India and its Sportspersons – A Deplorable State of Affairs


India is not the ideal place to grow up as a sportsperson, unless your area is cricket. This became evident in the 8th Hockey India Senior Men National Championship (B Division) — currently being held in Imphal, Manipur — when the members of state teams were made to put up with poor accommodation. The state of Manipur and the officials of Hockey India are busy blaming each other, instead of providing better facilities through collective effort.

This is not the first time that such an atrocity has occurred; the issue was raised in 2009 during the 49th National Open Athletics Meet, when P.T. Usha complained of being provided with sub-standard accommodation by the Sports Authority of India. P.T. Usha expressed concern, questioning that “If I get this type of treatment, you can imagine what other athletes get.”

Lack of investment in sport by the government of India is palpable. For instance, when news broke out that Indian luger  Shiva Keshavan had qualified for Winter Olympics which was to be held in Sochi, Russia, his ticket to Sochi was funded by crowd funding and not sponsored by the government of India. Today, Keshav looks at a record sixth appearance at the Winter Olympics. His journey is a legend of solely his own efforts as the support that he received from the government has remained minimal.

The state of sporting associations in India is also in tatters. In 2012,  the Indian Olympic Association was suspended from the International Olympic Committee on account having elected members from pending criminal cases– a scandal that shook many.

Despite the government’s apathy, most consider other factors to have been the reasons for India’ poor performance in terms of sports, barring cricket. A very common reason cited by speculators is the lack of a proper ‘sports culture’. It has been argued that people in the country do not consider sports to be a proper career, and thus families do not invest in and express support of a career in sports for their children. As valid as this argument sounds, it cannot suffice for such a poor state of affairs. The entire blame cannot be borne by the citizens’ shoulders. Unless and until people are made aware of opportunities in sports, they can not be expected to take the initiative of encouraging their near and dear ones for such pursuits. If the households of the country detect some kind of instability in the profession of sports, then there must be some reason for that.

Besides this what about the problems being faced by existing sportspersons? The “sports culture” argument is simply invalid when it comes to explaining the hardships faced by people currently practicing sports. Such issues, say the issue of accommodation, cannot be explained on the basis of anything other than the insincere attitude of the institutions responsible for providing facilities to sportspersons.

Sports as a category still needs a lot of reforms, especially in the areas of investment and infrastructure. The government’s short term resolve can be to reduce import duties on expensive sports equipment. Collaborative public-private investment in coaching, management, etc. is essential.

-Contributed by Richa Bhatt

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