Saddled with the dubious distinction of having one of the worst sex ratios in the country (740 girls to 1000 boys, as per the 2005 mid-census), hockey has not only provided Shahbad a ticket to a better life, it has become a catalyst for social change.
Over two dozen girls are employed by the Railways under its sports quota and they are not only earning more than the
male members of their families, hockey has empowered them to make their voices heard in this male-dominated society.
International player Ramneek Kaur lost her father three years ago, but the 21-year-old now shoulders the responsibility of her family.
“It was because of hockey that I got a job in the Railways and am in a position to support my family,” said a confident Kaur.
Suman Bala, who played for the country for almost a decade, built a multi-storeyed house and has an impressive bank balance.
Jasjeet is another case in point. Hailing from an underprivileged background, she still managed to help her brother settle in Australia and give him a better life. This is also due to the several cash awards amounting to Rs 30 lakh.
“Hockey is everything to me. I never thought I’d be able to pull my family out of the financial mess they were in,” she said.
Jasjeet’s sister Rajwinder Kaur and her teammate Ritu Rani (18) too have benefitted by virtue of being internationals.
Ritu received a cash award of Rs 12 lakh after the team won bronze in the 2006 Doha Asian Games.