WANT TO GIVE RESPECT, PROVIDE RESOURCES TO OUR ATHLETES: SPORTS MINISTER RAJYAVARDHAN SINGH RATHORE

WANT TO GIVE RESPECT, PROVIDE RESOURCES TO OUR ATHLETES: SPORTS MINISTER RAJYAVARDHAN SINGH RATHORE

Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore shot to fame with a silver medal in Athens Olympics in 2004. He went on to become a motivational speaker and later quit the armed forces in 2013. The colonel then took a plunge into politics, won the Lok Sabha elections on Bhartiya Janta Party ticket in 2014 and joined the ministry as MoS information & broadcasting. He is now also India's sports and youth affairs minister, which he says is `an honour and a huge challenge' for a former sportsperson. Rathore spoke to TOI on his vision for the development of Indian sports and the efforts to give more respect and facilities to the Indian sportspersons.
Excerpts from an interview...
What is your vision for Indian sports?
Sports is right in the centre of every future activity in India. Youth needs to be empowered. These youngsters need to be super confident and sports will make them better people, leaders, team members. Sports will be the platform for messaging to the outside world and also to oneself. No wonder corporates are using sports increasingly to disseminate their message...Take your mind to schools - the most important teachers the parents meet are mathematics, science teachers, never the PT teacher. Who tells the child don't give up, play together, you are a team? The PT teacher gives values of life on a daily basis. Such is the importance of sports in life.

How will the government help in all this?
As an activity of governance, sports has been neglected for years.Now, everything we are doing is to bring it back into prominence.Schemes like Khelo India, Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme and bringing in a Sports Code will go a long way in achieving this.

How is Khelo India different from similar efforts in the past?
Earlier, it was all about building the infrastructure, new stadiums. Who plays there, who maintains it was nobody's business. Khelo India is all about development of soft skills. A huge amount of money is going into creating platforms for excellence. We are developing coaches at all levels.

There has to be a bank of coaches and a single data base to monitor their training and upgradation of skills.Foreign coaches will come and train our coaches too. You will have community coaches - at all levels. If you go to a training centre in a small town and a coach makes tall clams, you can check on our data base. These are all private coaches I am talking about. We will take the courses to these men and women. We will be the certifying agency. It will be of international standard.

Will people watch? Who will pay for this?
We will pay for it with the help of sponsors.

Will it be telecast live on Doordarshan?
No, these Games are competitive.s Broadcasters are showing interest r and they want this property . Every . year henceforth in December and n January, we will have these Games.

Several companies are interested in sponsoring these events.

Where will the children come from?
From our SAI academies and national sports federations who conduct junior tournaments. Dum hai to aa jao. Khelo. Next year onwards we will also invite foreigners.

We respect all these sportspersons.Till now these students stayed in school hostels during events. We are booking three star hotels for these boys and girls. When you talk of entire team of US being their college team, then it hits us. Where are our college boys and girls? We want an absolute change in this perception. The idea is to connect schools to colleges and the colleges to international glory. A child's first dream would be to play School Nationals, then College Nationals, and then get hooked on to play for country .

What incentives are you providing these school athletes?
Through our National Talent Portal, we will identify 1000 athletes every year. We will give them Rs 5 lakh each every year, for eight years.Today, parents look desperately for sponsorship and they don't get it.

What other steps has your ministry taken to promote talent?
We are creating centres of excellence (CoE). We are willing to tie up with anyone - with private entities, corporates, NGOs, semi-govt, govt agencies. They will partner us in hunting for talent, manage and create centres of excellence. All this will be done by professionals. This will be run partly by government officers - as money is involved - but major work will be done by private managers. It will not be run by bureaucrats.

As for the TOP scheme, the PM had put up the Olympic Task Force (OTF) which will be run by professionals.

What about SAI then?
If will be cut down by 50 per cent by the end of 2022 and the work has already begun. All routine jobs will be cut down by half and out-sourced. Nobody is being fired. They will retire.Plus, we are starting cadre restructuring which has not happened for years.

How will you monitor so many people and projects?
We will have targets and parameters. We are creating mobile apps. The IT structure will enable better monitoring. Technology allows you to do that. For each stadium in Delhi, we are seeking partnership with top corporates through CSR (corporate social responsibility). Sports is a CSR subject and lot of top corporates are willing to run the operation part of it.

How do you plan to keep these stadiums busy?
Mind you, these stadiums are very busy . Apart from big events being held there, lots of people are coming to these stadiums under the `pay and play' scheme. But we need to improve it drastically .

Is pay and play affordable?
The SAI is not charging for profits. The priority is the Indian team, then upcoming sportspersons (Talent Next) and at different times at different locations people can come and play for health, recreation or fun.

What about foreign coaches? There is a debate over national coaches and personal coaches, like in shooting...
When teams start getting organised, the teams usually have team coaches of excellent standards. Western countries, where systems are in place, don't usually have high fre quency of personal coaches. In India, we are evolving from a no system to a system. Those who can afford the fees of foreign coaches have not waited for the systemic support.They help themselves. There is a difference in coaching styles and that leads to friction. We will keep all this in mind. As I said, we are evolving.The ministry has started giving

The ministry has started giving scholarships to top Indian athletes...
No, it is pocket allowance. When they travel abroad, they get dearness allowance. Sport is a full time commitment for these athletes, so I don't want them to struggle for money during competitions. Those preparing for big events will get the pocket allowance of Rs 50,000 per month. We are not concerned about how they will spend it. They can use it to their comfort. It does not replace diet money, training money or travel allowance. It is for personal expenditure.

Right now, we have money incentives for Indian athletes winning continental games. We have a system where jobs are given and pension is provided to medallists. We are about to increase the amount of pension.

I have had my struggles like struggling to get sponsorship worth Rs 10,000. I was struck by the federation's selection procedure... I suffered. So, I am here not because it is a task... it is a task that we accept and want to do.

Samman and suvidha is vital.Give respect, provide resources to our athletes. Three most important people are the sportspersons, the coaches and the fans.

Shooting has won us medals but it is not very visible...
It is a big challenge for a lot of sports to become popular and for that, visibility of the sport is extremely critical. As for shooting, it should be televised regularly . Look at football U-17 World Cup - we have crossed the 1 million mark. Fifa is looking at fans.If one-sixth of the world is here, we have the fans. And don't compare medals to people. 1.2 billion Indians are not playing, 5000 are.

Your take on your favourite double trap being pushed out of shooting in Olympics...
It is unfortunate. They have frequently tried to change rules in double trap. It has made all the investments made by the country and the shooters redundant. I think from 2004 to now, rules have been changed three times. Those who have put in money and effort are back to square one now.

Source-Pune Mirror

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