After Indian cricket ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, archer Deepika Kumari happens to be the second brightest sports star Jharkhand has produced. Barely three weeks back, she won the Olympic qualifier with her recurve archery team mates at the World Championships in Copenhagen, making her state and nation proud.
At 21, into the eighth year of her professional career, Kumari has won as many national and international medals that equals her age. But then there lies a big disparity when it comes to the state’s treatment of its sports stars.
While the state authorities ran after Dhoni to convince him to accept sops after he won the World Cup for India, they seem to have forgotten Kumari despite her string of successes at world arena.
She is peeved at the alleged 'apartheid' of the state sports department against sports women hailing from impoverished backgrounds. She complains that let alone giving her and teammates Laxmi Rani Majhi and Rimili Biruli a welcome on their return from Copenhagen and Poland, where she won Silver in the World Cup Phase III tournament, the state has forgotten to fulfill the promise of awarding her with a plot of land.
Kumari alleged that her father, an auto rickshaw driver, is made to run from pillar to post on fake pretexts for the land. The state cabinet had recently passed an order to award her 5000 square feet of land near Dhoni’s house in Ranchi.
"This is highly objectionable and deriding," an anguished Kumari told HT in Ranchi on Friday. "What a sham that our government fails to keep its own promise," she added. Ranchi is her home town. Her parents live on the outskirts of Ranchi in a rural area devoid of basic amenities, especially proper drainage and roads.
Later in the day, she visited sports minister Amar Kumar Bouri’s office and asked him for a specific date when they will keep the promise of donating her family a plot of land. "I cannot allow my parents to beg for it any further," she told the minister point-blank and wished to clarify that the state can go back on its promise any time and she wouldn’t complain.
She told HT that the government should change its attitude towards sportspersons who brought laurels for the nation at Asian and World Cup events.
On the denial of a ceremonial welcome, she said, "I knew that no one is bothered about us at our home state so I decided to go first to my training centre (Jamshedpur). Now I am at my residence in Ranchi as usual with my parents."
"We are trying to find out the reasons behind delay in awarding her the land," the sports minister said, assuring to redress her grievances at the earliest. He said Kumari has also been asked to submit her medal winning certificates so that the department can release the cash awards due to her.