI needs to have its election conducted by the ad-hoc committee.
Already, volleyball has lost out on participation in the National Games in Goa owing to the delay in the election. The game and the players suffer in multiple ways in the absence of government recognition.
The case of Vasavan is just one example, and the tip of the iceberg, of sports governance in the country.
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