A Dalit man on September 26 staged a sit-in along with his four children at the Siddharth Nagar district magistrate’s office, protesting against the alleged ouster of his children from the school for his inability to pay fees.The father, Shiv Kumar, told reporters that the Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir at Shohratgarh area in Siddharth Nagar ousted his children, Viraj (4), Yuvraj (8), Jyoti (10) and Chanchal (14) on August 30 for not paying the school fees. He said the school principal even made casteist remarks against him when he met him to explain his inability to pay the fees.“I also went to the police but my they did not register my complaint,” he said, adding he also wrote to the district magistrate and to Basic Education Minister Satish Dwivedi apprising them of the cancellation of his children’s admission from the school.“If my children do not get justice, I will sit on fast unto death,” he saidAsked about the incident, Basic Education Minister Satish Dwivedi told reporters that he would speak to the district magistrate on the issue and take requisite action, if the school administration is found guilty.
The Talkatora diving pool: Financial burdenOnce they resounded to the cheers of packed crowds. Today, the stadia built at such enormous expense for the IX Asiad are echoingly empty, and maintenance expenditure estimated at half the country’s sports budget for the year is being used up to keep them in,The Talkatora diving pool: Financial burdenOnce they resounded to the cheers of packed crowds. Today, the stadia built at such enormous expense for the IX Asiad are echoingly empty, and maintenance expenditure estimated at half the country’s sports budget for the year is being used up to keep them in perfect condition – and idle.Last fortnight, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium – 75,000 seats and 641 rooms spread over 110 acres was used for the first time since the November Games when veteran Asian athletes sweated on the track with only a couple of hundred spectators in the stands.The fully air-conditioned Indraprastha Indoor Stadium, which can seat 25,000, has been used for just one sports meet by the Taekwondo Sports Federation for two days in February. The Talkatora pool complex has been lifeless since December 1982.Perhaps the most pathetic plight is that of the Talkatora pool, where not a single swimmer has turned up since the Games. Says Satya Narayana, chief engineer, New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) and in charge of the complex: “For two weeks after the Games we kept the water heated hoping that someone would come to use it. But no one did.” The heating has been turned off but the water continues to be filtered.When the capital’s most popular football tournaments – the DCM and the Durand – were held some time ago, the venue continued to be the Ambedkar Stadium (capacity: 18,000) rather than the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium where the Asiad football matches were held. A spokesman for the Sports Department said that this was because the fans would have had “transport problems”.advertisement Says R.K.Gupta, president of the Delhi Football Association: “What to talk of using the Nehru Stadium, after the Asiad renovation of the Ambedkar Stadium the rates have been hiked here as well, making it impossible to use it for the football league matches as in the past.”High Charges: One reason for the empty stadia is the forbidding rates. At present, only the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which built the Rs 26 crore indoor stadium and now runs it, has fixed rates for its charge: sports bodies must pay Rs 39,000 per day in summer and Rs 15,000 per day in winter; government agencies and charitable organisations Rs 1 lakh per day in summer and Rs 76,000 per day in winter, commercial organisations Rs 1.52 lakh per day in summer and Rs 1.28 lakh per day in winter.The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium: High maintenance costsThe DDA engineer in charge of the stadium considers these rates reasonable; says he: “If you consider my indirect costs which include interest rates at 10 per cent and depreciation at 2 per cent then the costs work out to Rs 2.5 crore a year.To break even on my indirect costs I would have to charge Rs 1.25 lakh a day; if you add direct charges then it becomes necessary to charge Rs 2 lakh a day.” He says that the stadium’s maintenance costs work out to around Rs 50 lakh a year and electricity and water charges to another Rs 40 lakh. Forty people in three shifts look after the security – the contract has been given to a private firm.With such high maintenance costs the rates have to be high, although the DDA has