Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI


Rowing . . . gently down the stream was not to be for Spoorthi!

Spoorthi Nagesh, a 16-year old budding rowing athlete, works hard not just to win a place in the rowing team for the nationals, but also to understand why her life turns unfair at times, especially of late.

Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI

At 16, Spoorthi has it all in rowing – the medals, the accolades, and general appreciation for her winning streak and rowing accomplishments from her school teachers, rowing coaches and her friends as well. But, it was at the 35th Junior Nationals held in Lucknow in November 2014, which proved to be a real challenge for her - to get selected for the event. For the rowing events, out of the 8 competing girls, 6 were to be selected in all, for the pair rowing events and the four-member rowing events. Selection trials were decided upon and Spoorthi who rows "bow side" practiced with her regular partner, a "stroke side" rower, with whom she had won a Gold in the 17th Sub-Junior Nations, Kolkatta in June 2014.

Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI

But, two days before the selection, her partner was changed by the coach. The reasoning for this change was that she was shorter than her partner with whom she had won a Gold and a Bronze in Juniors. And this new and inexperienced girl assigned to Spoorthi was also a bow side rower that was a huge challenge to deal with for Spoorthi. At the time of the trials, Spoorthi with her new original bow side rower partner ended up at the last place and was eliminated. Never giving up, she requested for another chance with her previous partner and she clocked the second best time, but she was still not selected. It was later discovered that Spoorthi's best second time of 3.38 mins was never recorded at all by the secretary of KARA.

Unable to bear to see the disappointment on his daughter's face, Spoorthi's father filed a Grievance Letter with the Sports Authority of Karnataka (SAK), the Sports Minister, the Secretary of KARA,and also with the Rowing Federation of India (RFI). He also spoke to the President of KARA, who in turn instructed and advised the secretary of KARA for the selection trials to be held again for Spoorthi.

Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI

But, instead of the secretary of KARA conducting the selection trials as per the instructions of Mr. F.M.Khan, the President of KARA, influences Spoorthi to compromise for the good of the game and the team. And he gets her to agree to just become the chief guest, for the "color distribution function" and distribute the colors to the team, while not being a member of the rowing team. The secretary of KARA, in a dramatic gesture, places his hand on the head of his about 6-year old grandson and makes a promise to Sproothi. He promises that he will not do anything to jeopardize Spoorthi's rowing in the future, and would support her in every way with her rowing aspirations and dreams.

Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI

All this had transpired in the absence of Spoorthi's father and was carried out without his knowledge or consent. Spoorthi was unaware of the secretary's real intentions. And Spoorthi being the 16-year old, naive, unsuspecting rowing enthusiast she is, innocently gives in to the secretary's request – an emotional blackmail. Spoorthi presides over as the chief guest for the colour distribution event for the 35th Junior Nationals to be held in Lucknow in November 2014.

As per the KARA Secretary's instructions, Spoorthi distributed the colors with her usual aplomb. After the event, the KARA secretary circulated the photos with Spoorthi as the chief guest. The secretary used Spoorthi's celebrity status in the rowing community to clear, approve and secure the funding from SAK; highlighting the fact that Spoorthi, the winner of many races, had "Compromised" for the good of the sport and the team.

With this as the background, two months before the national Games in 2015 to be held in Allappuzha, Kerala, end of January 2015, the president of KARA visits the rowing club and the rowers are given the chance of picking their own partners. A selection committee of two coaches and two girls was also announced. But, in the end there was only one coach for taking the timings.

Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI

Spoorthi competed with her regular partner for the 500 mts pair event – her pet event that she specializes in. The target time given for 500 mts pair was 2.21 mins and Spoorthi and her original partner got the second best timing of 2.06 mins; the best timing in that race being 2.05 mins. But, in the results announced a week later, the names of Spoorthi and her original partner were missing and they were not selected. In the meantime, the pair who got the best timings wished to withdraw from the 500 mts pair event for the national games. They wished to participate only on their 2000 mts race, which was their favorite and focused event. But, the secretary of KARA threatened to disbar and disqualify them from the 2015 Games altogether, if they did withdrew from the 500 mts race.

KARA is supposed to select 6 (six) SWEEP ROWERS and 2 (two) RESERVES as per RFI bulletin for the national games in 2015 to be held in Allappuzha, Kerala from the 30th of January to the 6th of February. However, in spite of this RFI bulletin, KARA selected only 4 (four) SWEEP ROWERS for the 2015 national games, specifically to avoid inclusion of Spoorthi in the team. Now with just 4 members to the team, each sweep rowing pair would have to participate in 3 (three) races instead of 1 (one) race. Each pair will now end up rowing 8 kms on the day of Heats and Repechages. This not only is strenuous for the rowers impacting their performance, but also greatly decreases the chances of success for Karnataka in the forthcoming Allappuzha 2015 National Games .

Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI

As a result of all these behind the scenes games orchestrated by KARA, Spoorthi was not only dropped from the team, but today faces the chance of not being able to row at all at the TRISHNA CLUB. Spoorthi has been practicing for several years now on a regular basis at this club.

She has been denied training and her admission into the Trishna rowing club is in question. The governing council, formed only to approve Spoorthi's admission to the club, may agree and grant her permission to practice at the club. However, as informed to Spoorthi's father by the secretary of KARA, Spoorthi was not to be allowed to train in Trishna club.

In addition to all these shenanigans by KARA, Spoorthi's father also has quite a valid question . . .

  • QQ Why do the rowers need to spend ₹13,000 to renew their admissions each year, when the coaching is supposed to be free, while the equipment is provided by MEG and funded by the Karnataka government?

Probably, it is this question and the pointed questions on the conduct of the secretary on the selection process of the rowers, that led to Spoorthi being totally sidelined and eliminated from the national games.

Spoorthi's father is yet to receive a response from the Rowing Federation of India (ROI) on his Grievance Letter filed on 30th October, 2014.

Incidentally, as a result of the goings on and practices at KARA more and more being questioned, KARA now has introduced a new rule. The rule simply states that any member who wishes to join KARA and get trained under the club must abstain from questioning any practices or procedures followed by KARA in administering the training and selection of any rowing team.
Interesting . . .!

Spoorthi's father in frustration, with all other avenues closed for him, has now resorted to RTI to obtain his long overdue response to his Grievance Letter of last year. Through RTI he also seeks to get clarifications on some of the administrative discrepancies that he has identified at:

  • RFI – Rowing Federation of India,
  • SAK – Sports Authority of Karnataka,
  • KOA – Karnataka Olympic Association, and
  • KARA – Karnataka Amateur Rowing Association. Rowing Upstream with Oars of RTI

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Jolly Thomas, RE Pro Executive

Jolly Thomas

I am from Vellore, a small town in Northern Tamil Nadu where healing is in the air with CMC (Christian Medical College) touching most peoples' lives there. Marriages and deaths there are still screamed out as before with loud hoardings all over, and education is at its best with Vellore Institute of Technology. This small town bustles with people from different religions, walks of life, struggling with narrow lanes and traffic, and this town comes alive with fairs and kills you with its extreme hot weather.

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