‘SPORTS MINISTRY IS NOT A PUNISHMENT POSTING’
Sports facilities must come up in every city, rather in every colony. Suppose you are in Mumbai and want to play, but you can’t because there is no space. We need to create zonal sports centres. For that corporates have to come forward. Some of the corporate houses are doing exceedingly well. I visited the JSW Inspire Institute of Sports at Vijaynagar near Bellary in Karnataka. It is one of the finest sports facilities in the country.
NDTL’s suspension came as a big surprise to me, but we are hopeful of settling it much before the Olympics. We will also raise the testing capacity.
iors. I told them, this is not just unsporting and unscientific, but inhuman too. Logic suggests that a 16-year-old wrestler will eat more than a chess player. If he is a weightlifter, how does age matter? Only nutritionists should decide diet.
No other government gives the kind of money to sports as much as India. But this is just peanuts. In other countries, money comes in volumes. The corporate world, everybody is part of that game. In India, money from corporates is negligible. Players are dependent on government funding. We give pensions to those who have won medals for India; we give almost 1/3rd of our budget goes in paying pensions. We want to make sport as a career and not as a source to earn pension.
We monitor athletes through CCTV cameras. Sabotage is a big issue as the rivalry is so intense. If there are two boxers, and one represents the country while the other doesn’t, it bec omes a l i f echanging moment for the first while the s e c o nd remains an unknown commodity.
Generally, everybody wants to take up a role as a finance minister or revenue minister. Sports is usually treated as a secondary subject. This is a wrong mindset. I am absolutely enjoying my subject. My Prime Minister has been kind to me to give me this ministry. There was a time when after getting sports ministry, people said, “Iss se achcha to nahi milta.”
A CEO style of functioning is OK in a corporate world. It’s not possible in a federation. We are very clear that every sports federation must be run in a democratic manner. There must be elections. The moment we mention democracy and elections, there will be groupism as it is part of democracy. My only request is after the elections, don’t create a situation that adversely affects athletes.
I had appealed in parliament not to say ‘ saare federations chor hai’, as you don’t know anything about federations, you are just making loose comments. Some of the federation heads have given their lives and used family resources to run them.
Youth Affairs and Sports Ministry have separate budgets. The main component goes towards KIG. We have integrated all the activities into KIG. From KIG, we support infrastructure. We support the training and we fund athletes. The other is the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF), where corporates are required to give funds. We need to match whatever the corporates give. I’m not happy. I want to appeal to corporates to come forward because our NSDF is drying up. I am a worried man. Most of the foreign coaches demand a salary of Rs 10 lakh per month. Some even demand Rs 15 lakh. It’s
expensive. We need deeper pockets .
(Laughs) But we also have to think about social culture. We can’t get into it. That is not the only way and it is not my way of generating revenue.
I’m right behind the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI). They have rightly maintained that India’s opinion was not taken before the decision was made to exclude shooting. But when it comes to boycotting the Games, it is the government which should take a call.
Yes, we have World Cups, World Championships. And many of them in a year. That is a point to be considered but I cannot take a call right now.
It’s very clear. Multilateral events have their own pros and cons which a government can’t take a position on. But when it comes to bilateral events, it is completely the government’s call. We are not going to have any bilateral sporting events with Pakistan. I’ve clearly told the sports bodies not to come to us with any proposal of playing a bilateral series with Pakistan.
Yes. As a city known for its financial strength, it’s unfortunate when it comes to sport. This is primarily because of the lack of sports culture. Mumbai has its own limitations geographically. I feel that since many corporate people live here, there are lots of resourceful elements in the society. We can consider some modalities (models) to make sure some classic world-standard sports facilities within identified locations give Mumbaikars more opportunity to play and have greater access to facilities.
We have a huge centre in Kandivli (SAI Complex). It’s a huge place but it’s totally unused. It’s unacceptable. I’m seriously giving a thought to bring about changes.
We have good tennis academies in India now. We have to make the child understand that simply going to the US or Europe will not do unless you get personalised coaching.
From next year, we’re going to have a school games federation. Every country has a structure for every discipline. First there are Youth Championships, then University Games, then the School Games.
Next year, we’ll activate the school games federation and youth games federation. All U-17 players will go to the School Games Federation and U-21s will go to the University Games Federation.
There are big issues. The procedures are very complicated. One test can spoil someone’s future. I was told that there were 42 issues that were raised. Some of them are difficult to comply with within a short time. I visited the facility and met all the senior scientists. The 42 protocols were harsh, I can’t say unjustified. I told them to take steps to comply with whatever was needed to be done.
When we settled more than 90% of the issues, suddenly this order came from Wada that our NDTL has been suspended. It came as a big surprise to me. We are very hopeful about settling the issue before the Olympics. We will also raise the testing capacity from 4,000 to 15,000.
If you see the fitness index of our population, you’ll find that 70% people are unfit. Somehow, we aren’t a fit society. So, we want to make some kind of a universal campaign where at least 90% of the Indian population should be fit. When we say fit, we don’t mean that you’re going to a gym, or playing sports, but just being physically fit. You can do yoga, morning walk, dance…everything leads to fitness. Look at the bodies of the best dancers or corporate leaders. Fitness must become a culture.
In 2011, when we won the cricket World Cup, people across the country came out of their homes to celebrate it. I could see the same kind of enthusiasm on October 2, when we did the inaugural ploggers run. People flooded us with messages and millions of photographs. People were coming for the run and picking up plastic from beaches, hills and plains. It was the biggest ever people’s participation for a civic cause. We must thank the PM (Narendra Modi) for inspiring us so much.
Infrastructure is an issue. We won’t be able to (stage games of that level), because Arunachal is quite a big state. The population is sparsely distributed. So, it’s difficult to have one big centre here. But Arunachal will become one of the hubs of mountain terrain biking (MTB). Salman Khan came to Arunachal — he’s one of the promoters — and is a cycling enthusiast. We’re staging one of the toughest MTB (races) in the world, in Arunachal in February next year. It will be a big event almost like the Tour de France. Adventure sports too are lacking in India and we need to promote them.
TALKING POINT: Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju at the TOI office in Mumbai on Saturday