Two years ago, when organisers of the New Delhi Commonwealth Games incorporated the Delhi University (DU) campus and its affiliated colleges under its scheme to upgrade sports infrastructure, the emphasis was to tap young talent.
Keeping that in mind, an eight-lane synthetic track at the university's polo ground and a multi-purpose indoor hall adjoining the new rugby field were constructed. Sports facilities were also upgraded at seven colleges, including St Stephen's, all practice venues for the competitors of the CWG.
Down the line, though facilities are being utilised to some extent in various colleges, those under the jurisdiction of DU are 'out of bounds' for players. “The rugby field is only used during competition and not for training,” a member of the groundstaff replied when asked why the field wore a deserted look. On Tuesday, the venue was being spruced up for the zonal inter-varsity women's soccer tournament.
It is the same story at the polo ground, which was the practice venue for throws during the Games. The entry gate has remained closed for athletes who stay within the DU campus or its vicinity. To polish their skills, budding athletes thus have to travel to other venues to avail of modern facilities.
In the last three years, says DU athletics coach Surinder Singh, the track has been used either to conduct 15-20 day-long coaching camps for the inter-varsity meet or to hold the DU annual athletic meet, which is a three-day affair.
Perhaps the non-availability of modern facilities next door, according to Surinder, has turned out to be a disadvantage for athletes. “If the venue is opened for training, the athletics community will grow. It would also help more varsity students achieve the qualification mark for the All- India varsity meet,” he said.
Ironically, two decades ago, with fewer facilities the DU athletic team for the All-India meet used to be around 40. These days, the strength is half of that. This year, says Surinder, only 14 boys, including the relay team, and six 6 girls, won berths for the All-India meet. And there is no scholarship for outstanding athletes.
Change the system
Associate professor RS Mann, of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Evening College, was among those willing to speak at length on the downfall of sporting activities. “Rules are openly flouted during inter-college competitions. Often sports kits are distributed after the event is over,” he said, blaming the DU sports council.
According to Mann, restructuring is required to improve the overall performance of teams. “University sports are being run on an ad-hoc basis. Unless authorities appoint a regular director, things won't move in right direction,” he said.
Currently, Meera Sood, who is on deputation, oversees the functioning of the department. Recently, her one-year term was extended.
Ray of hope
Though criticism is gathering momentum, Sood is comfortable in her makeshift, dilapidated sports room. She doesn't throw much light on why venues are closed for training, but says there are plans to encourage
sports. “We plan to open the track for training shortly. The fee would be nominal to deter non-serious players from crowding the venue,” she said. The university, according to Sood, also plans to send a 16-member women's soccer team on a 15-day training stint to New Zealand. “Things may be moving slowly, but are moving in the right direction.”