Khelo India, state budget allocation, Tamil Nadu sports
D Gukesh (right) in action at the Chess Olympiad. Photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

Khelo India budget skewed in favour of BJP states; TN on the backfoot

Most of the non-BJP ruling states, including Tamil Nadu, have just received a meagre allocation under Khelo India scheme; TN, which has announced a slew of initiatives to establish facilities and promote sports, is falling short of funds

The Union government’s budgetary allocation to states under the Khelo India scheme is drawing flak from sports enthusiasts across the country. Answering an unstarred question on August 2 in the Lok Sabha, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports shared data on state-wise budget allocation under the scheme.

The table shows that most of the non-BJP ruling states, including Tamil Nadu, received meagre amounts. Tamil Nadu and Kerala were allocated ₹33 crore and ₹62.74 crore, respectively, for five sanctioned projects each. Andhra Pradesh got ₹33.80 crore for seven projects and Telangana, ₹24.11 crore for six projects.

Maharashtra and Rajasthan are the only non-BJP ruling states to have received over ₹100 crore. Maharashtra (which was a non-BJP state then but is now under the party’s rule) got ₹110.80 crore (13 projects) while Congress-ruled Rajasthan got ₹112.26 crore (45 projects). All the other non-BJP states received two-digit allocations.

BJP-ruling states like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Karnataka snapped up the lion’s share, at ₹608.37 crore (5 projects), ₹503.02 crore (32 projects), ₹183.72 crore (21 projects) and ₹128.52 crore (19 projects), respectively.

The data reveal gross discrepancies between the number of projects sanctioned and the amount allocated for those. This is being widely discussed in the backdrop of the ongoing Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Birmingham and the Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

Also read: Gold Rush at CWG: Boxers Nikhat Zareen, Amit Panghal, Nitu grab maiden medals

High budget, low representation

Haryana (BJP), Punjab (AAP) and Delhi (AAP), which have at least three podium finishers in the individual events of the ongoing CWG, have received allocations of ₹88.89 crore (10 projects), ₹93.71 crore (11 projects) and ₹89.36 crore (for 8 projects), respectively.

It should be noted that Haryana is also the state which sent the highest number of contestants to CWG 2022, with 39 athletes, followed by Punjab with 26, Tamil Nadu 17, Delhi and Maharashtra with 14 athletes each.

However, the states with high allocations sent very few athletes to Birmingham. Gujarat sent a contingent of just five athletes, Uttar Pradesh, 12, Karnataka, 11, and Arunachal Pradesh sent none. Population-wise and resource-wise, smaller states like Assam and Manipur have sent a contingent of seven athletes each. However, though they are BJP-ruled states, they have been allocated a meagre budget of ₹47.68 crore for eight projects and ₹80.85 crore for eight projects, respectively.

Shoe-string budget

It is interesting to note that in the 2022-23 Union Budget, the Centre’s allocation for sports, particularly for the Khelo India scheme, was ₹974 crore, up 48.09 per cent from the budget estimate of 2021-22.

Khelo India

However, in a question raised by DMK Rajya Sabha member P Wilson on August 4, on whether the Centre is looking to sanction an infrastructure project under the Khelo India scheme in the light of recognising the Silambam (a martial art sport using sticks, which is predominantly played in Tamil Nadu) as a national sport, the Sports Ministry’s answer was a terse “no”.

Also read: Chess Olympiad: Gukesh stuns world No. 5 Caruana as India B beats USA

Meanwhile, the spotlight is on Tamil Nadu for successfully conducting an international event like the 44th Chess Olympiad at Mamallapuram. On Tuesday (August 9), the curtains come down on this mega prestigious event.

Aisan Beach Games

In order to maintain the momentum of portraying it as a state that supports sports, the Tamil Nadu government is in the process of getting permissions for conducting the Asian Beach Games in 2024 in Chennai. Besides, it is taking steps to resume the Chennai Open ATP tennis tournament.

In April, Chief Minister MK Stalin made a series of announcements related to developing sports facilities in the state. Besides building an exclusive arena for jallikattu, there are plans to build a small sports stadium in every constituency that has received an allocation of ₹3 crore. He also announced that a modernised boxing complex with an outlay of ₹10 crore will be established in north Chennai, where the game is thriving. 

Also, Olympic Academies in four zones will be set up to create an opportunity for sportspersons to win laurels in national and international games. Above all, the state has allocated separately ₹25 crore to implement the scheme ‘Olympic Gold Quest’ to train sportspersons to win medals in events like the Olympics.

Also read: More sportspersons trained under government schemes in FY21 than FY22

V Siva Meyyanathan, state Minister for Youth Welfare and Sports Development, told The Federal that though the Tamil Nadu government is implementing these initiatives, when Indian sportspersons win medals in international tournaments, it is a pride not only for the state but the entire country.

“For example, in the ongoing CWG, our players have won three gold, two silver and three bronze medals. So, the Union government should not show any kind of disparity in allocating the budget. We will ask the Union minister for sports to release additional funds,” he stressed.

Also watch: Chennai decks up for 44th Chess Olympiad

Khelo India and TN

Talking to The Federal, RR Tharun, a badminton coach at the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu’s Badminton Academy in Chennai, said that even after three years of the academy’s selection as a Khelo India centre for badminton, nothing has been done on the ground.

“We should conduct selection trials and select the players and train them. But, even after  being chosen as Khelo India’s accredited centre, nothing concrete has happened on the ground. A limited budget may be a reason. Not only in Tamil Nadu, but across South India, this is the condition for any game,” he said.

M Sureshkumar, fencing coach at the SPK Sports Academy in Namakkal district, which has been selected as a Khelo India accredited centre for kabaddi and fencing, said that due to lack of funds, Tamil Nadu players join and train in other state academies.

“Fencing is an expensive game. Because of the lack of funds, we are unable to conduct selection trials. With a meagre budget, we cannot provide quality training. Even the association for fencing is not providing good support. So, our players join other state academies,” he said.

It is understandable that the delay in release of funds could be because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. “However, we expect the funds to be released this year and we plan to accommodate players from this academic year,” Sureshkumar added.

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