CWG Social Dividend
EDITS | Tuesday, November 2, 2010 | Email | Print | | Back
CWG's social dividendNovember 02, 2010 2:08:20 AM
A Surya Prakash
Most of India’s winners at the recent Games are from Bharat. They have shown what commitment can achieve for them and their nation
The collective sigh of relief at the eventual outcome of the Commonwealth Games has once again brought to the fore the stark reality that be it war or sports, the country’s honour and prestige often ride on the shoulders of unassuming young Indians from small towns who put the nation before self as they aspire to be the world’s best. That is why it will not be inappropriate if we say that while India hosted the Games, Bharat took the medals.
Overcoming the most trying social and economic problems, young men and women from rural India came up with spectacular performances in the just-concluded sporting event and redeemed the nation’s image after a bunch of corrupt and incompetent sports administrators brought ignominy to the country in the run up to the Games.
These Games have thrown up dozens of heroes. It will not be possible to name all of them for want of space, but here is a sample. Among my heroes are Ravi Kumar of Behrampur, Odisha, who took the gold medal in the 69 kg category in weight-lifting; Manoj Kumar (Kaithal), Paramjeet Samota (Bhiwani) and Suranjoy of Manipur, the three golden boys of boxing; and, Anil Kumar, Sushil Kumar and Sanjay Kumar, who took the gold in wrestling.
Ravi Kumar trained at Veer Hanuman Club, a ramshackle gymnasium with minimal equipment at Behrampur. The son of an Anganwadi worker, he pursued his dream to attain glory in weight-lifting without sponsors or Government support. Despite these shortcomings, his mother egged him on to pursue his goal. The others in this list have similar stories to tell. Many of them stayed in the field because of unflinching support from parents and brothers and valuable encouragement from the State of Haryana after their potential became known.
The stories of young women from small towns who did us proud are even more heart-warming. Deepika Kumari, the daughter of a tempo driver in Jharkhand, bagged two gold medals in archery; Renu Bala Chanu of Manipur, who hails from a family of daily wage earners, trained to win a gold medal in weight-lifting; and, Krishna Poonia, who took the gold in discus throw, hails from a farmer’s family in Haryana.
Krishna Poonia has had to overcome many obstacles to achieve this feat. She too had no sponsors. Her husband Virender Singh, who doubles up as her coach, funded her training in Oregon, US. She had to stay away from her son for months during her training sessions and international competitions.
Among the States, Haryana and Punjab account for 40 per cent of the medals and this speaks a lot for the encouragement that is available for sportspersons in these States. Haryana’s efforts in building sports infrastructure across the State and providing valuable scholarships to sportspersons with national and international potential is worthy of emulation by other States. The State’s Chief Minister, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, was first off the mark announcing cash awards for medal-winners, but what is noteworthy is the cash awards he announced for the coaches.
This also brings us to the main impediment to the growth of sports in the country — our obsession with cricket. Even though the media offers lip sympathy to other sports, the media itself is guilty of having a cricket fixation. The most glaring example of this was the top billing that television news channels gave to India’s success in the Mohali Test match against Australia on a day when Indian sportspersons were bagging gold medals in the Games. This was repeated yet again when India won the Test series at Bangalore. That day India bagged three gold medals at the Games but our gold medalists had to share space with our cricket heroes on television.
The media was not wrong in focusing on the corruption and inefficiency that plagued the CWG management in the months preceding the Games. Mr Suresh Kalmadi and others in the Organising Committee, as well as the other agencies, must account for the money spent on the Games and the inquiries instituted by the Government must be completed at the earliest.
But what was ignored amidst the allegations of corruption was the fact that our sportspersons were rigourously training at various camps and participating in international events thanks to a special allocation of Rs 678 crore by the Union Government to prepare them for the event. This initiative eventually paid dividends but since the media was looking elsewhere, everyone was pleasantly surprised when India bagged 101 medals and took the second place in the medals tally.
Those who wish to crack the mystery of India’s medals’ bounty may find useful clues in the last item of expenditure. As it now turns out, the money allocated to sports federations appears to have been a worthwhile investment. Those federations which used these funds judiciously to hold training camps, hire good coaches, provide international exposure to sportspersons and to buy equipment to enhance their training and performance, have certainly given a big boost to sports in the country.
A post-CWG audit of the work of each federation will enable us to understand the kind of sports infrastructure that we need to put in place. Everyone is aware of the critical role that sports plays in fostering national unity, but little has been done by way of public policy to promote sports.
The creditable performance of our sportspersons has given us an opportunity to correct this. If India is to become a global sports superpower, the Government will have to go beyond ad hoc allocations. The Union Government and the State Governments together make an annual provision of Rs 1,000 crore or more for the promotion of sports. This is indeed a drop in the ocean because the Union Government itself has an annual expenditure budget running into several lakh crores of rupees.
When the CWG ended, as many as 21 women had bagged gold medals. Since a majority of winners come from rural India, their successes will have a significant spin-off on the future of the girl child. A society that is grappling with the problem of female foeticide and a wholly unacceptable gender ratio, especially in northern States like Haryana, must grab this opportunity to ensure a better deal for the girl child. This is the critical social dividend that will come our way if we were to pump in more funds for sports.
A very good prespective.