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Khelo India: Jingles and Jamborees nothing else (1/26/2018)
--K. Arumugam
Government of India launched Khelo India a couple of years ago. This year it has taken wings, at least this impression is created. Khelo India concept gets a push now with an Olympic medallist appointed as Union Sports Minister. Famous players including hockey stars Sardar Singh and Rani Rampal figure in a 3-minute jingle to popularize the new avtar of Khelo India. It is going to be a hit, millions will ‘like’, hear in social media.

Government is going to spend millions of rupees to make Khelo India happens.

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In the last two years Khelo India was a low key affair, and was almost groping in dark. Except getting Khelo India title to already popular tournaments, and organizing internal matches, say between STCs, nothing worth was undertaken. But this year the Sports Authority of India is will organize tournament for 16 sports in Delhi on their own. From title lenders to event management, good progress!

Political class will attend the opening and closing ceremonies, crowd is going to be procured at colossal costs. Since Mr Injeti Srinivas returned to SAI as its DG and then promoted as Secretary, MYS, the SAI machinery has gained the expertise of manufacturing stands. It spends in filling up stands, distributing jerseys, procuring SAI trainees from nearby cities, and providing transport etc.

What is the Khelo India, what are its objectives? It boils down to two: Creating sports awareness in the Society, and broadbasing it. None can fault the objectives which are essential to make India a sports power.

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First about the slogan itself: Khelo India. It asks Indians to play. It almost implies India doesn’t play much so far, and the brainwave in turn is going to bring millions to sports fields.

What is the fact?

Where does Khelo India concept stand in the realm of team sport like hockey.

About 20 institutions organize inter-institutional hockey annually like Railways, Services, Postal, ports, Police, etc. Hockey India organizes age group Nationals in 12 destinations each year, involving a colossal 380 teams. State Hockey Associations organize State Championships for all age groups and gender. Besides, various All India Grade I tournaments, about 50, are organized by various private Clubs and Societies like Surjit Cup, Nehru Cup, Beighton Cup, Bombay Gold Cup etc.

Do you in this context term hockey is not played in India, and it needs a Khelo India push? Certainly Not. The requirements for hockey are different, and are touched upon later. However, Khelo India this year turned its focus on schools, a great step, and for that tied up with School Games Federation of India. The Govt on its own will organize 8-team tournament for each sporting discipline in Delhi the coming week.

Here lies the problem. The SGFI is not a best of National Federations. That they control all sports in schools, about 30, give them a mighty powers. By taking away schools from National Federations, at least by practice, they pose challenge to NFs. It has created an impression that schools are out of purview of NFs. The SGFI is also a NF known for mismanagement of its affairs, sure of this in hockey sport. Recent visit of their hockey and football teams to Australia for Pacific School Games, where hockey girls did not play their matches and a football girl lost her life, had not faded away from our memory.

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Further, they failed to check age fraud and impersonation so prevalent in School Games Nationals. Delhi branch of SGFI, for instant, used to train Under-18 boys and play them in Under-14 School Games Nationals! This writer exposed such happenings two years ago with irrefutable documents. An inquiry was conducted, the exposure was proved correct, but alas services of a lower most in the order was suspended while the top order stayed put!

The noble idea of promoting school games by Khelo India loses its moral moorings by aligning exclusively with the SGFI.

Take for instant how Delhi team as host, for the forthcoming Khelo India tournament was selected. Delhi Govt selected Delhi team. Players were asked to come for trial shortly less than 36 hours after the circular was posted online (DE-41/2017/Sports/20188-20237 dated 27th Dec 2017). Most aspirants did not have time to complete the formality (letter from school principal) as winter vacation started on 28th Dec, a day after above notification for selection. Still, on 29th both boys and girls teams were selected within two hours! Two representative State teams were selected within two hours! Which means everything is stage managed. Its common knowledge most of the selected ones will be from Academies located in other States but will always have their names in any Delhi Schools too!

