Friday, 26 August 2016

Sindhu Rashtra?

     The United States topped the medal standings in Rio Olympics 2016, winning 46 gold, out of an overall 121 medals including silver and bronze.  India was ranked 67 when Hyderabad’s P.V. Sindhu won a silver in badminton and Haryana’s Sakshi Malik took a bronze in wrestling.  A great show by both the girls.  But state governments raining cash awards on Sindhu is not a great show.

     Grand receptions awaited Sindhu and Sakshi when they returned with Olympic medals.  Among them, Sindhu was put on road shows at Hyderabad and Vijayawada and felicitated in maidans. Telangana overwhelmed her with a cash award of Rs.5 crores, while Andhra Pradesh made it Rs.3 crores.  Both the states announced gifts of house sites of 1,000 sq. yards each to Sindhu, and offered her high-level jobs. Delhi government gladdened her with Rs.2 crores, while Haryana and Madhya Pradesh gave her Rs.50 lakhs each.  Her employer Bharat Petroleum, a state-run corporate, handed her Rs.75 lakhs. With cash gifts from others too, Sindhu’s bank funds swell by at least Rs.13 crores.  Will the government donations to Sindhu pep up and promote sports, as they are projected?  No. They serve a different purpose.

       All Indian sportspersons have to run a sad race and win it unsung before they go out to compete in international events. That one is The Indian Official Obstacle Race. India has a strange mix of people. It has abundant talent, in body and mind, among its citizens, which is constantly stifled by stupendous apathy by governments that are run by visionless politicians and mediocre jealous employees.   That is why much of budding Indian talent gets mostly aborted for good.  It looks there is no country like India which suppresses the skills and intellect of so many its own citizens and does not reward them for what they deserve.  So whoever can emigrate does it to grow his or her talents and employ them to earn their worth.  

      A 2013 study  by the UN says  that about 2.8  million India-born persons are migrants in UAE alone, forming 47% of people hailing from top five countries supplying workforce to the UAE region.  India cannot create jobs for them or pay them decently, and so they have flown out. The United States is home for an estimated 3.2 million Indian Americans. quotes a 2012 report to reveal that “70% of Indian Americans aged 25 and older had college degrees in 2010, by far the highest rate among the six Asian-American groups studied and 2.5 times the rate among the overall U.S. population….. Median annual household income for Indian Americans in 2010 was $88,000, much higher than for all Asian Americans ($66,000) and all U.S. households ($49,800) — perhaps not surprising, given their high education levels”. This is proof that Indian talent cannot generally flower in India, though it can largely outshine average native talent in the US. India treats sporting excellence no better.

       The world has shown that showering medallists with huge cash gifts is not the way for any serious development of sports.  The United States which won the maximum number of gold at 2016 Olympics gives a cash award of about Rs.16,75,000 to its sportspersons if they win gold – not silver or bronze - at the Olympics. Great Britain, ranked second at Rio with 27 golds, gives no cash award to any medal winner. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt raced to a gold in 100m and 200m and anchored a gold for his country in 4 x 100m relay at that meet. He had done likewise at the two immediate past Olympics too, achieving an incredible ‘triple triple’, and yet there are no reports saying Jamaica gave him any cash gifts. But, of course, huge money through commercial endorsement deals always beckons any international star sportsperson.

     No other country makes a cash gift of the size Telangana and Andhra Pradesh offered to Sindhu – even for an Olympic gold medallist. Prior to Rio 2016, the Haryana government announced a cash gift of Rs.6 crores to anyone winning a gold (35 times the United States offer), Rs.4 crores to those taking a silver and Rs.2.5 crores to others finishing with a bronze at any Olympics if the winner belonged to that state.  That offer has not produced any magical results at Rio.  For Haryana’s Sakshi Malik winning a bronze, full credit should go to her innate zeal and prowess, rather than to the colossal cash awards crassly dangled before her.

     If our governments truly aim to attract more youngsters to badminton and other sports, they should do another thing instead of donating to Sindhu, i.e., invest their huge moneys in creating permanent sports infrastructure and facilities and in spotting and promoting sports talents fairly without nepotism and corruption.  But that is a hard way up which demands a lot of planning, dedication and focussed work over many years, qualities not valued by a lot of our ruling politicians.   At this moment, their easy way to convince the gullible public that a government is encouraging sports is to donate to Sindhu. The more they donate, they believe being seen to be doing more for sports. 

       If you have high talent and passion in you -  in science, sports, writing or performing arts, and public service too - you will also have a natural urge to fight your way and bring out the best in you, and you don’t do it just for money.  The minimum our governments may do to encourage talent in sports is this - not putting hurdles on its way and keeping corruption out.  But that is not happening in India.  For now, we should wish our sporting men and women good luck on many fronts.

       Now let us ask ourselves: Why did Indian state governments shower huge cash gifts on Sindhu after she strove by herself to win a historic Olympic silver?  And we may answer: it was a stunned reaction. The politicians behind the cash gifts were stupefied by the fact that an Indian could fight against all odds kept in place by India’s officialdom and rise to impress the world.  So in a manner of crying out “No, I am not the culprit!”, they announced huge cash awards to Sindhu.  The larger the amount, the louder the cry. So let’s have a laugh.

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Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2016