The white elephant of sport in Manipur is the National Sports University which was called the nation’s gift to Manipur for her contributions to sport. The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Modi in 2017. But nothing much has come of the university thereafter.
By Yambem Laba
There appears to be a sense of euphoria prevailing in Manipur as the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham comes to a close and India secured overall 4th position in the medals tally. The nationwide celebrations began when Manipur’s Saikhom Mirabai Chanu drew first blood winning the gold in weightlifting. She had also brought the silver for India in the Tokyo Olympics.
Next followed Sorokhaibam Bindyarani Devi with a silver, also in weight lifting. Then Sushila Devi Likmabam clinched a silver in Judo. A silver followed for Manipur while securing a silver in Men’s Hockey with Sushila Chanu Pukhrabam picking up a bronze as part of the women’s hockey team. A total of five medals was not bad for this small state that had sent seven sportspersons to the Games.
Mirabai had emerged as an international star with Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth, who played the lead role in Hammer of Thor, tweeting that she is worthy of Thor’s Hammer. The usual fanfare of celebrations will follow at home along with the announcements of cash rewards, Government jobs and promotions. But even as the dust started settling, a murky image has started emerging in affairs pertaining to sports in Manipur, which indicates a system failure. For instance, sportspersons from Manipur who have had made their mark in sports at the national level in recent times have been doing on their own, without coaches.
According to official sources, a total of 47 positions of coaches out of 88 sanctioned are lying vacant. It then seems that Manipuri sportspersons who have made their mark are almost all Ekalavyas. On the Youth Affairs front, the Manipur Government has till date only filled six of 75 sanctioned posts in the Directorate of Youth Affairs and Sports. Who is this answer for all this? Nobody knows, but no one seems answerable to anyone in Manipur. But the rot does not exist only here. At the feeder level of sportspersons in Manipur, the National Sports Academy was primarily meant to admit youth at the high school level whereby they would be groomed to be future sports stars. But the results of admissions to this year’s enrolment are yet to be declared.
The next take is on the Khelo India scheme, a brainchild of the Prime Minister which was aimed to tap sporting talents across the country at the grass roots level. Accordingly, 100 Khelo India Centres were sanctioned for the North-eastern region of which Manipur was allotted 16, meant to be distributed across the state’s 16 districts. A sum of Rs. 3.52 crore was sanctioned for Manipur, of which a sum of Rs 1.25 crore has already been availed. The problem emerged when Takhellambam Phullen, Director of YAS, announced the distribution of sports disciplines to each of the districts. He announced that seven districts would be allocated football, four would get badminton, while Rowing, Judo, Fencing, Cycling and Boxing would get one each.
According to officials of the Manipur Olympic Association (MOA), the Director YAS had not consulted anyone while he made this decision. Nor were any senior officials of the YAS Department reportedly consulted, while State level Sports level associations were also kept in the dark. They alleged that Phullen had made the decision to award football to seven districts to please Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, who was a footballer of national repute and a member of the BSF team that had lifted the Durand Cup in the early 1970s. They have charged him with misleading the Chief Minister and have submitted a memorandum to that effect.
With boxing having been being granted just one slot in the Khelo India scheme, the Director YAS seems to have swept under the carpet contributions of legends such as the late Dingko Singh, Mary Kom, current Member of the Rajya Sabha and an inspiration to millions across the globe, and L. Sarita Devi who is today churning out boxers by the dozens under her own academy.
The other white elephant of sport in Manipur is the National Sports University which was called the nation’s gift to Manipur for her contributions to sport. The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Modi in 2017. But nothing much has come of the university thereafter.
(The writer is The Statesman’s Imphal-based Special Representative. This article was first published in The Statesman. The facts, views and opinions presented here are his own)