Jitendra Singh is still new in his job as Sports Minister. But thanks to the mess called the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), that held its elections under controversial circumstances, and ended up getting suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Singh has his hands full. The Sports Ministry didn't hesitate at all to derecognize the Archery Association of India and suspend the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, for violating different clauses of the much talked about Sports Code, during their respective elections. And though it's a tough job to say the least, the Sports Minister has taken it upon himself to clean up Indian sports, not by running it, but rather by being a facilitator.
NDTV has exclusive access to a 10 year vision document put together by the Sports Ministry to clean up Indian sports, which of course is currently at a very nascent stage. And though several clauses and objectives of this document are similar to former Sports Minister Ajay Maken's ambitious Sports Bill that got turned down in the Assembly last year, they aren't quite the same. Following are some of the highlights from the vision document:
i) The Ministry's roadmap talks about the involvement of paid professionals for the administration of sports in India, which it would be safe to say is the need of the hour. Most of the officials in the various National Sports Federations in India, specially the federation heads, are in honorary posts. But the idea is to hire professionals solely on the basis of their merit, and make them fully accountable.
ii) Sports needs to be made a part of our school curriculum in a much more active way than it currently is. NDTV's Marks for Sports campaign, which is currently in its 2nd season, is aiming to achieve exactly the same. States like Maharashtra and Goa have adopted Marks for Sports as a policy. But the movement needs to get bigger. Sports in schools needs to go beyond one Physical Education class a day.
iii) That there's no dearth of talent in India is something we've all heard so many times. But that talent needs to be identified, and once that's done, it has to be nurtured in a scientific way. The document also says that the available sporting facilities in the country should then be made easily available to all these youngsters. We can't afford to have a situation where a budding athlete is sitting out because he/she doesn't have a ground to train in.
iv) Existing sports schemes like Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhigyan (PYKKA) and Come and Play, need to be made more effective.
A lot of this may have been heard many times before. So how exactly can this be implemented? This involves forming a new framework, to track and monitor performance of athletes at all levels. The competition structure at various levels need to be looked into as well. The Sports Ministry is looking at involving consultants for this project.
The fact is that this was India's most successful outing at the Olympic Games. It is ironical then that the country's sports administration finds itself in such a mess in the very same year. The dirt maybe out in the open, but this time India cannot afford to sweep it under the carpet. There's no point in passing the buck either. We've all seen what that leads to. All the stakeholders in Indian sports, the athletes, the Indian Olympic Association, the National Sports Federations, the Sports Ministry, corporates and sponsors, and the media too, need to join hands, to pull Indian sport out of the rock bottom that it finds itself in.
It is ambitious, and it's only in very initial stages as of now. But it's better to step up now, rather than later. It is time to Save Our Sports.