Recently, in a series of tweets, the Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore mooted an idea that seeks to drop the word ‘Authority’ from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) as the word lost relevance in the modern sporting scenario. Further, the minister expressed concern over the dire situation of sporting icons who are struggling to meet basic needs. The minister’s comment on the present situation of sports led to a debate on the ways to improve the sports ecosystem in the country.
India is a country that is known for its love of sport and has many sporting teams competing at world class level. Those who play sports in India are passionate and dedicated players, and they are supported by legions of loyal fans. From team sports to individual pursuits, the sports that are played are as diverse as the great country itself. Here is a look at some of the most popular sports in India.
1. Corruption & Mismanagement of sports authorities: Corruption has become synonymous with sports administration in India. Whether it is the most popular cricket or hockey or weightlifting, most of the sports authorities in India have come under attack due to corruption charges. Besides, the involvement of politicians in the administration of sports bodies for a very long period and controversies surrounding 2010 Commonwealth Games dented the image of sports administrators in India.
2. Social and economic inequalities: Social and economic inequalities have a negative impact on the Indian sport. Denial of access to sports infrastructure due to poverty, concentration of stadiums and other sports avenues only in cities, lack of encouragement to girls to participate in sports, etc, have impaired the development of a positive sports culture in the country.
3. Lack of infrastructure: This is one of the most important factors for the apathy of the sport in India. Since infrastructure is necessary for training and organizing games, its non-availability and its access to only a few sections of the society have adversely impacted the sport participation and the quality of sports persons.
4. Policy lacunae: For the development of any sector, formulation and execution of an effective policy is a sine qua non. This is true for sports also. Till date, the sports policy planning and implementation is centralized in the country due to the paucity of resources and the expertise by the State and local governments. Moreover, the absence of a separate ministry of sports at the union level reflects the apathy towards sports.
5. Meagre allocation of resources: Compared to other developed and developing countries, allocation of financial resources is meager in India. In the Union Budget 2017-18, Rs 1943 crore allocated for sports. While it is Rs 450 crore higher than the previous year, it is much below than the around Rs 9000 crore spent annually by the UK for the sports sector.
Under the scheme of “Assistance to National Sports Federations”, the government has been providing financial assistance to the recognized National Sports Federations (NSFs) for supporting girls/women’s exposure, training and participation at national/ international level.
In order to provide best possible help and support to athletes in their training for the upcoming 2020 Olympics, the government approved the appointment of foreign coaches and supporting staff.
In April 2016, the Central Sector Scheme, Khelo India – National Programme for Development of Sports was approved by the government. It subsumes the erstwhile Rajiv Gandhi Khel Abhiyan, Urban Sports Infrastructure Scheme and National Sports Talent Search System Programme.