NEW DELHI, May 26: The Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday directed all the state-run sports facilities in the national capital to stay open for training the sports persons till 10 in the night every day after a local newspaper brought out a sensational disclosure that athletes in one of the stadiums was being forced to empty out early to facilitate a top bureaucrat to walk his dog.
The chief minister intervened within hours of the newspaper report that for the last few months sports persons and their coaches training at Delhi’s Thyagraj stadium ad been forced to wrap up their activities by 7 P.M. because Delhi’s Principal Secretary (Revenue) Sanjeev Khirwar walks his dog at the facility about 30 minutes later.
Built for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, the centrally located sporting complex is a multi-discipline facility that attracts national and state athletes, and footballers. But for the last few months the trainees and coaches had been complaining that the stadium was being closed for sports activities earlier than usual to facilitate the top bureaucrat’s dog.
“We used to train till 8-8.30 pm under lights earlier. But now, we are asked to leave the ground by 7 pm so that the officer can walk his dog on the ground. Our training and practice routine has been disrupted,” the newspaper quoted a coach.
The bureaucrat, however, described the allegation as “absolutely incorrect” though he admitted that he “sometimes” take his pet for a walk at the facility but denied that it disrupted the practice routine of athletes. Khirwar said: “I would never ask an athlete to leave the stadium that belongs to them. Even if I visit, I go after the stadium is supposed to close…We don’t leave him (the pet) on the track…when no one is around we leave him but never at the cost of any athlete. If it’s something objectionable, I will stop it.”
The newspaper kept a watch on three consecutive evenings on the stadium and found the allegation to be true. Its correspondents saw the stadium guards walking towards the track at around 6.30 pm, blowing whistles and ensuring that the arena was cleared by 7 pm and some half an hour later the bureaucrat entering the facility with his dog as the guards keep a watch.
Stadium administrator Ajit Chaudhary said the official timing in the evening was 4-6 pm but “considering the heat” they allow athletes to train until 7 pm. Chaudhary, however, did not share any official order specifying the timing. He said he wasn’t aware of any government official using the facilities after 7 pm. “We have to close by 7 pm. You can find the government office timings anywhere. This (stadium) is also a government office under the Delhi government. I am not aware of any such thing (an official using the facilities to walk his dog). I leave the stadium by 7 pm and I am not aware,” Chaudhary said.
Tagging the report, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said in a tweet: “News reports have brought to our notice that certain sports facilities are being closed early causing inconvenience to sportsmen who wish to play till late nite. CM @ArvindKejriwal has directed that all Delhi Govt sports facilities stay open for sportsmen till 10 pm.”
Union minister Kaushal Kishore called it a misuse of authority and demanded an apology from the officer. “It’s shameful that sportspersons have to empty the stadium premises because an IAS officer wants to walk with his dog. The officer should apologise. This is a misuse of his authority.”
Several athletes said they have shifted their training to Sports Authority of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, just 3 km away, where floodlights are on after 7.30 pm. “Children train here till 8.30 pm under the lights. Now, during the summer break, we run out of space in the practice area since the main stadium track is still under renovation,” said a coach at JLN stadium.