While interacting with the Indian para-athlete contingent for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on August 17, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed that 360 Khelo India centres (KIC) have been set up in over 250 districts across India.
"Today 360 'Khelo India Centers' have been set up in more than 250 districts of the country to identify talent at the local level so that they get opportunities. In the days to come, the number of these centers will be increased to 1,000," said PM Modi.
This was also tweeted from the Bharatiya Janata Party's official handle (BJP). "India is promoting its youth from all regions in sports. Today, 360 #KheloIndia centres have opened up in over 250 districts across the nation. The number of these centres are set to be increased to 1,000 in the near future," BJP's tweet read.
India is promoting its youth from all regions in sports. Today, 360 #KheloIndia centres have opened up in over 250 districts across the nation.— BJP (@BJP4India) August 17, 2021
The number of these centres are set to be increased to 1,000 in the near future.
- PM @narendramodi pic.twitter.com/kkHDZb3JBz
On May 25, 2021, the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports gave a go-ahead to open up 143 Khelo India Centres across seven states with a total budget estimate of Rs 14.30 crore. In the press release to announce this move, the ministry said 217 centres already exist in the country. "While 217 KICs had been opened across several States prior to this, it was decided that for the districts in North-East states, Jammu & Kashmir, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Ladakh, there would be 2 KICs per districts as exceptions," read the release.
What are Khelo India Centres (KIC)?
Khelo India centres have been introduced by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in partnership with the state governments to ensure the availability of grassroot-level sports infrastructure across the country. "The Sports Ministry, in June 2020, had planned to open up as many as 1,000 new KICs over a period of four years, with at least one KIC in each district of the country," read the May 25 press statement issued by the ministry.
The state-level KICs fall under the 'Khelo India – National Programme for Development of Sports' which was launched in October 2017 with an aim of mass participation and promotion of excellence in sports across the country, according to a Rajya Sabha response given on March 8, 2021.
Of the total 360 notified, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of KICs (80) notified in the Khelo India Scheme. This is followed by Arunachal Pradesh (54), Maharashtra (44) and Jammu and Kashmir (40) among other states.
While the PM said 360 centres have been "set up" and the ministry claimed that 217 have been "opened", a response given in the Rajya Sabha by the Sports Ministry on August 2, 2021 read that 360 KICs have just been "notified" till now. This claim is misleading.
To further verify if such centres have been set up and are open, FactChecker spoke to sports officials of five states, namely Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Goa. Of these, only Mizoram has two KICs functioning on already existing centres managed by the state government.
Maharashtra: A total of 44 KICs have been notified for Maharashtra. Of these, 36 were given a go-ahead by the Centre in May 2021. According to Om Prakash Bakoria, Commissioner of Sports, Directorate of Sports and Youth Services, Maharashtra, the state doesn't have any functioning KIC. "The government of India has finalised the centres but so far we have not even received funding. It's still in the process," Bakoria told FactChecker.
He also pointed out that the Centre has launched the State Centre of Excellence (KISCE) at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, Pune. This is different from the KICs as KISCEs focuses on three sports while KICs only on one in every district. But this too hasn't started because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We have ordered the equipment and the upgrading of targets is going on. Within a week we will start it. We could not start it earlier because of COVID-19," said Bakoria.
Manipur: A total of 18 KICs have been notified for Manipur and of these, the central government has started the process to open 16 with an estimated budget of Rs 1.6 crore. Bobby Waikom, Commissioner, Manipur's Department of Youth Affairs & Sports, told FactChecker that the KICs in the northeast state too had not opened.
"It's not functional currently. We are about to start it soon. Otherwise, we have our own centralised sports complex. But now, due to COVID-19, no sports activities are permitted. Here we groom our potential players who could achieve success in the international arena. Khelo India centers are new and we are yet to open it in our 16 districts," said Waikom.
Mizoram: In Mizoram, 18 KICs have been notified and in May 2021, the Centre decided to give a go-head to two. Both the KICs are functioning, but these are not being set up by the Centre. Instead, the two centres announced in Kolasib district will be given an upgrade, according to Lalsangliana, Director of the Department of Sports and Youth Services in Mizoram. "These two Khelo centres are functioning because they were managed by the state, but needed a lot of improvement. Now, the Centre is helping us upgrade the existing two centres," he told FactChecker.
Madhya Pradesh: According to the August 2 Rajya Sabha response, 10 KICs have been notified in MP and in May the Centre gave a go-ahead to six. This state too has not even one functioning KIC. MP is in the process of hiring coaches for the centres. "We have just organised the coaches' interview on August 14. They will join within a week and we will hopefully be able to begin after that. We have received funds for recurring and non-recurring expenses as well," Dr Krishna Kant Khare, Assistant Director, Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare told FactChecker.
Goa: Like other states, the KICs in Goa have also not yet been started. "The two centers have not yet started and have been delayed due to COVID-19," said, a taluka level sports organiser and coach in the Directorate of Sports and Youth Affairs in Goa, while requesting anonymity.