An ambitious sports programme to be launched by the minister of state for youth and sports affairs is certainly a much-needed shot in the arm for India.
The Khelo India initiative, to be unveiled by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore at the end of the month, is targeting youth at the grassroots level to build up a strong sports base in the country.
The government has earmarked 1,756 crore rupees for the project. A total of 1,000 youths, in the under-17 category, will be picked and nurtured over the next five years with annual scholarships of five lakh rupees for up to eight years so that they can compete internationally.
The aim is also to spread sports all over the country and indentify talent. This is a wonderful scheme if one takes it at face value. Rathore is a former Olympic champion and is in the best position to make this dream come true.
Great as Rathore’s plan sounds, there is one import factor which may bog down this project. Sport in India thrives on corruption, bias and nepotism. There is also a regionalism factor which sees some talented youths lose out to lesser ones just on what state he/she belongs to.
Then some of the political leaders and sports heads also get in their own “favourites” into the team at the cost of the talented. The problem is that corruption is deep-rooted in Indian sports. To uproot it will need a huge effort and a single-minded approach.
Hence, a dedicated bunch of officials and coaches will have to be indentified to move the project forward. Adequate sports facilities like grounds and indoors have to be ensured. Proper sports equipment will also be required for indentified youths. This is vital as many towns and villages do not have such facilities and it becomes a stumbling block for sportspersons.
There is a shortage of grounds in the urban areas too. Some schools and colleges are more focused towards education than sports.Even if there are grounds, they are often neglected or used for music shows or events, damaging it sometimes beyond repair.
These are some realities which have to be faced about Indian sports before the scheme takes root. Very often a rare talent falls prey to the vicious sports system.
Furthermore, sports should be run by sportspersons or knowledgeable administrators and not by some ministers or officials with political links. There should be a body set up to ensure that sportspersons get all facilities and that they are not herded like cattle in substandard lodges without proper food. These issues should have been dealt long ago.
But neglect and a “don’t care a damn” attitude have damaged Indian sports. For a country as big as India, why is the medal tally at the Olympics so little?
Rathore, with his foresight as a sportsman, has come up with a scheme which has all the ingredients for success.
But he needs to clean the mess first to make it a hit.