Karnataka Harnessing Youth Energy through Sports Governance
We have taken various initiatives to ensure accountability and transparency in the system. The technology initiatives have been adopted both in intra organisational administration and extra-organisational transactions with sportspersons who are our core clientele. Our intra-organisational initiatives aim at streamlining departmental processes, says Dr Kalpana Gopalan, Additional Chief Secretary, Youth Empowerment & Sports Department, Government of Karnataka, in conversation with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN).
How is the Government of Karnataka driving the youth empowerment movement through its various initiatives?
The Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES), Government of Karnataka, has the twin objectives of youth empowerment and sports development. Youth in the age group of 15 to 30 years constitute a major segment of Karnataka’s total population. This segment is crucial for the overall development of the state. If properly channelised, this youth energy could be transformed into an asset; else it becomes a liability. Karnataka’s Youth Policy delineates the programmes and schemes essential for youth empowerment. We have adopted a multi-pronged approach to drive the youth empowerment movement.
Direct targetted initiatives: Capacity building programmes for youth and sportspersons include life skills development training programmes, community development programmes, adventure sports camps and strengthening and engaging youth clubs in rural development.
Sports for empowerment: The DYES has adopted the twin approach of universalisation of sports culture and promotion of sports excellence. Universalisation involves initiatives like Grameena Kreedotsava to provide financial assistance to rural youth clubs and organisations to conduct rural sports events; Yuva Kreeda Mitra and Yuva Chaithanya to provide sports materials and sports kits to rural sports clubs that encourage youth and children to involve themselves in sports activities on a daily basis, distract them from undesirable pursuits, spot talent in the community and refer talent to the department. We encourage outstanding young sportspersons through liberal financial support under the Sports Academy for Excellence Scheme. Cash awards and the Ekalavya, Karnataka Kreeda Rathna and Kreeda Poshak awards provide recognition and incentive for sportspersons to excel at international competitions and to institutions to continue supporting sportspersons. Providing scientific coaching, organising tournaments to increase competitiveness and a system of incentivising achievers in sports has the ultimate impact of achieving excellence.
Infrastructure Development: We create basic sporting infrastructure like playgrounds at grassroots level and state-of-the-art international level sports infrastructure like synthetic athletic tracks, hockey turfs, swimming pools, indoor stadia and so on at district level. The department has taken up playgrounds in all villages in convergence with MNREGA. This, in combination with Yuva Kreeda Mitra and Grameena Kreedotsava schemes, has resulted in the department spotting and grooming of raw sporting talent.
Would you shed some light on the sports policy of the State?
The Karnataka State Sports Policy proposes interventions to bring about changes in the sports sector, namely, sports governance and institutions, sports ecosystem, hard infrastructure and soft infrastructure. The policy lays emphasis on nurturing sportspersons who can excel at national and international level. The main features of the Sports Policy are governance and institutions, hard infrastructure, and soft infrastructure.
How is your department leveraging technology to ensure accountability and transparency in the system?
We have taken various initiatives to ensure accountability and transparency in the system. The technology initiatives have been adopted both in intra-organisational administration and extra-organisational transactions with sportspersons. Our intra-organisational initiatives aim at streamlining our departmental processes. We have migrated to e-office to incrementally transform the department into a paperless department. The Online File Monitoring System has been implemented to ensure timely disposal of files. The Khajane-2 online system has been adopted for all treasury transactions which enables senior officers to have real-time data on the financial progress achieved in various schemes across Karnataka apart from effective financial control. E-procurement portal is being used for all tenders which enables prospective bidders to bid for tenders online doing away with all short-comings of manual tenders. Online Human Resource Management System (HRMS) has been implemented covering salary, annual increments, leave encashment facility and other services.
All information related to our schemes and citizen centric services is available on our dedicated website with open access to all. We have leveraged an e-governance initiative called Seva Sindhu to invite online applications from sports persons for sports welfare schemes. The IT Cell Application development to maintain athlete profiling, monitor performance, and ease communication with sports associations is in final stages. The Direct Benefit Transfer system has been introduced for all individual and institutional 8 beneficiaries wherein all grants, rewards and prize money are transferred directly to their accounts. Certain services have been brought under the Sakala programme to ensure time-bound delivery. E-janaspandana portal helps resolve public grievances online. Youth Helpline has been launched to provide information and guidance on various schemes of the department.
