Desolate Sporting Affairs

India will figure prominently this year on the sporting calendar as it hosts commonwealth games and hockey world cup.. With these prestigious events on the cards, the onus of scrupulous planning and execution brings forth a mammoth challenge. The commonwealth organizing committee is already feeling the heat to put up with deadlines as precursors in the form of squabbles and apprehensions over timely completion of infrastructure have raised serious doubts over its progress.

In retrospect, none can forget the glorious memories etched in our minds of Asian games, the magnitude of which perhaps was colossal way back in 1982. The accolades it garnered for splendor on display, state of art sports complexes, accommodation villages and the exquisite precision in coordinating the event right from inauguration to the closing ceremony was seen as a new chapter in our sporting history. There were some impressive performances from Indian contingent to take pride in that helped amass a decent medal tally too. This spectacle laid foundation for many sporting extravaganzas that were to follow and bestowed us the status of excellent hosts.

Over time, organizing apparatus was expected to run like well oiled machinery and in fact endeavor to surpass the benchmark set earlier. The commonwealth platform being so gigantic, preparations should have been underway with diligence and alacrity. Instead, the build up to the event is marred by controversy and under preparedness. And this concern was expressed by none other than Chief Minister of Delhi. Though, assurances from Mr. Kalamadi allay those fears, any lapse would severely dent the country’s reputation and have far reaching implications as far as bidding for future events is concerned.

Apart from the project execution glitches, there is hardly any consolation from Indian sporting arena itself. With world cup round the corner, Men’s Hockey team was at loggerheads with its governing body over non-payment of dues and threatened to boycott the tournament. The federation claiming to be bereft of money was imposing upon players to choose between playing for national pride and money. The impasse finally got resolved with sponsors doling out funds and IHF promising to fulfill their demands before the start of world cup. At last someone, realized that governing body is inconsequential in their scheme of things but Hockey as our national sport cannot be snubbed.

It is not as if other disciplines are unscathed by controversy. The tussle between administrators and sportsmen continues to brew. The rifle association has gone ahead and selected teams for two successive world cups which excludes the Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra citing the pretext of his absence from team selection trials. The bone of contention here was the international scores that were not being considered to qualify his inclusion in Indian squad. Eventually, only when feelers of Bindra mulling to quit the game surfaced that association agreed to take international scores into account as eligibility criteria but not before squandering the prospect of a medal in impending events.

These developments are a pointer to complete insensitivity towards players by sports administrators who are from political or bureaucratic arena and govern the game without any understanding of it. The view to alienate politics from sport and having professional managers at the helm too has its pitfalls. Barring Cricket and Tennis, most other disciplines practically have no visibility, making sponsorship deals hard to come by. With restricted budget allocations, promoting other sports to the fore is extremely difficult. Here political clout comes in handy to pull a few strings and bring in sponsors, which a professional might not be able to wield.

Expecting sport to thrive in penury, exhorting players to just subsist on national pride, interference in technical aspects of training (in Bindra’s case) by incompetent people at helm of affairs and holding back rewards has crippled the sporting culture of our nation. Come what may, restoring equilibrium in sports management is critical, else the rot shall never stem and might have a spill over effect.

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India : Murky time ahead

The gruesome 26/11 attack on India has left it grappling with reinforcing internal security apparatus, expediting the trial of lone surviving terrorist, attempts to bring to justice the masterminds of this conspiracy and more importantly convince Pakistan to accept proof of its complicity in cross-border terrorism through a series of dossiers. In the wake of a year gone by, there is some semblance of progress made in maritime security by inking contracts for procurement of surface vessels, Dornier aircraft and interceptor boats. Establishment of a radar chain, NSG hubs, construction of coastal police stations, check posts and barracks are still in the offing. For those who think all this should have been accomplished by now are being overzealous considering India’s 7,515-km long coastline.

Aftermath of terror atleast triggered the thought of plugging porous coastal borders to make them watertight. Though, there shall always be a lurking fear till these measures see the light of day as envisaged. Mere installation of technology too is futile unless trained personnel monitor the enemy movements and thwart their evil designs. Many crowded markets that were targeted earlier, now have unmanned metal detectors and CCTV’s strewn all over the place with nobody to monitor footage. Indians get jolted often but complacency and lack of resolve to even comply with systems in place are our hallmark., In all fairness, there is a long stretch to traverse before Indians feel protected.

On a macro level, web of contentious issues have compounded further. As if dealing with Pakistan wasn’t enough, China has been audaciously tugging at India’s territory and marking “China” on boulders with red paint. Incursions, violation of air space, threatening of shepherds perhaps could be played down as minor irritants since such incidents have been a feature for long. But China wanting more on their plate by staking a claim on Arunachal Pradesh is a bit too audacious. India did respond with a strong build up of troops only to be warned by China if it can afford a confrontation.

India’s recourse of bringing about pressure on Pakistan through diplomatic channels has already proved to be damp squib. Despite being blacklisted by International community, terror outfits still operate under disguise, charge sheeted 26/11 conspirator secures easy passage for lack of nailing evidence and US aid to fight terror continues to be misused. Pakistan seems to revel in obstinacy at the expense of its own peril.

The anguish of constant rebuttals from every quarter is strengthening the perception that India is getting marginalized in the corridors of power in South Asian block. This was exemplified by US president Obama’s statement asking China to monitor the India-Pakistan stability in the region, during his recent visit.

Boosting defense capability is vital for India but the modernization plans are often stuck under red-tape and inordinate delays. Catching up with China’s military might is a tall ask and though India is touted as an emerging economic power, it still is few notches behind China. Though the scale is tipped in China’s favour, bullying by no means should be tolerated. The least India could do is shun silence and be a little terse in response when confronted with territorial encroachment.

Handling Pakistan is an arduous task. Knee jerk reactions like bombarding terror training camps which is easier said than done or engaging in full-fledged war is no solution. Instead, imposing economic sanctions or abrogation of Indus water treaty could be considered as an instrument of diplomacy against Pakistan so that they feel the squeeze. Else, the only plausible option is to make our territory an impregnable fortress so that it deters terror groups from making Indians an easy target and sense of calm could prevail.

If India were to make any headway in dealing with conflicting bilateral issues, it should exert itself as a formidable power and speak from a position of strength rather than adopting a soft approach.