From being lauded on the podium to landing in jail as a call girl in Chhattisgarh, this is a tale of how India treats its non-cricketing sportspersons.
Driven by poverty, a former national-level athlete took to prostitution and was on Saturday arrested from Raipur’s posh Devendra Nagar locality.
Nisha Shetti, 26, who represented Assam in athletics at the National Games in 1998, was forced into the flesh trade by unemployment and her husband’s death in 2007.
She is believed to have told the police that she took to the trade to fend for herself and her five-year-old daughter. A court in Raipur later granted her bail on a surety of Rs 10,000, but since she did not have the money, Shetti remains in jail.
All that local sports administrators are doing is expressing sympathy. “The least we can do is to secure bail for her,” said Mohammed Akram, secretary, Chhattisgarh Volleyball Association. But that hasn’t happened.
Six years ago, Nisha won a high-jump silver medal at a national-level athletics meet in Pune. That was the year she fell in love with and married Sunil Shetti, who represented Assam in football, against her family’s wishes.
A senior policeman, who has seen Nisha’s interrogation report, told HT on condition of anonymity that soon after their daughter’s birth in 2004, Sunil began suffering from depression and developed a drinking habit after being repeatedly overlooked for government jobs.
In February 2007, Sunil died of kidney failure. Nisha, a homemaker then, was shattered. “We were wrong to nurture hopes of getting a government job on the sports quota,” she told the court.
Desperate for a job, she moved to Mumbai about a year ago in search of one, only to land in a prostitution racket.
According to the Raipur police, Nisha and the two other women had agreed to spend a week with three businessmen in return for Rs 50,000. The police have also arrested the businessmen.
“All talk of reservations for women in Parliament and empowerment is useless if we can’t ensure jobs for talented women athletes,” said Indian Olympic Association joint secretary Basheer Ahmed Khan.