thoughtfully offered half-rates to those using only half the stadium. But so far, there have been few takers. Besides the Taekwondo Sports Federation, six non-sports bodies have hired the hall, three of them for film star ‘nite’ shows.Asks V.K. Malhotra, president of the Indian Archery Federation: “With rates as high as these, which sports federation would think of using the stadium?” The steep rates for users not connected with sports also make it unlikely that there will ever be regular bookings.The chief engineer notes that whether the stadium is used or not a minimum charge has in any case to be paid to the electricity undertaking as the stadium consumes 6,000 kw in summer and 1,500 kw in winter when in full use.Another reason why the stadia are unused is that the equipment and playing area are considered too sophisticated to be used by all comers. The National Stadium was refitted with astroturf which requires a special watering system; says K. Basu, director, maintenance, Special Organising Committee (SOC): “Ordinary teams can’t be allowed to use astroturf. It is like giving a sitar meant for Ravi Shankar to a fresher.”A spokesman for the Sports Department says: “The organisers of the hockey nationals held recently in Meerut did not ask for the ground, perhaps because it would have meant the use of special shoes, special balls and more stamina would have been required. But the astroturf has been used for the Indian women’s hockey team practice matches.”advertisementIn the same way, joggers, athletes and gymnasts cannot use the Nehru Stadium. Observes S.K. Chawla of the Central Public Works Department (CPWD), superintending engineer of the stadium: “It would be a security risk and in any case one has to ensure that special shoes with spikes no more than 6 mm long are used so that the tracks are not spoilt.” The Delhi University grounds were enclosed within a tall fence for the handball and archery events – not very popular sports in India – and are now out of bounds to the joggers and gymnasts who used the grounds in the past.Swollen Costs: But the stadia have to be kept in condition whether they are used or not. Chawla estimates that the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium would cost about Rs 65 lakh a year to maintain, assuming that it will be in active use 120 days in a year.He explains that when the stadium” is in use, expense on electricity, water and staff increases enormously – often, extra staff has to be recruited. Not included in the estimate are the 80 men of the Central Reserve Police Force who guard vital installations such as the lighting towers, the public address system and the score-board.In fact, Sports Minister Buta Singh, replying to a question in Parliament in February, admitted that the maintenance, minus the operational expenses of just the two main stadia and the swimming pools, would work out to Rs 1.2 crore a year. Later, at a sports Ministry meeting on March 2, the caretaker organizations – DDA, CPWD and NDMC – were asked to submit revised estimates for maintaining the stadia according to what a spokesman calls “international standards”. The annual cost of maintenance and limited operational usage then works out about Rs 2.5 crore, for just the big three. If the other Asiad legacies are added, the cost rises to a whopping Rs 3 crore.Big Drain: Compared to national sports budgets, the stadia maintenance costs are staggering. The, national expenditure on sports was just Rs 2.69 crore in 1980 – 81, Rs 3.06 crore in 1981 – 82,and Rs 4.90 crore in 1982 – 83. For the year 1983 – 84 the budget has been hiked to Rs 6.36 crore.The amount allotted for the upkeep of the three sports institutes at Patiala, Bangalore and Calcutta is Rs 3 crore which is about the same as the maintenance cost of the Asiad stadia. As against this, grants to various state sports councils for 1983 – 84 will be around Rs 80 lakh, and grants to national sports federations around Rs 90 lakh.The Government has also to work out the ticklish question of who is to ultimately manage the stadia. At present the agencies that built them are doing the job on the understanding that the expenses will eventually be reimbursed.The SOC, which was in charge of sports grounds during the Asiad, says it is no longer concerned. Says K.S. Bains, additional secretary-general, SOC: “We will be winding up 90 per cent of our operations by the end of March. It is no longer our problem.”advertisementThe hope is that eventually a sports authority will come into being to mother the facilities. But, as the debate continues, it is now clear that when the grey pachyderms from Kerala left Delhi after taking part in the Asian Games ceremonies, they left some spotless white brethren behind.