Six months after Rio disaster, sports finds no mention in Union Budget speech
If government wants to show it's serious about sports, what better way to show intent than an official announcement in the Union Budget?
To begin with, here is a quote from a 2013 speech made by Mr. Narendra Modi, before his Prime Ministerial stint began - “During Olympics, people often say despite its huge size, we don’t get medals. Have we linked sports with our education system? Did we give enough opportunity to our youth...?
“Believe me if you give our defence forces this responsibility and match the potential of the new recruits in the interested sports and then train them properly, we will earn 5-7 medals even without much efforts. It requires vision!”
After the two-medal haul at Rio and the escapades of our sports minister Mr. Vijay Goel, a lot was said, written and tweeted about the need for more seriousness, more funding for sports and its proper application. Various government officials and celebrities gave their views on how things can be improved.
Unfortunately, almost all suggestions and promises were generic, with no specific structure or outline. Six months after Rio, there has been no notification or announcement by the Ministry regarding the assessment of the Indian contingent in Brazil. What went the government thinks went wrong, what changes it thinks need to be made and what it is actually doing remains a mystery.
If the government wants to show it is serious about sport, what better way to show intent for the upcoming season and Tokyo 2020 than by making an official announcement in the Union Budget? The entire nation is watching and what the Finance Minister speaks is what the government feels is of utmost importance.
Unsurprisingly though, the word 'sport' does not find even a single mention in Mr. Jaitley's entire speech. As @mihirsv points out on Twitter,
It is common knowledge that there is a lot going on in our economy, especially after the November 8 demonetisation move. With state elections also on the horizon, including the monumental one in Uttar Pradesh, there are many issues that need much more serious addressal than sports. But, even a mere mention would have been a positive indicator that the government is at the very least trying to learn from last year's Olympic flop show.
On Monday, the government announced a 'special task force' that is supposed to lay out a roadmap for the next three Olympic Games. This means that focus lies on both, the current crop as well as youngsters who will contest in 2024 and 2028. The objective of the force is to "ensure effective participation" in these Games, which again is a highly generic statement with no clear objective.
The state of management in the national federations is an existing issue that is crippling the very basis of India's sporting system. 41 out of 48 of them were found to be non-compliant with the guidelines issued to them with regard to submission of accounts and conducting elections. The task force will function for a three-month period and what role is to be played by the federations is yet to be known.
Additionally, there is no place for any women or Paralympic members in the task force. The sense of irony could not be more, given that India's only two medals at Rio were won by women and our Paralympians had given an excellent performance, which included an individual gold by Devendra Jhajharia in the javelin throw event as well.
As if the current state of affairs wasn't enough, this snub at the Union Budget is another disappointing piece of news as an Indian sports fan. It is immaterial how many special task forces and committees are formed. The truth remains that they are of no use at all without any serious intent from the government's side.
Yes, Mr. Modi, I agree with your speech. Vision is certainly required to win medals. But so is adequate funding, infrastructure and a proper system run by people who are serious about sport. Generic statements with no set objectives and planning will not get us anywhere.