Monday, October 3, 2022

Sports glory

India finished 4th on the podium at the Commonwealth Games 2022 with an overall medal tally of 61, including 22 Gold, 16 Silver, and 23 Bronze. The Indian contingent comprised of 106 men and 104 women in 16 sports. Of the tally, five medals were won by sportspersons from the north east in wrestling, boxing, judo, weightlifting and Race Walk. The states in the region which have propelled the north east into international limelight at the CWG 2022 are Assam, Manipur and Mizoram. Out of 12 sportspersons from the north east in the Indian contingent, three were part of the women and men’s hockey teams. The remaining nine were boxers, wrestlers, weightlifters and judokas. Of the five medal winners- one is from Assam: Priyanka Goswami (silver in Women’s Race Walk) and one from Mizoram: Jeremy Lalrinnunga (Gold in Men’s 67 kg weightlifting). The remaining three are from Manipur, the region’s sports power house: L. Sushila Devi Likmabam (Silver Women’s 48 kg Judo), Bindyarani Devi (Silver Women’s 55 kg weightlifting) and Mirabai Chanu (Gold Women’s 49 kg weightlifting). The other sportspersons from the north east narrowly missed winning a medal included- Assam’s Hima Das (women’s 4×100 relay), Shiva Thapa (men’s 63.5 kg boxing), Lovlina Borgohain (women’s 70 kg boxing) and Popy Hazarika (women’s 59 kg weightlifting). The others who participated as members of hockey teams included Manipur’s Sushila Chanu Pukhrambam (women), Nilakanta Sharma (men); Chanam Rishikanta Singh (weightlifting) and Mizoram’s Lalremsiami (women hockey). As mentioned, the North East comprises of just 45 million people, that make up 3.76 % of India’s population. The ascendency of sportspersons from the north east began with Dingko Singh and Kunjarani Devi who were flagbearers from the North East in the 1990s. They were followed by boxers Mary Kom, Sarita Devi and Lovlina Borgohain, Mirabai Chanu, Bindyarani Devi and Jeremy Lalrinnuga in weightlifting and Sushila Devi in judo. Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura did not have any participant at the CWG. Sports is not new in Nagaland as it has produced the legendary international Indian footballer Dr. T. Ao. Subsequently, Chekrvulo Swuro was a regular member of the Indian women archery team at the Asian Games in 2002 and 2006 and had won medals. Much has been said about promotion of sports in Nagaland during the decades but so far, the results have been quite disappointing. Even in football where Nagaland players used to be among the top in the North East, today the state is almost at the bottom among the eight North Eastern states. Manipur, Assam and newcomer Mizoram including Meghalaya are producing top quality footballers. The most glaring omission of sports policy in Nagaland is that the government seems to have accorded priority on construction of stadia and a few astro turfs but the plight of the sportspersons is unaddressed. Sportsperson are given a pittance as allowance for taking part in competitions which do not cover their daily expenses. On the other hand, several hundred crore rupees are spent for construction of a few substandard stadia. The efforts to promote sports has become lopsided as too much money is being provided for infrastructure while too little is being given for sportsperson in the form of significant scholarship and sponsorship. This is like focusing too much on construction of palatial office buildings while nothing is done to incentivize office workers to upgrade and improve efficiency and output.