Delhi stadiums to remain open till 10 pm after row over IAS officer 'walking his dog'
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's announcement came even as the IAS officer termed the accusations against him as "completely false."
All Delhi government sports facilities will remain open for athletes to practice till 10 pm, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia tweeted on Thursday. While referring to the news report by the Indian Express claimed that the athletes at the Delhi government-run Thyagraj Stadium have to finish up training by 7 pm, is an hour earlier than usual, due to the Delhi's Principal Secretary (Revenue) Sanjeev Khirwar walking his dog at the facility around half an hour later.
The Deputy Chief Minister tweeted that the news reports have noticed that certain sports facilities are closing early, causing difficulties to athletes who prefer to play till late at night. As a result, CM Arvind Kejriwal has ordered that all Delhi government sports facilities remain open until 10 pm for athletes.
Following the official, the CM office took note of the news and ordered that athletes should not suffer from a lack of training facilities and that athletic facilities should accommodate them as per their schedules.
Meanwhile, Delhi's Bharatiya Janata Party demanded strict action against the officer. Delhi BJP spokesperson Praveen Shankar Kapoor requested the L-G and Kejriwal to launch an investigation against the officer.
Kapoor tweeted, "It's a serious case of a top official abusing his administrative authority to reserve the stadium for daily walks with his dog. Please conduct a probe and suspend the officer Sanjeev Khirwar."
About the matter,
Following the Indian Express report, at around 7:30 pm every evening, Delhi's Principal Secretary (Revenue), Sanjeev Khirwar, walks his dog in the Delhi government-run Thyagraj Stadium, which means athletes and coaches must finish training by 7 pm.
"Previously, we used to exercise till 8 or 8.30 pm under lights. However, we must vacate the grounds by 7 pm for the officer to walk his dog on the grounds. The coach told Express, "Our training and practice routine has been disturbed."
While regular users of the facility have complained, Khirwar, an IAS officer from the 1994 batch, said the accusation was "completely false." While he "sometimes" walked his dog there, he insisted it didn't interfere with the athletes' practice.
The stadium administrator, Ajit Chaudhary, said that the stadium's official evening timings were between 4-6 pm; however, athletes were allowed to train until 7 pm due to the heat. However, he didn't provide a copy of the official order that specified the timing.
Chaudhary added they have to close by 7 pm. "The hours of operation of government offices can be found anywhere. This (stadium) is a Delhi government office under the Delhi government. I'm not aware of anything like that (an official using the facilities to walk his dog). So I leave the stadium at 7 pm, completely unaware," Chaudhary concluded.
The Indian Express discovered that stadium security began blowing whistles near the track at 6.30 pm on three evenings in the previous week, ensuring that it was cleared by 7 pm. Also, Express witnessed that Khirwar arrived at the stadium with his dog at about 7.30 pm on Tuesday.
Khirwar said, "I would never ask an athlete to leave a stadium that belongs to them. Even when I go, it's after the stadium is supposed to close. We do not leave him (the pet) on the track; we leave the pet when no one is around, but never at the expense of another athlete. If it's something offensive, I'll stop it."
The athletes, parents, and coaches spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Indian Express.
"My child's practice is being disrupted," an athlete parent said. Even if they claim to use the facilities late at night, can you justify walking your dog in a state-owned stadium? This is an abuse of power."
"Previously, we continued training until 8.30 pm and sometimes even 9 pm, but now we have no choice," an athlete added. Previously, I took a water break every half-hour. "Now, I require a drink every five minutes."
Several of these athletes have relocated to the Sports Authority of India's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, which is 3 kilometres away and allows training after 7.30 pm. "Athlete train here under the lights until 8.30 pm. However, because the main stadium track is still being renovated, we are running out of space in the practice area during the summer break," explained a coach at the JLN stadium.