Sports minister orders inquiry into vanishing of sports items worth Rs1 crore

Sad state of affairs
High-end imported athletic equipment were damaged due to poor maintenance.

Malappuram: Sports Minister E P Jayarajan on Tuesday instructed the director of Sports and Youth Affairs to probe the alleged disappearance of sports equipment and other logistics worth Rs 1 crore that were purchased for the 35th National Games hosted by Kerala in 2015.

The official has also been asked to submit a detailed report within two days.

The minister initiated the action taking cognizance of a report published by Malayala Manorama the other day which brought the issue to light. 

High-end imported athletic equipment that were reported missing from the custody of Kerala State Sports Council (KSSC) included javelins, hurdles and starting blocks. 

Meanwhile, officials attached to the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs repeated their claims that all the athletic accessories procured for the National Games had been handed over to the KSSC and affiliated associations soon after the conclusion of the biennial event. 

The National Games Secretariat, the nodal agency formed by the state government for organising the games, had also confirmed that the articles in question worth about Rs 1.5 crore were in KSSC's possession. 

However, in reply to an RTI query, the Council stated that the sports items given to it were worth only Rs 50 lakh and it had no information of the equipment that were reported 'missing' and 'non-traceable'.

With the KSSC's response kicking up a controversy, the authorities concerned have started conducting stock audits at district sports councils and hostels across the state. 

Monumental neglect 

The current state of the sports equipment worth Rs 50 lakh that were claimed to be kept in 'safe' custody of State Sports Council as per the RTI reply, however, stands testimony to the criminal neglect and lackadaisical approach of the authorities. 

A spot visit by the photographers of Malayala Manorama revealed the shambolic state that the sporting facilities are in today.

The two imported boxing rings worth about Rs 10 lakh each lie unused, quietly decaying behind locked doors at the Sreepadam Stadium in Attingal, one of the venues of the 2015 National Games. 

Boxing rings at Sreepadam Stadium in Attingal
Boxing rings at Sreepadam Stadium in Attingal.

After the games, they were given away to the sports hostel and the Operation Olympia project. Foam mattresses of both rings were found to be partly torn and tattered, rendering them unusable. 

The Sreepadam Stadium is said to be the 'warehouse' of the State Sports Council. KSSC officials claim that all the sports equipment in their custody are kept safely there. However, one can only spot broken and rusted hurdles lying scattered. Surprisingly, the high jump bed is in good condition. As per the RTI reply, sports equipment worth Rs 15 lakh had been shifted to this venue after the Games. But that was not to be.

Mats worth Rs 30 lakh bought for Kabaddi, judo and kho-kho events of the National Games were also seen at the storeroom of the Sreepadam Stadium. Lying unused for several years, they were in perfect condition. But does keeping them neat and clean serve the intended purpose?

Rs 10 lakh goes down the drain

One pole vault landing mat and a high jump bed used for the National Games, that are currently at the Kozhikode Medical College Stadium, tell another tale of neglect. Cobwebs and dust cover almost every inch of the high-end equipment that were brought here for the 2016 State Schools Athletic Meet. The high jump bed cost around Rs 4 lakh while approximately Rs 6 lakh was spent on the pole vault landing mat. 

High jump bed

A heavy liability

If the authorities concerned are to be believed, weightlifting equipment worth Rs 78 lakh used for the National Games were shifted to the VKN Menon Indoor Stadium in Thrissur five years ago. Most of these expensive bars and discs are now left to suffer wear and tear due to shoddy maintenance and upkeep. It was learnt that one of the three sets of a lifting item had been taken to Kannur long back, but the officials here had no idea when and how that happened!

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