In the past few days several news columns have been devoted to the fact that how Indian players who have won medals in Rio have managed to garner significantly large prize money or at least promise of lump sum gifts by various authorities starting from the state machinery to the sports officials. Reports indicated the promised prize money of Rs 3.5 crore is significantly higher than what their US counterparts receive. Well while that might be true there are some other key points of comparison that could be equally important!
One of the most important fact, an anomaly that only got corrected in this Olympics- why was the daily allowance for the Indian sportspersons or Olympic participants less than Indian bureaucrats who attended the meet? Only this year a parity was achieved by making it an uniform $100 for all members of the Indian contingent. Does this in anyway strive to put forth the fact Indian sportspersons work any lesser or deserve any less than the bureaucrats?
Infact as per the first ever sports salary report released in 2016, it is learnt that foreign players earn almost 64% of 1100 crores floating across the various Indian leagues from Football, to Kabaddi, Cricket and even wrestling. While some of India’s highest paid sportspersons like Yogeshwar Dutt and MS Dhoni earn anywhere between 1.65-1.50 lakh a minute, the average salary to Indian players is 25x less than the highest average salary.
Not just that the resource allocation for sportspersons is significantly small and many a times Indian sportspersons have to resort to unique and even dangerous means to become fit to compete at an international platform like the Olympics. Shiva Keshavan, though one of the best known Indian faces at the Winter Olympics, had to get the funds for his tickets to Sochi via crowdfunding. There was no support from the Indian Government. Competing in Luge, a super-fast sledge, Keshavan had to resort to a dangerous training regime for lack of funds. He screwed wheels to the bottom of his sledge and practiced on difficult terrain overtaking cars and trucks to reach speed up to 100km/h.
Even if we see the events of the past few days, Indian badminton ace, PV Sindhu is also amongst the toast of the season on the back of her silver medal but perhaps what many do not know is the history of the training facility where she attained her competence. Her dedicated coach, P Gopichand mortgaged his home for 3 crores to build a badminton academy. When Govt had given him 5 acres land in Hyderabad for winning All England championship he didn’t use it for commercial purpose he used it for sports. He took 5 crores donation from a philanthropist to churn out players who would have the right kind of infrastructure to help prepare for the international platform. Surprisingly such move from Government of India can help give wings to many other aspiring Indian sportspersons.
In a land of billions and a culture that is replete with sporting history, proper fund allocation for sportsters is a matter that is most often pushed under the carpet. Our athletes and sportspersons have to often battle out extreme harsh conditions to prepare and train themselves. Perhaps the Govt could look to match the prize money with the money they spend on creating resources and not just bureaucrat salaries who man most of these facilities.