Plans to move Sports from the State
List to the Concurrent List to boost the development of sports across the country
have not come a day too soon as Indian youth show attraction towards diverse sports
- wrestling, badminton, tennis, football, shooting, athletics, and others. Notwithstanding
the spectacular money power associated with cricket, other sports have fought for
their place in the sun. The Mumbai film industry has unconsciously supported this
effort with biopics on the lives on Milkha Singh, Mary Kom, and the Phogat
In recent years, sports have emerged as
an important career option for youth, and deserve attention and investment by
the State. The Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has therefore discussed
bringing Sports into the Concurrent List with Drona Award awardees in the States;
all public sector undertakings are on board.
Interestingly, sportspersons with
disabilities showed their mettle at the summer Paralympic Games at Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, where they recorded India’s best ever performance
with four medals (two gold, one silver, one bronze). Devendra Jhajharia broke
the world record in javelin throw. However, most sportspersons with
disabilities have struggled to achieve their own triumphs; a more inclusive
sports policy is in order.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking
personal interest in promoting sports (he personally met the athletes
representing India at Rio), Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel,
has made ‘Target Olympic Podium’ a major goal of his ministry. Probably for the
first time, an Olympics Task Force has been set up to prepare a blueprint for ambitious
performance goals for the Olympics in 2020 and 2024.
Olympics require long term investment
in players, with best training and facilities. The old practice of preparing only
two years before the Games needs to be scrapped. There must be scientific
selection and nurturing of players in the under-14 and under-16 categories.
of ad hoc selection of foreign coaches and training of elite athletes must be
overhauled. So far, a player would select an academy or coach known to him, and
ask government to pay for the same. A far better approach is to scrutinise all academies
and employ a competent coach to come to India and train more players. This
could also help Indian coaches to enhance their skills. In this regard, the
ministry has done well to ask sports federations to suggest names of coaches
for each sport.
The ministry’s best initiative, however, is setting up a
high level committee to look into grievances and complaints of women sports
persons. Meeting them on the occasion of International
Women’s Day, Goel was shocked to discover that all claimed sexual harassment as
the major cause of stress in their careers and impediment in girls participating
in events. Immediately announcing a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment, he directed all sports federations to appoint anti-sexual harassment
committees and ensure adequate numbers of women on the Board and in the game,
failing which their recognition could be in jeopardy.
The need for safe spaces for girl athletes is non-negotiable. Their demand for
female coaches, wherever possible, should be met, along with female doctors for
check-ups, female physiotherapists and female psychologists. It is shocking that
such basic issues have not been addressed till now. For a meaningful career in
sports, girls must begin training at a tender age (around nine years), but Indian
girls come forward at a much later age and families hesitate to send them for
events with male coaches. There is no reason why government should not make provision
for a family member to accompany girls to sports events.
The flip side of the growing national interest in sports is the rise of
doping in schools, as a result of which the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA) has
been taken down to school level. Urine samples have been made mandatory for all
junior players in tournaments. An associated menace is age fraud, and parents
are culpable in both. Age fraud enables 18 year olds to play in the under-16
category, where they do well, but lose out when they have to play in their own
age group. Parents get involved because sports quotas are the gateway to
college admissions, scholarships, corporate sponsorships and eventual
employment. Hence, there is need for careful scrutiny in this area.
notable that parliamentarians across party lines joined the Mass Awareness
Programme for Sports Culture in the country, especially football, on March 29,
2017, where Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan presented footballs to MPs as
part of Mission XI Million, to popularise football across India in the run up
to FIFA U-17 Football World Cup (Kolkata, October 2017). The programme aims to take
football to 11 million children through 15,000 schools and mass contact
programmes, and ensure that every child has the opportunity to play the world’s
most popular sport.
figured in Prime Minister Modi’s popular Mann Ki Baat (March 26, 2017)
wherein he described it a great opportunity for a revolution in sports
throughout the country. The Sports Authority of India and MPs will now organise
football tournaments at village, block and district level.
But the major hurdle in developing a
sports culture in India is the absence of sports grounds in many urban schools.
Admitting this, Vijay Goel says the priority now is to save village playfields in
right earnest. At the same time, plans are afoot to develop ten universities as
Sports Hubs on a pilot basis, as all universities play, have grounds and
hostels and sports quota. Selection would be on the basis of infrastructure,
interest, and available players. A long overdue remedy is to ensure full
utilisation of all stadiums, beginning with Delhi.
But a Government
truly invested in Sports Culture must ensure the dignity of every sports person.
To cite just one case, Sita Sahu, a double bronze medallist at the 2011 Special
Olympics (for the intellectually challenged), had to sell street food (golgappas)
in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, due to callous neglect by state officials and members
of the athletics fraternity. It was only in 2014 that the state government finally
fulfilled its promises and she could return to her training. But she had to miss
out on the 2015 Los Angeles World Games.
decades, many sports persons have sold their medals to meet expenses. A nation
with a Sports Culture would ensure that this never happens again.
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