New Delhi: Athletes who have often suffered from administrative high-handedness in Indian sports have welcomed the government`s move to credit their daily allowances to their bank accounts.
Sports Authority of India (SAI) Director General Jiji Thomson has said that allowances for athletes going overseas for training and competitions will from now on be directly credited to their bank accounts instead of being routed through officials of the federation concerned.
"If this is true, it is great news for the athletes. Though I have been going overseas with the Indian team for a decade, only a couple of years ago I found out that we were entitled to $25 per day on tours. Shockingly, we used to get paid $50 for the entire trip," a top international archer told, not wanting to be named.
On their part, the federations say the SAI step doesn`t mean much to them.
"It is good that the government will be directly paying the athletes. They money issue becomes totally their responsibility now," Indian Boxing Federation president Abhishek Matoria told IANS.
Dhanraj Choudhary, secretary general of the Table Tennis Federation of India, said: "The federation will not gain by cheating athletes by withholding their full entitlement of the DA money. In fact it makes our job easier that they will be paid directly."
Athletes get $100 per day on Europe and America tours for their board, lodging and other incidental expenses. Twentyfive percent of this is actually pocket money. The entitlement is $75 for other countries.
"Whenever we asked for our daily allowance, the federation official used to say that the money had not been received from SAI and we would get it later, adding that `why do you need anything when your food and stay are taken care of by us?`," said the archer.
By the time he became a senior in the team, the marksman saw the juniors getting similar treatment.
"I have seen the officials giving Rs. 500 to juniors as pocket money for the tour. Nobody dared to ask them anything."
Interestingly, the archer revealed that the contingent got the stipulated amount during his last two visits as the Archery Association of India (AAI) had no role to play.
"I suppose this happened because the AAI is derecognised by the sports ministry and a SAI official travelled with the team," the archer added.
Dipika Pallikal, the first Indian squash player to break into the world`s top 10, said SAI`s decision is the right one.
"Being a professional, I don`t have to deal with my federation. I make arrangements for all my WSA tour events. It is only for team events that I travel with the national squad. I usually get the money, before or after I come back. But for juniors and other guys who are dependent on the federation, it is great that they will not have to ask for their money as a right," Pallikal told.
The 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist boxer, Akhil Kumar, however, said getting cash in hand may cut both ways: The athletes will get their full money and at the same time, the athletes can also blow it up.
"I would like to believe that it is a good move. We will have to wait and see how it is implemented. In one way, it will improve transparency and on the other, the boys could do anything with the money," said Akhil Kumar.
I`ve always said the person who wins the world championship this year is the person who does the best job on the circuit, but that does not seem the way it is at the moment.