grooms sporting talent for India's future
As athletes from Haryana make the
country proud with their achievements in internatinal events like
the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, the state government
has swiftly moved to groom a new crop of sportspersons for the
Amid all the negative news of
corruption, scams and tape leaks over the last few weeks there was
some cheer in the performance of the Indian squad in Guangzhou,
where young athletes competed, won medals and received a rousing
welcome on their return home. The homecoming - from Gurusarsahai
and Bhiwani in the north to Calicut and Chalakudy in the south;
from Savpada in the west to Ratu Chati in the east - was euphoric.
The state governments showered the winning athletes with cash
rewards and some even dug up family backgrounds to establish a
remote connection with their state. The Haryana government not
only awarded the coaches but went a step ahead to announce cash
grants of Rs.51 lakh, Rs.31 lakh and Rs.21 lakh for developing the
villages where the Guangzhou winners hailed from.
It's no secret that a large number of these sportspersons are
employed with Indian Railways, the Indian Armed and Police Forces,
PSU giants like SAIL and corporate houses like the Tatas.
But chances are that their talent was discovered and nurtured by
an odd sports enthusiast or a coach in the deep interiors of the
country. If these organisations had chosen not to support these
sportspersons our sports track record may have been even more
Two sporting events held in the last 60 days got India 165 medals
or one sixth of the nearly 1,000 medals won by India, till date,
in Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games put together.
Is there is a method or process to uncover and nurture sporting
talent in the country? While the work done by sporting academies
set up by legends like Prakash Padukone, Pulella Gopichand and
Viswanathan Anand and others is praiseworthy it does not even
touch the tip of the iceberg.
For a country that represents 16 percent of the world population,
there is no reason why every sixth medal should not come from
here. While we have hundreds of stories of Indian athletes
training in adverse conditions and winning acclaim in the global
sports arena, the issue really is whether we as a nation have an
aspiration to fire up sportspersons to breast the finish line
Aspiration alone is not enough. We also need to provide
respiration for the sportspersons, both existing and budding. The
respiration needs to come in the form of the meritorious getting
an opportunity in an environment that is not polluted by sports
administrators, politicians and self-appointed sports lovers.
The last is perspiration that comes in the form of rigorous
training - physical, emotional and psychological - and
opportunities to test, compare and benchmark oneself against the
best in the world. And then comes the time to look at rewards.
While all of us want our loved ones to be doctors, engineers and
space scientists, how many of us can put our hands on our hearts
and say, "I shall train my eldest child to be an ace swimmer and
the younger one to be the Flying Sikh of the 21st century".
We need to go the distance, beyond giving a ticket collector's job
in the railways or a sub inspector's job in the police to a medal
winner. While India bids to host the Asiad and the Olympics, I
would propose that Pratibha Patil as the president of India launch
a scheme to build India as the next sporting nation.
We need to identify those who have won medals in global
competitions in the last 10 years and give them a grant of a
million dollars a year for the next 10 years. Their mandate will
be to develop a culture of sports in their community, identifying
and nurturing talent and bringing them up to global standards.
For the critics, here are some numbers - a grant of a million
dollars a year for the next 10 years to 1,000 sportspersons, who
are world beaters like Abhinav Bindra, Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal,
Mary Kom or Krishna Poonia, will be half the money the country
spent on CWG 2010.
Let them use this money to set up 1,000 centres of excellence in
sports. Don't ask the sportspersons questions on how the money is
being spent, cut the administrative procedures to the minimum,
entrust the CAG to draft a policy that is humane and set the ball
rolling. Don't discriminate between a wrestling player or a
golfer, or an archery expert and a kho kho player. For today, we
have an Indian sporting community that is upbeat, charged and
raring to pole vault new heights.
(Sanjiv Kataria can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)