Here’s an Xmas surprise — well, of arguable pleasantness — for individual athletes.
The state government has decided to allow players of various disciplines practise at the multi-crore Jaipal Singh Munda Mega Sports Complex in Hotwar, Ranchi, in lieu of membership. Forms can be collected from the Sports Authority of Jharkhand (SAJ) office at the complex from Monday, while membership cards will be issued within 15 days of application in keeping with the Yuletide spirit.
Now, the catch. The too-good-to-be-true offer does come at a price, which is again not so paltry. The sports department has fixed a one-time fee of Rs 5,000 for amateur and professional athletes who are above the poverty line. For their poor cousins — whose number is certainly much higher — the membership will be Rs 1,000 heavy on the pocket.
Besides this one-time membership fee, the department will also levy a monthly maintenance charge of Rs 200 from general category athletes and Rs 100 from those below poverty line or less than 16 years old.
Sports director Sant Kumar Verma conceded that the plan was drawn up to serve two purposes. First, to harness the world-class infrastructure in Hotwar so that it no longer languished in neglect. Second, to allow players to groom themselves in a better way.
“Individuals can drop at the SAJ office any day, beginning tomorrow, and collect forms. We will take only 15 days to process and issue the membership cards. A player will have to show this card to security persons at one of the gates and they will be granted access to most of the stadiums,” Verma said.
Of the nine facilities inside the mega sports complex, practice sessions will currently be allowed at Birsa Munda Athletics Stadium, Ganpat Rai Indoor Stadium, Harivansh Tanabhagat Indoor Stadium, Thakur Vishwanath Shahdeo Indoor Stadium and the Velodrome. The stadiums will be open for members twice a day — from 6am to 9am and again from 4pm to 8pm.
The Tikait Umrao Shooting Range, the Veer Budhu Bhagat Aquatic Stadium, the Albert Ekka Kho-Kho Stadium and Tennis Stadium will be out of bounds for athletes. “There is no particular reason to keep these facilities closed for now. Actually, we are trying to open stadiums phase-wise,” the senior sports official said.
While everything else seems promising as far as honing Jharkhand’s sporting talents is concerned, the question remains whether humble players, who barely stomach two square meals a day, will be able to cough up the twin fees.
Sports director Verma played defensive. “Anything given for free is barely appreciated,” he said, adding that they were anyway charging “very less” from below poverty line athletes.
Satbir Singh, general secretary of Jharkhand Cycling Association, was candid. “Something is better than nothing. At least the stadiums will now be used for what they are meant — sports,” he said.
Singh also admitted that many players might not be able to afford the fees. “Our pedal boys are not like cricketers who earn a lot of money. If you ask me, the membership fee for above poverty line athletes should have been Rs 2,000 and for those below poverty line Rs 500,” he said.
Farzana Khan, a lawn bowl player from Ranchi who bagged gold during the 34th National Games in February 2011, echoed him. “The idea of membership is very welcome. But, keeping talent from the rural hinterland in mind, the fees should have been less,” Khan said.
Money matters notwithstanding, the new arrangement is expected to receive good response.
Earlier, only sports associations were allowed to hold events at Hotwar’s stadiums and that too for a hefty charge of Rs 10,000 a day for each facility. No wonder the world-class infrastructure lay idle and ailing despite concerted efforts to give it a fresh lease of life.
Should entry to Hotwar be made free for BPL players?