Once known as a nursery of international sportspersons, the Government Arts and Sports College is now in a shambles, as nearly 80% of the 140 sanctioned seats remain vacant every year owing to failure of the sports department to search and encourage budding players from across the state to join this prestigious institute.
The college has produced international hockey stalwarts like Olympian Surjit Singh, former Indian captain; Olympian Balbir Singh (Jr) and Olympian Harcharan Singh, Kulwant Singh and Mohinder Singh. Anil Kumar Punj, Sajjan Singh Cheema (basketball), Manjeet Singh (football) and Satwant Singh, Jugraj Singh and Bahadur Singh (shot put) were also groomed here to bring laurels to the country. The college was credited with producing hundreds of players of national and international repute.
The then Punjab chief minister Partap Singh Kairon decided to set up erstwhile State Sports College here in 1961 after the Indian hockey team failed to bag gold medal for the first time at the 1960 Olympic Games. A sports school (Class 9 to 12) was also established on the same campus to act as a nursery for the college.
"Initially, there were 300 seats for sportspersons, who would be extended all the boarding and lodging facilities. The seats were gradually reduced to 140," Karamjit Chaudhary, a former principal, said.
In 1977, the state government abolished science subjects and renamed it Government Arts and Sports College. Everything was going well till 1993, when the state government handed over the control of the sports wing of the college to the newly-carved out state sports department.
The college, spread over nearly 40 acres land on the Jalandhar-Kapurthala road, started losing its sheen after the sports department failed to select 140 players for different sports streams despite having ultra-modern swimming pool, synthetic track, a gymnasium hall and a hockey ground.
The sports department, citing paucity of funds as a major reason, had recruited 44 players as against a sanctioned strength of 140 in 1998-99, 43 in 1999-2000, 46 in 2000-01, 25 in 2001-02 and 35 in 2002-03. However, the department failed to 'spot' talented players during the next two years and as a result no player was recruited.
"Thereafter, up to 30 seats were usually being filled while majority of talented sportspersons are being allocated to private colleges," she said. Sources added that 25 sportspersons were admitted in the current session. District sports officer Rakesh Kaushal said since its hostel was declared unsafe by the authorities concerned, sportspersons usually don't take admission in the college.
"Though the sports department is funding players of academies and sports wings of various educational institutions all over the state on its own and is making efforts to get players sponsored by national or multi-national companies, it is not keen to spend money for the promotion of sports in the college," sources said.