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NEW DELHI: India’s premier sports facility, Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports (NS-NIS) in Patiala, is again in the news for wrong reasons.
After the social distancing protocol breach by its staff members and the recent violation of quarantine norms by two Olympic-bound boxers, TOI has now learned that star sprinter Hima Das and some other athletes have complained about the poor quality of food being cooked and served to them at the institute’s mess in mid-August. The athletes have also protested about bad hygiene in the kitchen.

The incident prompted the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to swing into action and set up a ‘Food Inspection Committee’ to ensure that the quality of meal remains as per the requirement of athletes. While SAI didn’t share the exact details of the incident, sources said Hima had complained about the presence of ‘human nails’ in her food. The sprinter from Assam had even taken pictures of her meal from her mobile phone and shared them with the NIS administration.
Sources said Hima then took up the matter with sports minister Kiren Rijiju. Rijiju promptly instructed the SAI authorities to get in touch with the sprinter and resolve the issue. SAI director general, Sandip Pradhan, secretary SAI, Rohit Bhardwaj, and other officials held a virtual review meeting which was joined by Hima and other complaining players.

Sources also revealed that there were other complaints from athletes about the presence of hair in meals and the kitchen staff sneezing into their hands and not washing or sanitising them. Col. Raj Singh Bishnoi is the NIS’s Executive Director (ED). He was recently reprimanded for the boxers’ quarantine breach.
SAI, in a statement issued to TOI, informed that a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been put in place after the incident to check the quality of supply of raw material. “Some athletes had raised an issue about the quality of food at the mess at NS NIS, Patiala in mid-August. As soon as it was brought to notice, immediate corrective action was taken to ensure that even one-off issues of this nature are not faced by athletes. A review meeting was held with officials, staff and players on the same day and instructions were issued to ensure that the quality of food is as per the requirement of the athletes. Feedback from athletes confirm that the quality of food is as per their liking and requirement,” the SAI statement read.
“As per policy, SAI has set up a Food Inspection Committee and is also strengthening the kitchen staff at NIS. A food helpline number has also been set up to order food items of athletes’ choice,” it added. The statement quoted Hima as saying, “Our concern was addressed immediately. We had said that we were not happy with the quality of cooking. And ever since we raised the concern, the quality of cooking has really improved.”

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