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Dhyanchand National Stadium: National Stadium no-entry zone for players as MHA moves in | India News

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NEW DELHI: Rented out to the Union home ministry recently, the historic Major Dhyanchand National Stadium building has become off limits for hockey academy players and youngsters coming to the complex under the government’s ‘comeand-play’ scheme.

The players can use practice grounds outside the main stadium but have no access to the interiors. Unable to use washrooms, male athletes are forced to change in the open, behind trees or in the parking lot. Female athletes have to make do with filthy toilets outside the main building.

TOI visited the main building and found washrooms on the first and second floors locked. Getting into the stadium itself was a challenge with security personnel manning entry and exit points.

Sports ministry wants the National Stadium back

Situated in the heart of the capital, the stadium is hockey’s sanctum sanctorum and hosted the first Asian Gamesin 1951. IthousestheNational Hockey Academy, and has played host to several international tournaments. It also caters to the young enthusiasts coming for hockey, cricket, kabaddi and lawn tennisunder the government’s ‘come-and-play’. However, a turf war is brewing at this historic sports hub. Rented out by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to the home ministry (MHA) recently – at Rs 4 crore per annum – to meet rising expensesfor theupkeep of thefacility, the stadium has virtually turned into a fortress, with heavy deployment of paramilitary personnel. With the MHA having set up different departmental wings in the main building, which also has the officeof SAI’s stadia in-charge AKBansal and hisstaff, theentire complex has been converted into a ‘no-entry zone’ for the academy students and come-and-play participants.

Pushed to the fringes on its own turf, the sports ministry nowwantsthestadium backto be used for the purpose it has been originally built for. The ministry has requested the MHA to vacate the building by March end, SAI sources told TOI. At the entrance of the cricket field from gate No.1, outside a small dimly-lit room, which had broken furniture kept inside, TOI saw female athletesstanding guard.

One of the girls said, “Our friends are changing inside, so we are guarding the door which has no latch. Earlier, we usedto go insidethe main building, but thesecurity guys stop us now.”

Upon reaching thetraining site for hockey, one of the two toilets (one each for boys and girls) on the first floor and the other one on the ground floor were locked. When hockey Olympian M P Ganesh, who is the high performance director and CEO of the academy, was approached, he refusedtocomment. “I have nothing to say in this matter, kindly meet Mr Bansal.” It’s learnt that Ganesh had earlier written to then sports minister Vijay Goel to strongly object to the decision . According tosources, the decision was taken during the tenure of Goel and sports secretary Injeti Srinivas. At that time too, Goel was opposed to theidea, sourcessaid.

According to SAI officials,, MHA officials shifted to the stadium from the North Block three-four months back. “MHA people had come here as tenants, nowthey have become the landlords,” a SAI employee attached to Bansal’s staff summedup thesituation.

“We have been issued weekly passesby theMHA. We have been working here for the last10-15 years, but even we are not allowed to enter the building without the pass,” said another employee.

When contacted, Bansal said, “I haven’t come across such aproblem. We have designated separate washrooms for the come-and-play trainees. Don’t believe these kids. I can’t talk much on theissue.”

MHA spokesperson Bharat Bhushan, however, put the blame on SAI. “SAI should issue these athletes proper identity cardssothat they can be allowed to access the building. It was mutually agreedupon between the MHA and the SAI that these athletes would obtain I-cardsfrom SAI.”

Updated: January 24, 2018 — 11:36 pm

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