CHENNAI: It was just last month when a BSF jawan posted a video showing the kind of food they are being served.
The story of athletes at some of the Sports Authority of India centres too has the same narrative. Recently, there have been complaints about the quality of food served in the mess and also a lower-than-sanctioned supply of dry fruits, fruits and packaged juices.
Sample this. If junior athletes are to be believed, aspiring athletes in a SAI sports hostel get half of their allotted quota of dry fruits.
Also, if one is to get two apples a day, he or she gets one. Many say instead of the allocation of different types of fruits, all they get is a banana as part of breakfast! The case of packaged juice is interesting. Athletes are supposed to get fresh juice but because of cost contractors/officials in some centres get tetra packs that are not as healthy.
Well, this is happening more in junior camps — SAI Training Centres, Centres of Excellence and even Special Area Games. There have been allegations that not just food, even the equipment they get is sub-standard. Lack of money may not be a reason as an STC athlete gets around Rs 225 per day. It is Rs 275-300 per day for CoE athletes (14-18 years of age) for food. For power events, where nutrition requirement is more, athletes get more.
Apparently, such practices depend on individuals running the centres. Juniors at times send letters to SAI officials to bring these inadequacies to their attention, but most of these are anonymous for fear of punishment, even eviction from camps.
Senior athletes in the national camps and bigger centres, however, do not have much of a problem. It has been learnt the sports ministry has set up a committee to audit such discrepancies and ensure quality food is provided.
A senior sports ministry official said there have been complaints on and off, but in the last few weeks, there have been a few too. “We have been checking them. But the problem is, most of these are anonymous,” said the top official.
About poor quality food, if any, he said that most of the smaller centres do not have their own kitchen because the SAI has stopped recruiting cooks and helpers. Canteens are managed by contractors. “We keep a check on the contractors too, but sometimes they may hoodwink us,” said an official.
However, the official said the ministry is planning a mechanism to check these. The ministry has asked Quality Council of India to evaluate around 18 SAI centres so that they can adhere to a standard in quality, including food. This will help plug the leaks, especially those in remote areas.