The sports ministry has been proactive of late in taking sports out of the morass of inactivity and filth. It has given sportspersons what they deserve—recognition and respect. A committee featuring Abhinav Bindra and P Gopichand has been set up to chalk the route to Olympic success. Yet, there are elements in the system sullying the image of these initiatives.
The latest incident of juniors complaining of inadequate and sub-standard food in national camps has the potential to derail all projects, for the victims are those groomed for Olympics 2020 and beyond. The ministry has ordered an audit to probe leakage of food from Sports Authority of India hostels. Junior athletes say what they get is less than their allotted quota despite good food allowances. It is in stark contrast with the experience in senior camps where everything seems hunky dory. The ministry has mechanisms to plug holes there.
The picture is different when it comes to nurturing the ones for the future. It is a story of neglect other than nutritional shortcomings and there are cases where performance is affected due to the shortage of right training equipment. The number of junior hostels where the situation is despicable is enough to tarnish the image of SAI. The ministry cannot just blame contractors for providing improper food. Quite a few committees have been set up to look after the well-being and development of elite athletes.
Perhaps, one is needed for strict monitoring of SAI hostels. Maybe cooks and helpers can be reappointed instead of hiring auditors. And irrespective of whether he is a contractor or official, the guilty should be punished. With the Target Olympic Podium Scheme, the government has multiplied the amount spent on sports like never before and ignoring the welfare of junior athletes cannot go hand in hand. Even if 10 per cent of them eventually represent India, they have to be handled with care. After all they are our future.