Chandigarh, August 22: A country of 130 crore people. The biggest ever contingent sent to Rio Olympics. Only two redeemers in PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik. Dipa missed very narrowly.
Garv Se Kaho Hum Haarte Bhi Hain to Shaan Se.
It is heartening that the governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh competed in showering big honours on the Hyderabad girl Sindhu, the youngest girl to win silver in badminton. The rewards announced aggregated more than Rs 13 crore. This is a big encouragement for sportspersons. One wishes the governments show the same largesse to train sportspersons.
As India was preparing to welcome her stars, the dark side of Indian sports hit the headlines. It was a suicide in Patiala that reflected the grassroots reality.
Pooja, 20, a national-level handball player and student of BA Part II of the Khalsa College at Patiala, committed suicide. In her suicide note addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, she said she had been denied free hostel facility for sportspersons by the college authorities. Her father is a vegetable vendor. She could not afford to commute from her house to college every day.
This is just horrible and speaks of the state of affairs in the country.
There was a tweet by a sportsperson while flying to Rio. She travelled in the economy class while the officials accompanying her enjoyed the business class. It is shameful.
Poor country like Ethiopia that has been strife torn for years and still smaller ones have performed much better than this country that is cradle of the proud ancient civilization and culture where the society is characterized by the worst type of discrimination between man and a man. People searched for the caste Sindhu belongs to.
There is another very startling aspect of the sports in India and that is the class division. Boys and girls from the upper classes love sports like shooting and golf. They don’t opt for archery or athletics.
It is a must to do the class analysis to understand the real situation. The Indian sportspersons who manage to qualify for Olympics normally belong to ordinary families, sometime poor families. They can’t afford even the diet that is the basic requirement, besides training. The diet allowance is too meager.
Why can’t students be picked up from their aptitude at the younger age and taken care of fully by the state while also securing their future? It is not a big deal and it does not need some detailed policy. But then we are cricketers and awaken only when we get shocks during Olympics.
Not that initiatives were never taken. Here are some classic examples of Punjab and Haryana.
Sansarpur village in Punjab had come up on the world map due to its contribution to hockey. The village was nursery of hockey that produced some top players. The Punjab government never took any interest.
Shahabad in Haryana has perhaps the best hockey nursery for women. The type of support that is required from the government is lacking.
Patiala and Jalandhar used to have sports colleges. One does not know whether they are still functioning, such has been the neglect over the years. Patiala also houses the National Institute of Sports.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has been taking pride in creating sports infrastructure. It is welcome. Then there has to be a long-term policy to groom boys and girls who can avail of that infrastructure. Rhetoric is different from policy.
Can this country spare respectable amount of money to groom sportspersons and secure their future? The issue is not providing jobs after they win medals. They must be trained properly to win medals. Put a ban on officials travelling by business class. That should be the privilege only of the participants.
There is no lack of infrastructure in a state like Punjab. The issue at the national level is that of setting the priorities right. Jumla can’t become a policy.
This is high time the people in high places show some pragmatism and concern for the country.