Jiji Thomson quits as SAI DG, slams government for injustice

Sports Authority of India boss Jiji Thomson has quit with immediate effect citing injustice by the Government over his promotion and the IAS officer says his departure comes at an inopportune time with the Rio Olympics scheduled in mid 2016.

Jiji Thomson quits as SAI DG, slams government for injustice

New Delhi: Sports Authority of India boss Jiji Thomson has quit with immediate effect citing injustice by the Government over his promotion and the IAS officer says his departure comes at an inopportune time with the Rio Olympics scheduled in mid 2016.

Thomson, a 1980 batch IAS officer who took charge of SAI in March 2013, claimed the central government dilly-dallied on his "promised" promotion as Sports Secretary for six months before he finally requested for immediate repatriation to his parent cadre in Kerala on Tuesday. He is expected to take over as Chief Secretary of Kerala on January 31.

"I waited for six months and I have decided no more wastage of time. Despite repeated assurances from the government, nothing happened. May be because I have no patrons in the government. The situation required me to stay in the role at least till the Olympics," an upset Thomson told PTI on Friday.

"What sort of governance is this? If someone is there at the helm of affairs, he should be given adequate time, at least three if not five years, to implement long-term plans." he said.

"The Olympics are one year six months away and this time a change of guard at the helm of affairs will surely be injurious, whether it is me or someone else," said the outgoing SAI Director General, adding that Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal tried his best to facilitate his promotion but was not able to do so.

Though Thomson swiftly dealt with issues at SAI more often than not, it is suspected that a pending court case against him in Kerala went against him in his promotion.

He was one of the many accused in the palmolein oil import scam dating back to 1991 when he was a director at the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation. The first accused in the case was former Kerala Chief Minister K. Karunakaran.

"I got an order from the Kerala High Court in July. The court clearly said pendency should not be held against an IAS officer while giving him promotion if he is eligible. It has been 25 years and the Government of India has not even sanctioned the prosecution and the state government also dropped me from the accused list last year," said Thomson.

Talking about his SAI stint, Thomson lamented the lack of planning in the Indian sports scene.

"The main problem in India is not the lack of infrastructure. You have enough infrastructure all around the country but it is lying unused. You have this beautiful infrastructure created for National Games every four years and it is all lying unused. Therefore is the lack of planning that is hurting India most," he said.

Thomson said India can't become a sporting nation unless it pays attention to the grassroots.

"You need long-term vision for the development of sports in the country and here in India that never happens. We are always training the elite athletes. SAI trains athletes after they have already become a name to reckon with.

"The Prime Minister wants more than one lakh in the sports mainstream whereas today I have only 10000 athletes at various SAI centres in the country.

"If this has to increase to one lakh people, we need to aim for three to four lakh athletes and from there we pick one lakh. The next step would be about their training. Where do they train?" asked Thomson.

He said SAI could train only 10,000 to 15,000 athletes at its centres.

"SAI can only train to 10,000 to 15,000. Where will the rest go. They will have to taken by private academies or state governments. And there are only five or six states serious about sports.

"At the end of the day we are a nation of one billion and we are training only 10,000 people. Then you say you want to become a sporting power by 2020, it is nonsense. All this calls for longterm planning and a longer tenure for the man at the helm of affairs," said Thomson.

He criticised the fifty plus national sports federations and the Indian Olympic Association for not doing enough. He also said sports budget needs to increase substantially.

"For a country of India's size, Rs 300 crore is pittance. You need to have at least Rs 1000 crore to begin with. And you need someone in charge for a long period of time to implement all plans.

"You remove SAI from the Indians sports scene, what is left? It is only the BCCI. Most of the federations are doing nothing to promote support at the junior level. They have no interest in long-term planning, their officials are only interested in the next competition abroad, to have fun and come back.

"What is IOA doing? It is not taking any initiative for development of sports. Everything is left to the government and SAI," said Thomson.

SAI has been allocated Rs 405.10 crore this financial year, compared to Rs 320.45 crore it received the previous year.  

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