India’s Rio bronze medal winner Sakshi Malik, along with 17 other national and international wrestlers, were trainees of the wrestling academy in Rohtak when it was shut down.
Over the years, Rohtak has become the premier hub for women’s wrestling in the country. The day boarding academy at the Chotu Ram Stadium has played a big role in it. Last year in April, the state sports department rolled out a circular to all its district sports officers asking them to stop all the nurseries and academies running across the state till July, as the department would be reviewing their results.
But despite producing world-class wrestlers and many medallists (every fourth medallist in the women’s section of the senior national championships last year was from the centre), the sports department has not restarted the wrestling academy.
Even when the academy was functioning, the facilities were not up to the mark. In the name of a gym, they just had a few loose weights and, for the last two years, the department had not procured or supplied any consumable sports items. The wrestling mats had also lived their life and were crying for replacement.
This is not a one-off incident. The fate of all the 33 nurseries and 17 academies in the state is the same.
The Rohtak academy was part of the state government’s sports excellence programme and, as per the day boarding scheme, the trainees were getting a monthly scholarship of Rs 2000. In the residential academy scheme, the trainees were getting a daily diet allowance of Rs 150, along with sports equipment and other facilities.
“As most of the wrestlers, especially girls, hail from poor background, Rs 2000 per month makes a huge difference in meeting dietary expenses and the likes. Since the closing of the academy in July last year, many girls are finding it very hard to sustain the training intensity without the money to maintain their diets,” said international wrestler Neetu, who is hoping that the academy will restart soon.
The acclaimed Shahbad hockey nursery, which has to its credit produced about 40 international women hockey players, has also been closed since July last year. The nursery’s three former trainees — Rani Ramphal, Navjot Kaur and Monika Malik — were part of the Indian women’s squad at the Rio Olympics.
After the nursery was shut down by the sports department, many girls shifted their base to Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab.
“Earlier, the girls used to get everything from daily diet to hockey equipment. But since last year, when the department closed the nursery scheme, the girls, many of whom are from very humble background, were left with no other choice than to leave,” said Baldev Singh, former deputy director of the Haryana sports department. Baldev, who was instrumental in developing Shahbad into a hub for women’s hockey, has also shifted to Fatehgarh Sahib.
Perhaps as a result, Haryana has lost all the women’s hockey national titles (across age groups) to Punjab.
Haryana sports minister Anil Vij, before leaving for his controversial trip to Rio that cost the exchequers Rs 1 crore, had said that the sports department will soon open 10 academies in each district.
But so far, only shutting down of existing nurseries has happened.