Relief in sight for debt-ridden boat clubs as govt finally sanctions Rs 1 cr grant

Alappuzha: The pulsating snake boat races, starting with the Nehru Trophy in September and drawing to a conclusion with the President’s Trophy Boat Race in December, not only keeps Kerala’s age-old boat racing tradition alive but also pave the way for its booming tourism. However, the snake boat races, once favoured by kings for warfare, are a costly affair, with the participating boat clubs incurring anything over Rs 80 lakhs just to compete in the races.

No wonder then that the state government promised a grant of Rs 1 crore and approved a budget of Rs 2.13 crore for the Nehru Trophy Boat Race held on August 12 in Alappuzha as the season opener. But, even after the passage of over two-and-a-half months, the cash-strapped authorities are yet to hand over the promised assistance, pushing the boat clubs to the brink.

Now finally, there is hope at the end of the tunnel. The Treasury Department has sanctioned the Rs 1 crore grant, though the Nehru Trophy Boat Race Society (NTBRS) is yet to receive the sum.

“We’re told that the treasury at last passed the financial grant last week. But the same couldn’t be transferred to the bank account of the NBTRS due to the bank holidays. We expect to receive the same in a day or two and allocate to the struggling boat clubs this week itself,” said a senior official of the NTBRS.

This time around, the NTBRS executive committee had approved a budget of Rs 2.13 crore, including a 10 per cent hike in both the bonus to boat clubs and the maintenance grant to owners. This included the Rs 1 crore grant expected from the state government. While a sum of Rs 80 lakh was set aside for the bonus, it was decided to provide Rs 15 lakh to the boat clubs towards maintenance expenses.

“We’re yet to receive a lion’s share of the promised grant. We couldn’t fully pay the rowers because of this,” said Ajith Kumar Pisharody, Vice-President of Thalavady Chundan Samiti.

However, it’s not only the big clubs that row snake boats that are yet to get the promised assistance, the small clubs are also facing a similar fate.

“We’re yet to get Rs 65,000 towards bonus and maintenance expenses. We’re constantly in touch with the officials for the last three months,” said Sijo Varghese, president of the club that rowed ‘Chellikadan’ boat that featured in the ‘Thekkanodi’ category in the NBTR.

Meanwhile, the Tourism department is also finding it difficult to pay timely cash prizes in the ongoing CBL edition which has reached the halfway stage.

“We got the cash prizes only that of the first three races (till Kottappuram). The payment with regard to the last four races is pending,” said a member of the United Boat Club, Kainakary, which is rowing the Nadubhagam Chundan in the 13-leg competition, which will conclude with the President’s Trophy Boat Race in Kollam on December 9.

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