Who are the magician selectors to do their job in two hours? Certainly, Mr. Pardeep Malik was one among them. He is none other than the Manager of the recent Pacific School Games, where the hockey girls missed out their matches due to mis-management, the video of which went viral.

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This is how Delhi Govt has been selecting teams for SGFI over the years. Unfortunately, this year Delhi Hockey, a unit of such professional body as Hockey India, had joined the farce selection process by sending its selector! It unnecessarily gave a legality to the unchecked fraud being perpetrated by Sports Deptt, Delhi govt. About ten boys from particular school, which the Delhi Hockey has banned for three years, are in the Delhi team. The point is that on one hand you suspend a school for three years after catching them (VS Agri Sr Sec School) red-handed in the State Championship, and on the other be part of selection committee that selects most boys from the same school! Be it as it may.

Khelo India has taken top 7, 8 teams of latest SGFI hockey Nationals for the Khelo India tournament. It boils down that School kids play only SGFI Nationals, not in the Hockey India’s age group Nationals. Hundreds of school kids get selected for Hockey India’s Sub-Junior and Junior Nationals. They are now excluded from Khelo India tournament, where stakes are high. Thus vast chunk of school kids are left out of Khelo India selection.

In every state, SGFI runs a parallel show against SHA. More so on the hockey front. Their players don’t participate or ignore State teams. Its clear in Delhi at least. None of the School Games team boys ever come for Delhi State selection trials! Delhi has been winning medals in every School Games Nationals in the last decade, but not even single of them could make it to even national camp! Where do the talents go then? It’s a big scam, job market. A thorough CBI inquiry can bring out the facts and unmask the culprits behind it all.

Organizing a tournament with top 8 teams of previous Nationals is what old timers would call Federation Cup. Its not Khelo India. Its Khelo Federation Cup. Will hockey or for that matter any sport will flourish by playing Federation Cup kind of tournament? Why then use a term India, and such a hullaballoo.

If Khelo India is really interested in School Games, it should not organize any event in Feb or March, which are EXAMINATION TIMES FOR SCHOOLS at least where the tournament is going to be held, Delhi State. Will any bureaucrat send their wards to Khelo India Games during examination times? But this is being thrust on others, especially Government school boys and girls who mostly play teams games such as hockey, football and volleyball.

Originally, the Khelo India games were to be played in December, ideal month due to various holidays, but postponed to February for unknown reasons. Perhaps their stadiums were not ready!

If Khelo India is an awareness program to spread the message of sport, it may serve the purpose to some extent, but it will be restricted to a week or twos when the Games will be on. The same reason is every time trotted out when ever IOA bids for multi-sport events like CWG.

The basic question is, how many new schools and colleges are going to take up sports or more sports due to Khelo India? Any survey done? Any efforts undertaken towards this end?

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How many school principals are involved in the concept of Khelo India. None.

There is no attempt to broadbase sports, but only jingles and jamborees.

The most worrying part is, about 1000 talents are be identified for awarding hefty annual grant. The idea is good, grassroot talents should get such a push. But, Khelo India should involve all school kids, and provide them a level playing field to showcase their talent?

Not the way the Delhi team was selected. There is a need for different approach.

For example, Hockey India sends its selectors for every Nationals and identify talents for its core groups. Let those selected during the latest Sub-Junior and Junior Nationals be also considered for granting Khelo India Scholarships if they are school students and fall under the target age group. Restricting scholarships to only School Games teams, as is being thoughtlessly contemplated now, is not right in the existing conditions. A new mechanism needs to be developed, like combined trials, wherein both the pool of talents (Hockey India age group and Jr Nationals and Khelo India tournament talents) can have level playing field and stake claim equally.

This is essential for non-measurable sports like football, volleyball, hockey etc. Otherwise, every good intention behind the concept of Khelo India will not result in long term positivity.

And the monies involved are from tax payers, not from Corporate funding.

Note: This writer works for promotion of sports in schools through the NGO he founded, in the last ten years and has hands on experience.

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