Sportspersons wait to meet sports minister Sudesh Mahto in Ranchi on Wednesday. (Hardeep Singh)
Protest seems the only language spoken and understood in Jharkhand.
Home-bred, national medal-winning cyclists, who had so far been sweet-talked but cold-shouldered by the state, on Wednesday won their right to practice at the world-class velodrome in Hotwar, Ranchi, after they gheraoed a senior sports official.
The 15-member pedal squad has also been promised accommodation and food during their practice, beginning November 20, for next month’s national events.
During Statehood Day celebrations in the capital on Tuesday, deputy sports director Sarojini Lakra had saved the government from public embarrassment of National Games medals being returned.
She had convinced the disgruntled cyclists — who are yet to receive gear support from the government let alone promised cash prizes — that sports minister Sudesh Mahto would personally hear out their grievances on Wednesday at 10am.
However, when the cyclists assembled at the Sports Authority of Jharkhand (SAJ) premises, Lakra told them that the minister could not meet them because they had no appointment as such.
Another sports department official said since the chief minister had already announced cash felicitation on December 9, there was no point of Mahto meeting them.
Betrayed again by an indifferent government, the cyclists gheraoed Lakra at her SAJ office around 11.30am. The deputy sports director’s oratory skills apparently didn’t work this time and she had to rush to Project Building for a face-saver.
Two hours later, around 2pm, Lakra returned with a letter, duly signed by the sports secretary on the directive of the minister, allowing cyclists to use the velodrome and gear at the Hotwar mega sports complex for training.
“It is great news for us. We will return to Ranchi on November 20 to begin training for the nationals. However, it is very unfortunate that players have to resort to protests and roadshows to win their rights. We want players of every discipline to get venue and kits for regular practice,” said cyclist Lakhiram Hansda of Potka, East Singhbhum.
Dhanbad’s pedal stars Ram Kumar Bhatt and Naveen Kumar Ram seemed elated too.
“The sports department has agreed to give us cycles lying unused at the mega sports complex. We will be given accommodation and food while in Ranchi,” said Ram Kumar, who won two bronze medals at the 34th National Games but runs a roadside hotel to make both ends meet.
Half a dozen tourneys are lined up for the 15-member squad, including a national road cycling championship in Pune from December 1. Ram Kumar said this little support from the government would go a long way in boosting their confidence and skills.