Govt apathy at its worst: Nisha Millet’s swimming academy forced out of Bengaluru pool

The Nisha Millet Swimming Academy, which was given a two-year contract for the Kensington Swimming Pool, was asked to vacate without notice, says the Olympian.
 Govt apathy at its worst: Nisha Millet’s swimming academy forced out of Bengaluru pool
Govt apathy at its worst: Nisha Millet’s swimming academy forced out of Bengaluru pool
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On Tuesday evening, Olympian swimmer Nisha Millet was stunned to receive a letter from the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES) of the Karnataka Government asking her to hand over the Kensington Swimming Pool in Bengaluru immediately. The pool in Halasuru is one of the locations Nisha Millet runs a swimming academy called the Nisha Millet Swimming Academy. 

“Government apathy at its worst. We said goodbye to the Kensington swimming pool which we helped restore to its current glory over 2.5 years with lots of blood, sweat and tears…,” said Nisha Millet in a Facebook post on Friday.  

Recalling the events to TNM, the swimmer said, "By Wednesday, authorities were waiting with locks and we had to plead with them to allow us to remove our items at the pool. We packed our equipment, trophies and other items into 15 trucks on short notice and vacated the pool."

The abrupt decision of the Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports (DYES) to stop the Nisha Millet Swimming Academy from using the swimming pool has left 300 swimmers and 40 employees of the academy in the lurch. This includes nine swimmers competing in the national level and a swimmer training for the World Ironman Championship. 

The contract for the usage of the pool was supposed to be valid for a period of two years with an option of extending for an extra year. The two-year contract period ended on April 20 this year. A three-month extension instead of one year was given since the renewal process came during the time of the Lok Sabha Elections. "The contract was not extended for an additional year even though we fulfilled safety conditions and paid the dues on time," said Nisha. 

On May 27, the department initiated a bidding process for the usage of the swimming pool. "We were at a state level swimming competition in Mysuru when we realised that a tender had been called which made it clear that they are thinking of stopping the contract," said Nisha. 

The extension period of the contract ended on July 20 but Nisha says she was not notified to vacate the swimming and was told that she will be given adequate time if she had to vacate. "We were given no communication. The bidding process was not completed and we had paid the rent for the next nine months for the usage of the pool and we have not been returned this money," said Nisha.

A DYES official confirmed the developments but stated that since the extended contract period had ended on July 20, the department was under no obligation to intimate Nisha in advance. "The contract was valid till April and then extended. There is no question of giving notice when the contract has expired. The extra year was an option if the department agrees but there is no compulsion it should be given. The rent they have paid will be returned to them in two days," said an official working in the DYES who did not wish to be named.  However, Nisha says she was told that she will be given adequate time when she approached officials in the department in July. 

The pool was renovated four years ago by the DYES and Nisha decided to take a chance and make it the base of her swimming academy. "We installed floodlights, filled 33 lakh litres of water in it and we have maintained it in good condition. It was accessible to the public for a nominal fee and to those who wanted to take up swimming lessons with us," says Nisha. Despite no complaints made against the academy's usage of the pool, a tender process was called in May to determine who will use the pool from this year.  

Nisha was one of six bidders in the tender process. But a condition was added asking bidders to have the experience of operating two 50 metre swimming pools under the DYES. "We informed the department about this. This clause has not been used in recent bidding processes and it tipped the tender process in favour of one bidder," said Nisha, accusing the DYES of discrepancies in the bidding process. 

Nisha pointed out to DYES officials that the particular clause in the tender process favoured one of the bidders - Satish Kumar, Managing Director of Swimlife Swimming Academy in Bengaluru. She added that the tender process should have been called off due to the discrepancies. 

DYES officials acknowledged the lapses in the bidding process and withdrew the additional clause after a complaint was raised by Nisha. "When we float a tender, a bidder can raise queries. When Nisha raised issues, we rectified them wherever it was necessary," added the DYES official. 

If the clause was enforced, even the eventual winner of the bid - Dolphin Acquatics - would not have been eligible to compete in the process. Dolphin Acquatics is a swimming academy in the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence. It is run by Nihar Ameen, a Dronacharya Award winner in 2015. 

But for Nisha Millet and her team of instructors and swimmers, the hard work begins now to rebuild their academy in another swimming location. She trains in a smaller 25 m swimming pool in Koramangala. "We don't even have an office to discuss with our staff about the future but one thing is certain, I will not be dealing with government officials again," added Nisha.

Nisha has represented India in the 2000 Olympics when she became the first Indian swimmer to qualify for the 200-metre freestyle event. She was conferred the Arjuna Award in 2000. 

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