Budding hockey players in Jharkhand’s Simdega district, considered the state’s sports nursery, will no longer have to beg and seek donations to water and maintain the Astroturf stadium built and gifted to them by the state’s sports department barely two months back.
The department after taking cognizance of the HT report dated July 16 that highlighted the deplorable condition of players compelled to seek donation to water the Astro Turf grass has announced to allot Rs 4.32 lakh annually for its maintenance. "The department has decided to earmark and allocate Rs 4.32 lakh per annum to maintain the newly costructed ground and also facilitate its regular use by promising players," sports director Anil Kumar Singh said.
He said the allocated budget would be handed over to the Simdega deputy commissioner and he would release the funds according to the necessity of the maintenance work. "Steps are being taken to reach out electricity supply to the Astroturf stadium so that watering process can be done easily and regularly," the director added.
The stadium built at a cost of Rs 5 crore is not a comfort or luxury but necessity for Simdega as the state has for long produced the best of sports persons who went on to represent the country at various national and international meets and won laurels. There are various hockey players from Simdega who have played for country, including Michel Kindo (Olympian), Silbanus Dungdung (Olympian), Kanti Baa, Masira Surin, Sumrai Tete, Justin Kerketta, Vimal Lakra, Virendra Lakra, Edlin Kerketta, Asunta Lakra, Alma Guria, Puspa Topno, Sunita, James Kerketta, and Ashrita Lakra.
However, once completed, the department turned its back to the stadium leaving it on to the Simdega District Hockey Association (SDHA) and the players to manage funds for its upkeep. Since the stadium has no power, watering the ground remained the most expensive affair.
According to SDHA officials, besides other miscellaneous expenses, they required Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000 per month on watering the ground.
"For the poor players, who could hardly manage nutritious food to sustain their rigorous practice, the amount was big asking. Hence, we began seeking donation from local businessmen and also put up a donation box on the ground seeking voluntary donations," SDHA president and former Olympian Asuntha Lakra said.
HT was the first newspaper to travel to Simdega and report about the players plight. The report did move the authorities concerned in the sports department and forced them to act.
Welcoming the department’s decision to allocate funds for the stadium’s upkeep, Lakra said the department has for a change saved the players from further disgrace and embarrassment. "It’s a welcome step. By begging for donation, we never intended to put the department to shame. It was in the overall interest of the hockey and budding players. We would be happy to remove the donation box from the stadium now."