RTI Act: Sports Authority of India Reply on RTI filed against Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)
To improve India’s performance at the Olympics and Paralympics, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) started the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) in September 2014. This was revamped in April 2018 to establish a technical support team for managing the TOPS athletes and providing holistic support. The scheme is fully functional and has been extending all requisite support to probable athletes identified for the 2020 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, including foreign training, international competition, equipment and coaching camp beside a monthly stipend of Rs. 50,000/- for each athlete.[i]
TOPS (Target Olympic Podium Scheme) is a flagship program of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports that attempts to assist India’s top athletes. The Scheme looks to add a premium to the preparations of these athletes so that they can win medals in the Olympics. The Scheme currently supports 104 TOPS Core Group athletes across 13 sports disciplines & Hockey (M & W) teams and 269 TOPS Development Group athletes across 12 sports disciplines.[ii]
The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports appoints TOPS members to ensure representation from ‘High-Priority’ sports (Archery, Badminton, Boxing, Hockey, Shooting and Wrestling). The total members of the committee are to be decided by MYAS.TOPS constitution does not stipulate minimum/maximum members for the committee. The first committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Shri. Anurag Thakur (MP) and comprised of eminent athletes (Pulella Gopichand, Rahul Dravid, Abhinav Bindra, and Manisha Malhotra) and sports administrators from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the MYAS [DG SAI and JS (Sports).[iii]
TOPS scheme has a subjective criterion of selection and shortlisting. The scheme primer document and other relative documentation do not specify the mechanism of selecting and deregistering athletes under the scheme. In addition, the amount of disbursement also differs based on athletes, federations and the concerned sport. Statistics related to the TOPS scheme were also rarely available over the internet.
To provide credible information related to the TOPS scheme and registered athletes to interested stakeholders, the Extra-Cover team recently filed an RTI with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and Sports Authority of India. MYAS and SAI were kind enough to provide complete end-to-end data on the selection criteria, registered athletes, and the scheme's disbursement.
For the reference of the interested parties, the RTI subjected SAI to primarily three significant questions:
What are the criteria for athletes' inclusion, rejection, and continued enrolment under the TOP Scheme?
A list of qualified Athletes who have been enrolled under the scheme to date with the year-wise allotted disbursement, including athletes who have been de-registered from the system?
Why has the authority and ministry failed to provide a reasonable criterion for the inclusion and rejection of athletes under the TOP Scheme?
The reply from the Sports Authority of India has been produced verbatim below.
[i] Information on the TOP Scheme, Sports Authority of India, https://sportsauthorityofindia.gov.in/sai/target-olympic-podium (Last visited August 24th 2022). [ii] Ibid. [iii] Ibid.