A state level boxer, winner of gold medal in state level championship in 2014, Rishu Mittal has dreams of becoming an Olympic medal winning boxer like Mary Kom. Reality? She is forced to work as a domestic help in her native town in Haryana in order to pay her school fees. Such is the apathy of the government towards our athletes that a majority of them fade into oblivion due to lack of funds and basic training and amenities. Once the news reached the media, the state quickly arranged for an assistance of Rs 1 lakh that would support both her schooling and her boxing training.
Rishu is not the only athlete who has to live in such deplorable condition owing to the governments’ indifference towards sportsperson. There are many who are selling golgappas, vegetables, or are working as laborers to support themselves and their families.
For a long time Sports had been accorded the lowest priority by the Government of India. Some analysts are of the view that in India, sports is more of a liability for the government. The apathy towards the sector has resulted in the tragic fading into the oblivion of several promising sports personalities.
India’s record in the Olympics is a glaring example of where we stand as a country in terms of our sporting abilities. In 30 Olympics so far, India has bagged a mere 26 medals which includes nine gold, six silver and eleven bronze medals.
The recent Union Budget came as a welcome move amidst all the gloom. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports got a hike of around Rs 384 crore in the budget for 2015-16. Out of the total outlay, Rs 886.57 crore has been allocated for Sports and Games – as against Rs 642.68 crore last year
Hopefully, the increase in the budgetary allocation will prove to be a major shot in the arm for the sports languishing in the corridors of red tapism and neglect. Even then, a lot is left desired if India truly wants to be recognized as a sporting nation. There are glaring anomalies in the sports policy of the country which to a large extent responsible for the pathetic state of sports in India. To improve the situation of sports in the country and to encourage more young people to take up sports, some basic steps should be taken.
Sports should be brought to the concurrent list: This issue of transfer has been under consideration in parliament for more than three decades. If sports gets included in the concurrent list, it will not only shift sports from its present constitutional position where it is clubbed with ‘entertainment’ and ‘amusement’ but will also make sports an instrument of youth development , contributing in the inclusive progress of the nation.
Bring sports on school curriculum in India: In India education is mainly focused on academics and sports is not given the priority that it deserves. Unlike China, where physical education is a part of the curriculum and a compulsory course from the primary-level to the second year of graduation, physical education in India is not a part of educational curriculum which must be reversed.
Boost sports infrastructure in the country: The sports infrastructure in India leaves a lot to be desired. Barring few big cities, the availability and condition of the sports infrastructure in the small cities is pathetic. Even a country like Holland, which is miniscule in terms of size when compared to India, has over 200 astro turfs whereas India has only 15.
Industry status to the sports: The government has so far been dithering from giving sports the status of an Industry as the conferment of Industry status on sports will allow private sector participation in the sports, which so far has remained the fiefdom of Government bodies. As long as the policies are not made to encourage investment in sports, the country will be left wanting for necessary funds required for sports infrastructure.
Encourage sports research and education: Today India has close to 250 universities, but none of them is exclusively for sports education. No university provides even exclusive courses in sports unlike Japan and China where there are exclusive training Institutes dedicated to sports. Sports are part of the curriculum in these countries unlike here in India, where it still remains a free time activity.
Rationalize custom duties on sports equipment: The demand for rationalization of custom duties on sports goods has been there for quite some time. This would provide the necessary impetus to sports manufacturing industry. Today there is no clear cut definition for sports goods and equipments. In the absence of these guidelines, the import of sports equipments becomes a tricky affair, which impacts the overall development of sports.
Provide sops to domestic manufacturers: Sports manufacturing needs a helping hand from the government in terms of tax holidays and dedicated manufacturing zones for sport equipments to counter competition it is facing from the neighboring countries like China, Pakistan and other Asian countries.
Boost facilities for disability sports in India: In many countries, for people with disability opportunities exist from grassroots level to showcase their abilities in sports and physical activities. It is a well-known fact that when differently abled people participate in sports, it helps in improving their quality of life. Unfortunately in India persons with disability have hardly any access to sporting neither any motivation to do so.
Put sportsman over politicians: Among the many problems which are hampering the growth of sports in India is the presence of ‘officials’ and politicians in the selection committees than veteran sportspersons. This often turns the selection committees into a political turf leading to the battle of one-upmanship among the selection committee members.
A healthy mind lives in a healthy body and only healthy individuals can contribute towards a healthy society. The development of sport culture is the responsibility of both the society and the government and until and unless both the stakeholders are on the same page, the nation cannot march forward in the area of sports.
The writer is the Founder and Secretary General of Stairs, an NGO working for the upliftment of sporting talent in the deprived section of the society