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Commonwealth Games, athletes' plight top Gill's agenda

india Updated: May 29, 2009 21:04 IST
Commonwealth Games

Preparation for next year's Commonwealth Games and the plight of retired athletes will be high on agenda during MS Gill's second innings as the Youth Affairs and Sports Minister.

In his first interaction with the media after assuming office on Friday -- this time as cabinet minister -- Gill told reporters that he wants to put a zing into youth programmes like Nehru Yuva Kendra and National Service Scheme across the country and add aesthetics to the sports awards.

But the immediate concern is to ensure that the capital doesn't flounder in its preparation for the Commonwealth Games it hosts next year, the Minister said.

"I'm confident we would put things in place well in time. Most of the stadiums would be ready by December, even though venues for cycling, swimming and shooting might slip to January-February," Gill said.

"Money is not an issue. In the last meeting of the previous government, money for those seven stadiums was upped from Rs 1000 crore to Rs 2400 crore without a murmur and construction work is now going on in full swing," he said.

The other issue in his priority list would be to bring smiles on the retired athletes' faces, said Gill.

"Someone like PT Usha used to get a pension of Rs 4000, which was ridiculous and I doubled it last time. You need a miracle to do that. But I feel even Rs 8000 is not enough. I'll do whatever it takes to convince the Finance Minister and raise pension," he said.

Another issue that irks Gill is the huge, ugly trophies awarded to the winners of Khel Ratna, Arjuna, Dronacharya and Tenzing Norgay awards.

"Horrifying is the word. I mean even the stronger young men struggled to lift them. We have downloaded the Oscar statuette and I also remember the Film Fare award. So we are working on it and next time you would see slick, bronze statues being given to the players," he said.

As for his elevation as a cabinet minister -- he was a Minister of States (Independent Charges) earlier -- Gill said he saw it just as an opportunity.

"It may seem a promotion to others but I was independent earlier and the Prime Minister was my boss. I would rather see it as an opportunity to be part of country's highest panchayat which would decide the fate of more than 100 crore people. I would try to make an argument for the less fortunate people, be it a defence issue, or issues about urban development or labour ministry," Gill said.

"In cricketing parlance, I would love to think that after scoring a hundred in my one-year stint earlier, I went to the pavilion just to have tea and I'm back here again.

"I hope I would keep scoring, and that too at a brisk rate, instead of stonewalling and ruining the match," he quipped.