After getting bad press on more than one count since 2016 summer, an ‘elite’ private school in Srinagar, along with a government college in volatile south Kashmir that hogged headlines after it became the flashpoint of students’ protest in Kashmir early this year, has received as much Rs 88 lakh under one government of India sports scheme meant to “wean valley youth out of stone pelting.”
Official documents in possession of Free Press Kashmir reveal that two among the nine beneficiaries, Delhi Public School, Srinagar and Degree College, Pulwama, during 2016-17, received Rs 68 lakh and Rs 20 lakh respectively.
The money was one tranche of Rs 4.17 crore of expenditure made during the period under Khelo India, a 100 percent centrally-sponsored sports programme.
The figures surfaced in the 132nd meeting of the Standing Committee of J&K State Sports Council held on May 15 at 12:30 pm inside Committee Room (IV) in Civil Secretariat, Srinagar.
Chaired by Sports Minister Imran Ansari, the major attendees of the meeting included Commissioner Secretary Finance Navin Chowdhary and Secretary J&K Sports Council Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra.
The Committee, as per the minutes of the meeting accessed by Free Press Kashmir, “confirmed the action taken in implementing the Khelo India Programme during 2016-17 with the total expenditure of Rs 4,17,98,792”.
Among the nine beneficiaries, who were party to implementing the programme and had received the funds, Delhi Public School (DPS) stood out at number 3 with Rs 68 lakh appropriated to it, while the Pulwama College showed up at number 9 with its Rs 20 lakh.
The rest of the seven beneficiaries, the minutes of the meeting show, included Sports Office (Kashmir), Sports Office (Jammu), J&K Football Association, J&K Wushu Association, DC Leh, DC Kargil, and State Cricket Academy.
Interestingly, Leh and Kargil received only Rs 5 lakhs under the scheme, far lesser than what DPS alone got.
Secretary Sports Council, the minutes added, informed the committee that “as agreed by the Government of India vide communication no: 3-19/MYAS/Khelo India/2016/4361 dated 18.11.2016, cricket has been incorporated as a special discipline for Khelo India activities in the state to wean away youth from stone pelting and antisocial activities”.
He also added that DPS had “expended funds mostly on cricket in current financial year as per the details provided by them”.
Corroborating what the meeting revealed, DPS, in March had begun organising a junior cricket championship for boys in the category U-17. They had tied up with the State Sports Council for the event which intended to conduct more than 300 matches in which 320 teams, consisting of 4800 players, hailing from every nook and corner of the Valley, were supposed to take part.
Principal DPS Srinagar Balasubramanian Murli confirmed that the school had conducted several matches under the Khelo India programme.
“We conducted the inter-district cricket tournament in collaboration with the State Sports Council, however, I am not aware how much money they have given us,” said Murli.
DPS was made a party to the programme and received funds even as the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, as per their official report concerning Khelo India, clearly says that “only school, colleges, and universities under central/state governments are eligible to receive assistance”.
Former Principal Degree College Pulwama, Prof Abdul Hamid Sheikh accepted that the institute received Rs 20 lakh under Khelo India.
“We have spent most of the money,” he said.
On the scheme being introduced to wean youth away from stone pelting, the Principal said that he was “not concerned about the motives of it”.
“What I can say is that the programme was good for the college and the students,” he said.
Secretary J&K Sports Council Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra was not available for his comments despite repeated attempts to reach him.
A source in the Council, however, said that he was “busy conducting cricket matches under the same scheme”.
Both DPS and Degree College Pulwama have been lately in news for reasons other than academics.
In April, the entering of army vehicle in Degree College Pulwama and the subsequent protests by students triggered a wave of student demonstrations and clashes that took the state as well as the central governments by surprise.
In May, J&K Governor NN Vohra had even met Vijay Dhar, president of the DP Dhar Memorial Trust which runs the DPS school, in the backdrop of the seemingly unending student protests then.
For DPS Srinagar, it was also in news in June when a brief encounter took place inside its premises ending with the killing of the two militants. Also, last Sunday, Lt Gen J S Sandhu, Chinar Corps Commander inaugurated a computer museum at the school.