If cricket was ever exciting for me, it was only due to a person, who came down, beat the hell out of the bowlers, no matter who it was, both with his bat and his tongue, and walked away after doing his job with his head held high. Yes, I’m talking about the explosive superstar Virendra Sehwag, the charming cricketer who has enchanted us both off and on the field. At his peak, he had a habit of smashing a six or four right from the start, leaving even the fastest and the fiercest of the bowlers in a daze. You don’t start your day with a smashing debut right off from the bed, do you?
But it seems, one man really has. Our incumbent Minister of Youth Welfare and Sports, Colonel [Retd.] Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Athens 2004 silver medalist shooter, has made his mark right in the very first five days of his term. Like Sehwag hitting a smashing sixer off the park, he issued the following directive, which gives a strong indication of his commitment to his job, and the wisdom of our Honb. PM Narendra Modi in choosing him for this post:-
In his own words, Colonel Rathore gave the details of the decision as, “The allowance applies w.e.f. 1 Sep 2017 is purely for pocket expenses of elite athletes. Committed to providing all resources to our champions. ” So when Col. Rathore had declared after assuming the office, that ‘Sportspersons are the real VIPs”, he actually meant it in letter and spirit.
The Press Information Bureau has also confirmed about the same, with the following notification, as released to the press on the 15th September 2017:-
“The Olympic Task Force has recommended that stipend of Rs 50,000 per month be paid to the elite athletes preparing for Tokyo Olympic, Asian Games or Common Wealth Games to meet pocket expenses.
The Government, accepting the recommendation, today took decision to give stipend of Rs 50,000 per month. The Government has selected 152 elites under TOP scheme. All the athletes will get benefit from this decision. The stipend will be paid with effect from 1st September, 2017………
…………Further, Government is getting in touch with all the athletes selected under TOP to get training & competition exposure plan and any further assistance required for preparation of prestigious competitions.”
This means that the Sports Ministry has accepted the recommendations of the current TOPS committee, headed by ex shooter and India’s first individual Olympic gold medalist, Abhinav Bindra, which is in itself a radical move made by the current Central government, compared to the previous governments, who royally ignored such requests ,primarily led by legendary sprinter Milkha Singh, for their own vested interests. Milkha ji expressed his anguish on the same in his autobiography ‘The Race of My Life.’
According to the directive issued, the sportspersons, who are touted to perform well in the upcoming multi sport events, will be given every assistance possible, and their pocket allowance [provided on a monthly basis] has been increased from a meager Rs. 3000-5000 on an average per month to an astounding figure of Rs. 50000 per month , for the following multisport events, that will test the identity of India as a potential, emerging sports superpower:-
- Gold Coast City Commonwealth Games 2018
- Jakarta Asian Games 2018
- Tokyo Olympics 2020
To be truthful, this is one of the best decisions that the Sports Ministry has even taken in years. In a way, this is an extension of the prestigious Target Olympic Podium Scheme [TOPS], where a set of potential sportspersons, who had the capacity and the talent to spring up a surprise and win some medals at mega events like the Summer Olympics & Paralympics [though this didn’t exactly convert into a major success at Rio Olympics, where only two of the selected probables performed to the best of their capabilities, i.e. PV Sindhu and Deepa Karmakar]
What does this directive indicate? Given that India is slowly coming out of the ignominy of being a ‘sleeping giant’ in multi sporting events, the current government is pulling out all stops to ensure that India doesn’t bear the brunt of Rio Olympics once again. From employing sportspersons as heads of the Target Olympics Podium Scheme, to employing a meritorious Olympic medalist as the Sports Minister, the NDA government has managed to achieve what no other government in India ever has. The change has begun in the right direction.
Can this change India’s fate at the upcoming Games? Definitely. A monetary boost of Rs. 50000 per month as pocket allowance will be nothing less than a shot in the arm for our Indian athletes, who have the capacity to make the impossible. Gone are the days when we used to be dependent on solitary sports like shooting, hockey etc. for maintaining our international prestige. Barring aside a few exceptions, following sports are emerging as potential podium finishers for India at the upcoming multi sports events, especially the Tokyo Olympics:-
- Amateur Boxing
- Amateur Wrestling
- Athletics [especially Road and Field Events like Javelin Throw, Discus Throw, Race walking etc. ]
- Para Sports [Especially Athletics]
When Col. Rathore, our Minister of Youth Welfare and Sports has started on such a promising note, it is only a matter of time, before India sheds its ignominy of being the ‘Olympic Chokers’, and breaches the double digit mark of Olympic medals.
Who knows if we can get more than one gold this time? History beckons Indian athletes now.