When Sandeep Tulsi Yadav clinched the bronze medal in Greco-Roman at the Wrestling World Championships in Budapest exactly a month ago, he cemented the status of Sports Authority of India’s Kandivli campus as the nerve centre of wrestling in the city.
However, despite Sandeep’s feat, nothing much has changed at the centre for wrestlers, definitely not the dingy rooms that house the athletes or the repugnant sanitation facilities that they are forced to endure daily.
The hostel building housing the wrestlers, hockey and kabaddi players has 27 rooms — all of which reek of decay and neglect. Each room, roughly 100 sq feet in size, is inhabited by two or three athletes. The athletes can’t recollect when the hostel was last renovated.
Six toilets, 50 users
Besides the small rooms, the six toilets shared by over 50 athletes, are downright squalid. None have taps while their doors have holes. Bathrooms are effectively non-existent.
The structure that houses the bathing cubicles has been shut for reasons unknown, forcing athletes to bathe under taps in the open.
No athlete should live like this, more so athletes of the calibre of Sandeep and his roommate Narsingh Yadav, who was the city’s only Olympian at London 2012 and is also a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
Sandeep, who has spent 13 years here, is now accustomed to the appalling conditions. “We complained a few times but nothing happened. Irrespective of how we perform at the world stage and what medals we win, the conditions here don’t change.
Luckily, Narsingh and I are frequently in Delhi for training camps, so we don’t have to bear this daily,” Sandeep told MiD DAY yesterday.
Jagmal Singh, the centre’s wrestling coach said, “Today we have two athletes winning medals on the world stage (Narsingh & Sandeep), but if facilities are better, tomorrow there will be 10 such athletes.
When athletes from other places hear that the Kandivli SAI centre provides great facilities, they too will come here to train with us.”
Sandeep still hopes for improvement. “The last Deputy Director Virender Bhandarkar was here for 11 years but never bothered to hear our grievances.
But, his successor Mr (Satish) Sarhadi asked us what problems we are facing as soon as he joined (four months ago).
Things can change,” he added. However, change will most likely have to hold its horses until the wrangling over authority is resolved.
The genesis of the problem lies in the agreement between SAI’s Director General and the Director of Sports and Youth Services (Pune) that was signed on August 30, 1989.
According to the agreement (a copy of which is with MiD DAY), the State allotted the land on which the Kandivli campus currently stands, to SAI, but agreed to undertake its maintenance.
The Deputy Director of the Kandivli campus, Sarhadi, claims he is helpless. “We can do basic maintenance work, but we have to take permission from the State Government before undertaking any renovation.
There is so much bureaucracy and red-tapism that we can’t even carry out renovation work under Corporate Social Responsibility.
We had plans to build a new 100-bed hostel for athletes but the State Government wants us to take permission from them for every little thing,” said Sarhadi.
The Deputy Director of Sports and Youth Affairs, Mumbai division, Anand Venkeshwar remained unavailable for comment. Repeated calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.