Sports minister Ajay Maken announced a multi-pronged approach on Wednesday to both lift the standard of sports in India and to ensure the country's sports icons are not in any way sidelined once their glorious careers come to an end.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) has advertised for the posts of 200 coaches and the minister said Olympians would be appointed on the level of Group B officers in the government while medal-winners will be treated on a par with Group A officers, on the level normally reserved for IAS officers.
Presiding over a function organised by the Hindustan Times for the launch of its coffee-table book, '30 Indian Sports Icons', Maken exhorted everyone concerned, including public sector undertakings and corporate houses, for a change in attitude towards athletes who bring glory to the nation if India is to imbibe a strong sports culture and take a big step forward at Rio 2016.
"Since SAI has raised its bench-mark, we are creating competition among government agencies," Maken said, in an obvious reference to Vijay Kumar, the rapid fire silver medallist, who has said he could leave the army if it does not give him promotion. The minister even invited 1998 Asiad boxing champion, Dingko Singh, now a coach with the Navy, to switch over to SAI.
The government will adopt a three-pronged approach to galvanise sports in the country following the encouraging results in London - India have so far won four medals after winning three in Beijing four years ago.
To provide cutting-edge support to medal hopefuls, the sports ministry will set up a National Sports Science Centre, which will be an autonomous institute and will be set up at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. A national Coaches Training Centre will also be set up with around R500 crore being set apart for the two facilities.
"At the school level, we should ensure that, along with marks for studies, marks for physical fitness are also taken into account. Once we broadbase the system, we will have more champions." The physical fitness scheme will be introduced in the education system in consultation with the HRD ministry.
"Unless we have a well developed sports science support, these talent will only come up to a certain level," Maken added.
The ONGC chairman and managing director, Sudhir Vasudeva, said it was setting up a hockey academy in Tripura as part of its efforts to help areas where there is a dearth of sports facilities.
Athens Olympic double trap silver medalist, RVS Rathore, felt the federation's selection policy affected the shooters, who managed only a silver and bronze despite promising much more. "It is an extremely mental sport," he said.
"The federation announced the team too late and that caused anxiety among the shooters. So many, like Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi, peaked in 2010-11 as they were under pressure to do their best to qualify for the Olympics."
"To a lot of shooters, there was a sense of relief, instead of responsibility which they should feel going into the Games," he said. "But we are still learning, perhaps the federation will learn in due course."
Even managers need to be monitored: RVS Rathore
It is high time India put in place a system that would ensure that managers accompanying each team to major competitions like the Olympics are made more accountable, ace shooter RVS Rathore said on Wednesday.
There have been several cases in the past of managers being chosen more for their proximity to powers-that-be in federations than their efficiency.
That has often forced athletes to fend for themselves when they should be concentrating on the job at hand - competition.
The 2004 Athens double trap silver medallist offered a solution.
"After a competition, the manager usually submits a report pointing out if there was any case of indiscipline etc.," said the double Commonwealth Games gold. "While that is important, but it is time we introduced a system where the athletes also give their reports on how efficient the manager was." That would lead to more transparency and make sure only deserving candidates are appointed as team managers.
Sports Minister offers Dingko coach's job at SAI
Dingko Singh ended India's 16-year wait for an Asian Games gold medal when he clinched the bantamweight title at the 1998 Bangkok Games. However, a hand injury suffered the next year hurt his career and dashed the dreams of Manipur's first boxing hero to go on and clinch an Olympic medal.
Now a boxing coach with the Navy, Dingko believes Indian boxers would definitely put up a vastly improved performance in the next Olympics in Rio than they have in London.
On Wednesday, the sports minister invited the boxer to consider taking up a coaching position with the SAI, where he would be offered the salary and perks that a Group B officer in the government is eligible. The SAI has advertised for 200 coaches and Ajay Maken has asked Olympians and medal winners to come on board.
"Since SAI has raised its benchmark, we are creating competition among government agencies. This is in a way a challenge to other agencies to raise the mark, on how they would like to handle their iconic sportsmen."