By Vaishali Uniyal:
The success of India’s only two Olympic medallists Sakshi Malik and Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is a reason for celebration. Yet, shouldn’t it also be a moment of realisation for the society and government that a lot more is yet to be done in the field of sports? Why isn’t the country ready for a change? With two Indian players winning medals in these 2016 Rio Olympics, the country stood 67th in the medal tally. Two female athletes bagged Silver and Bronze and made the nation proud. The concern is that even after sending 117 athletes to the event, only two could acquire medals. Are the facilities provided by the government not adequate?
But even the Indian athletes who get medals in Olympics are usually forgotten. The country forgets all the achievements and celebrations just like any other story from the past. The participants of other games apart from the Olympics today are forced to live a life they had never planned for themselves.
The story of Santhi Soundarajan will leave you in a state of shock. Soundarajan, a former Silver medallist in the Doha Asian Games 2006 who lost her medal as she failed a gender test, has had to live a very hard life. According to media reports in 2012, she was forced to work at a brick kiln in Tamil Nadu. She would earn Rs. 200 per day by which she would support a family of six. Then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had given her a cash prize of Rs. 15 lakhs but it was used for funding the education of her siblings and her sister’s marriage.
Santhi Soundarajan is not the only example. Nisha Rani Dutt, former professional archer was forced to leave the sport two years back when she realised that her family needed her. She is a recipient of the best archer’s award in Taiwan and has won a Bronze medal in the Bangkok Grand Prix in 2008. She was forced to sell her bow and arrow worth over a lakh. According to an India Today report in 2013, she had told the magazine that the Punjab National Bank for a monthly salary of Rs. 11,000.
What is your take on this? If you were an athlete, playing your favourite game in the hope of having a bright future, would the conditions of players in India make you rethink your career choice? Most athletes in other countries retire when they want to, unlike Indian athletes who are sometimes forced to retire due to financial constraints.
Countries like Kenya and North Korea despite having such less population managed to win more medals than India. India managed to bag six medals in the 2012 London Olympics as 83 Indian athletes participated. Why did it come down to just two in 2016?
The questions are endless and need the attention of our officials.