NATIONAL SPORTS DAY: CAN WE ‘CELEBRATE’ IT?

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By Ayush Gupta
June 18, 2017 | It was a super Sunday for Sports lovers in two arch rival nations: India & Pakistan. 11 players from each country were competing in two different games in London. Quite unexpectedly, both games saw entirely different results. ICC Champions Trophy final At the Kennington oval saw a humiliating defeat for Indian cricket team. Well, we all know about it. Don’t we? Debates of whether Virat Kohli should have batted first or not, blaming Bumrah for that no ball & Jadeja for that run out of Pandya went on for days. Hardly 10 miles apart, there was another Indian team, Indian hockey team playing in World hockey league. Team India thrashed Pakistan by a record margin of 7-1, recording one of their biggest wins. Of course we eventually came to know about it. Thanks to our humiliating loss in cricket, trends on social media started to appreciate our Hockey team. It seemed that finally, the pride of our National game has returned. But wait, what happened after few days? Indian cricket team was playing in some other country & we knew every detail about it. What happened to the hockey team after that win? Only a few might know. On the same day, Indian shuttler Kadambi Shrikanth won the Indonesian Open. Indians won 2 out of 3 games that day. How happy were we? The answer is the value other sports get in India. Television ratings speak the truth. According to BARC India data, a majority viewed the losing game of cricket of course, which got an all-India viewership of 71, 793 (‘000) vs. a miserable 278 (‘000) impressions for the hockey game. That viewership of hockey game would have been less if India was winning the cricket match.

There is nothing wrong in cheering for a particular sport, but if that is being done at the cost of other sports, it is unfair to the sports, as well as the sportspersons who have worked equally hard, or even harder to achieve whatever they have achieved. Non-cricketing sports in India have lacked support from the Nation, which include both, the government as well as the people. With so much attention around cricket and efforts to build better infrastructure for producing world-class cricketers, the government actually forgot that there are other sports in the country too! Due to lack of funds and facilities, inferior quality training equipment and not much support from the sporting federations, the country is lagging behind in non-cricketing sports.

Talk about Hockey, our National game: Just before an important hockey event in 2013, the entire national hockey team was made to sleep in a stadium’s dormitory. While a power failure in Cricket team’s hotel makes headlines, this was hardly a concern for the media as well as the authorities. Not so long ago, after the success stories of Dipa Karmakar, Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu, another of India’s daughters faced hard luck at Rio Olympics, thanks to mismanagement by the Indian authorities. OP Jaisha, India’s national record holder in Marathon running collapsed near the finish line thanks to the apathy of the Indian officials who failed to provide her with the crucial drink at the refreshment points. “Though there were officials from all other countries to provide refreshments to their runners at designated points after every 2.5 km, there was no one from India and our desks were empty next to the country’s name and flag,” said a distressed Jaisha. It was a shocking revelation considering the fact that our Sports Minister was spotted taking selfies in Rio just a few days before this incident. Even our para-athletes were not spared by poor management & inhumane treatment. In 2015, over 600 disabled athletes from across India, who were in Ghaziabad for the 15th National Para-Athletic Championship, were crammed into a couple of partially constructed buildings. Forget about the buildings being disabled-friendly, they were unfurnished, lacked basic toilet and drinking water facilities, forcing both male and female athletes to sleep on the floor and bathe and defecate in the open. Paralympic Committee of India was forced to suspend president Rajesh Tomar after this management fiasco, but that was all that was done. Conditions still remain harsh for non-cricketers. The condition is even worse for our women players. India’s women Kabaddi team, which won the World Cup in 2011, had to return home in auto-rickshaws from the airport. Even women cricketers faced hardships until they came within the ambit of Board of control of Cricket in India (BCCI). The condition is so pathetic that our Ice Hockey team (yes it exists) had to beg for funds via twitter. This is disgraceful given the fact that government is no short of funds.

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Our sports icons have been Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Rahul Dravid. Today’s generation has grown up watching these legends. That is the reason every child wants to be a cricketer. Hardly we hear someone having Dhanraj Pillai or Baichung Bhutia as their role models. The reason is simple, we adapt what we see. Not only government but also the media & corporates have been ignoring other sports. Indian super league, Pro kabaddi league, Hockey India League have made things better, but these leagues still find a long road ahead to come even closer to the popularity of the Indian Premier League (IPL). We remember our Olympic starts only for a short period of time and till next Olympics, we go back in our shell.

Today is National Sports Day, celebrated in memory of the magician of Hockey major Dhyanchand on his birthday. It is hilarious that we celebrate National Sports day remembering someone who played a sport people hardly bother about nowadays. Today our Hon’ble Prime Minister paid his tribute to the legend. Fine enough. He deserves all the honour. But doesn’t he deserve something better? No, I am not talking about Bharat Ratna here. If he deserves something, it is the re-emergence of the sport he was master of. Not only that sport, each & every sport deserves equal treatment, something that is enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Our sports law is under-developed & authorities do not even care about it. First awakening step to develop sports law in India was taken in 1984 when National Sports policy was formulated. The main objective behind enacting this was to raise the standard of sports for the reason that it was degrading due to corruption, betting, etc. It was later realized that the Bill of the year 1984 was incomplete, and its implementation was not complete, and in a bid to revise the bill the same was reformulated in the year 2001, but has had very little effect.  Another incomplete step was the inclusion of ‘Sports’ in state list of the seventh schedule of our constitution. It is beyond understanding how something of National interest can be included in the state list. To go with it, the government till date has failed to enact any authoritative legislation which directly deals with the subject. Several bills including Draft National Sports Development code of India 2011 & Draft National Sports Development Bill 2013 have been proposed, but have been hanging in Parliament only for years. The latest development is that government has constituted a Panel to draft National Sports development code, but how far it goes, only time will tell. Even after the enactment, implementation will be a major problem, as it always has been.

There are some major loopholes that our sports law faces. These include broadcasting rights, labour and employment issues, doping, sports injuries & the concurrent liability, harassment in sports, etc. The constant failure of India in different sports events is an indication of widespread corruption poor infrastructure & poor management and therefore, it is the need of the hour to enact a proper legislation and forum to ease the activities of sports in India. Given the close relation of sports with national pride and the kind of influence it has on the mind of the nation, the state has the most important role to play. It is very clear that the existing model has not succeeded in achieving its objective and it is time for a new model to be made. Also, it is quite clear that our culture and our attitude towards sports is the biggest hindrance in improving sporting standards. The day we start valuing all the sports, will be the day we can call ourselves a ‘True sporting nation’ and then we can celebrate National Sports Day in its true spirit.

Ayush Gupta is pursuing LL.M. in Corporate & Commercial laws from Maharashtra National Law University Mumabai

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