Despite fund-cut, Sports Ministry happy with budget

Sports Ministry chose to highlight the higher percentage of gains

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 and sounded pleased despite the truncated allocation and assured that “there was no dearth of funds for the athletes”.

The latest Union Budget held no reason for joy as the Ministry’s allocation was slashed from ₹2826.92 crore to ₹2,596.14 crore — a decrease of over 8%. However, Sports Secretary Ravi Mittal went to the extent of saying, “We are very happy with the budget.”

Rijiju spoke at a hurriedly organised media conference on the sidelines of the inauguration of the FIT India office at Nehru Stadium on Wednesday. This interaction was in line with the Government’s directive to all Ministries to brief the media before Feb. 14 about the available funds for the next financial year.

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 was 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 ₹500 crore in 2019-20, at present stood at ₹657.71.

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 ₹500 crore last year to ₹660.41 crore this year. But the Ministry chose to go by the 2019-20 figures of ₹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 ₹245 crore, has been raised to ₹280 crore.

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

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