New Delhi, December 11, 2023 – The Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI), an institution for trekking for youth across the nation, has recently experienced a significant shakeup in its leadership and governance structure. This development comes in the wake of concerns about the organization’s struggle to meet basic financial expenses such as payment of salaries to staff at National office, violation of basic accounting practices, lack of transparency in functioning and most importantly, of receiving funds/grants/aid from Central/State Govts and PSUs.
Over the past several decades, YHAI has played a pivotal role in fostering a spirit of adventure and exploration among the youth of India through its trekking programs. However, recent revelations about the association’s financial management and lack of transparency have raised eyebrows and prompted calls for reform. Some MPs have flagged these concerns and called for implementation of RTI, CAG audit of previous five years and tenure cap for office bearers of YHAI on the lines of BCCI as ordered by Supreme Court in its judgement.
It has come to light that YHAI has been receiving substantial government funds through various channels, including the participation of government employees in trekking programs (notified by DoPT, Govt. of India) availing Special Casual Leave and LTC. Additionally, the National office of YHAI, located at Nyay Marg, New Delhi, is constructed on govt. land worth several crores , provided by the Central Govt. on subsidized rates. YHAI has also been a recipient of Land/ grants/aid and other assistance from several State Govts.
Despite these concerns, the Right to Information (RTI) Act has not been implemented within YHAI, leading to a lack of transparency in its operations. Some speculate that vested interests have thwarted the implementation of RTI to protect business interests, contributing to a perception of opaqueness and potential misuse of funds at the national level.
An internal inquiry has revealed several loopholes in the existing financial system, raising questions about the financial health of YHAI. The association’s leaders, despite facing financial challenges, have been criticized for undertaking foreign visits. This situation has left a negative impression, particularly among the youth who are seeking transparency and accountability from such institutions.
In response to these concerns, a recent YHAI National Council Meeting was held on December 10, 2023, where notable developments took place:
– National office bearers, including S Venkat Narayan, National Chairman and Manoj Jauhari, National Treasurer voluntarily tendered their resignations.
– The President submitted the resignation letter to the Council for further action.
– The National Council approved the resignations of all office bearers.
– The Honorary President Shri Rajendra Arelekar, agreed to continue, as requested by council members.
– A three-member ad hoc committee was formed, comprising of Samita Bhowmik (Delhi), J P Sharma (UP) and K L Sharma (Delhi), to oversee further administration, with two members granted cheque signing authority.
– A three-member election committee was established, including Umamaheshwar Rao (AP), Laxmi Murdekar (MH), and Mohan Kumar (Delhi).
– A probable election date of February 11, 2024, was proposed with a 60-day notice.
In light of these changes, it is expected that YHAI will undergo a period of introspection and reform to restore credibility, transparency, and accountability. The implementation of the RTI Act, CAG audit for past five years accounts of YHAI and Tenure cap for office bearers of YHAI have been suggested to address concerns related to financial practices.
The Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI) is a premier institution promoting trekking and adventure activities among the youth. Founded with the aim of fostering a spirit of exploration and camaraderie, YHAI has been an integral part of India’s adventure landscape for several decades.