In the data obtained (by The Indian Express) through RTI as well as the official reports, at least 45 complaints of sexual harassment have been reported at 24 different government-run sports institutes in the last 10 years.
In many of these cases, the punishments did not seem to match up to the intensity of the crime. These lenient punishments included small cuts in pay/pension or transfers.
Many of these cases have still not been resolved with investigations going on for years and years.
As per the data, as many as 29 out of the 45 reported cases are against coaches. According to a report by a parliamentary committee on the empowerment of women “the number could be higher as, many times, cases against coaches also might have gone unreported.”
“The committee finds it quite unfortunate that the mentor and guide himself (is) turning the predator,” it added.
A detailed questionnaire was sent to SAI (Sports Authority of India), to which they did not reply. However, according to Jiji Thomson, the former director-general of SAI,
“Most of these girls come from humble backgrounds. So they are persuaded or pressurized to change their statement or take back their complaints.”
“The girls give in to the fact that their future in sports, which for many is a way out of poverty, is in the hands of the coaches. So they often give up,” he said.
The cases that have been reported at the SAI centres range from molestation to physical abuse. Some of these accused have been acquitted. Others continue to mentor young players as inquiries against them continue for years.
Several cases of harassment have been reported at various SAI training centres including Mumbai, New Delhi, Daman & Diu, Bengaluru, Patiala, Aurangabad, Kashipur, Eluru, Bhopal, Cuttack, Mayiladuthurai and Kozhikode.
According to the data, as many as five coaches who were found to be guilty were penalized with pay reduction. Two coaches lost their contracts while another one was suspended. After the complaints against them were deemed to be false, five other coaches were acquitted. In 2019, a coach committed suicide after being accused of molestation by a minor player.
In its report, the parliamentary committee connected the “power and authority” of the coaches to their actions. SAI has in place a code of conduct for the players as well as internal committees to deal with cases of harassment. However, the committee noted that there were no dos and don’ts for coaches.