As many as 47 sports organisations recognised as state sports associations are provided grants to conduct coaching camps and depute Karnataka teams to attend tournaments. A user-friendly online system is being developed to handle the grants-in-aid. This will also help to continuously track the performances of sportspersons, thus enabling us to nurture talented sportspersons. This innovative project has been funded under the Challenge Fund of the Government of Karnataka.
As a senior policymaker of the country with vast experience in administration, how do you view the importance of technology and innovation for ensuring effective governance?
Advances in information technology and digitalisation have transformed the world into a global village with barriers and distances fading away. Availability of reliable and accurate information and the geographical spread from where the information is collected are crucial for decision making. With the current security and data integrity levels, where the confidentiality of the information source is assured, technology can be leveraged to collect reliable and accurate information to enable us to formulate and reorient existing schemes for the benefit of the public.
Advances in internet data speed, real-time monitoring of the implementation of schemes and reach with beneficiaries in real-time has resulted in faster and meaningful implementation of the government programmes at grassroots level with the involvement of stakeholders. Adoption of technology in governance has greatly eased the delivery of services to the citizens. Technology enabled solutions to the day-to-day challenges of administration have increased transparency and accountability resulting in better monitoring systems, timely delivery of services, reduction in bureaucratic red-tapism and corruption. Real-time access to data on various parameters of administration and developmental indices help senior administrators to monitor progress of developmental programmes and take quick decisions. It also comes handy to detect financial irregularities and frauds at initial stages. Digitalisation of records, including land records, have revolutionised governance making it easier for both the common man and the bureaucracy.
Our department is leveraging technology to maintain profiles of all its athletes and monitor their progress to provide timely interventions like financial, psychological and coaching support. Direct Benefit Transfer of government support to sports persons’ bank accounts, which has eliminated the malpractices and exploitation to a large extent, is a classic example of how technology can be leveraged to reach real beneficiaries. Going forward, technology is the key for effective implementation, monitoring and reorientation of the government programmes which will give policymakers cutting-edge advantage in dealing with real-time burning issues facing the society and the state-at-large.
What is your vision for the youth empowerment through sports?
A majority of the population of Karnataka, about 66 percent, falls in the working age group of 15-59 years; about 17 percent of the population falls in the age group of 5-14 years.
The Department of Sports has understood this demographic advantage and the fact that sports has the potential to be used as a major tool for youth empowerment. To address this, a series of new initiatives to engage youth in constructive activities have been rolled out.
We have introduced schemes to involve not only the youth but people of all ages to actively participate in community sports activities. We incentive achievements in sports by way of scholarships, fee reimbursement, financial support, awards and cash awards. Realising the crucial role of private stakeholders, private organisations and institutions that are voluntarily working for the development of sports and sportspersons are given recognition through awards. To motivate more organisations to embark on this path, we have introduced Kreeda Poshaka Award to recognise their contributions for the sports development. Grameena Kreedotsava is one such scheme where youth clubs and organisations are given financial assistance for conducting rural sports events. Yuva Kreeda Mitra is a scheme wherein sports clubs are given sports materials to encourage youth to involve themselves in sports activities on a daily basis and spot talent in the community and refer talent to the department. Yuva Chaithanya is a scheme where youth clubs in villages are given sports materials so that children and youth can play sports on a daily basis. The department in convergence with MNREGA has taken up creation of playgrounds in all villages so that children, youth and all others can play sports. This, in combination with Yuva Kreeda Mitra and Grameena Kreedotsava schemes, has resulted in spotting of raw sporting talent who are then groomed by the department. School-going children are motivated to continue in sports by providing sports scholarship of Rs 10,000 per annum for their achievements at state level. The Educational Fee Reimbursement scheme supports youth to pursue sports continuously along with education at higher levels. Sports schools and hostels in every district to identify and nurture sports talent by providing balanced nutrition, scientific coaching, sports kits and sports competition exposure.
Admission to professional courses under sports quota has also provided incentive for children and youth to pursue sports. Other schemes like cash awards, Ekalavya, Award, Karnataka Kreeda Rathna 14 Award, and Kreeda Poshaka Award provide recognition and incentive for sportspersons to excel at international level competitions and also institutions to continue supporting sportspersons.
(Dr Kalpana Gopalan, is a composite public policy professional: practitioner, policymaker, scholar, author, volunteer and IAS officer. Views expressed are personal and for educative purpose only.)