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Hockey mentors await govt pay for years

Ranchi, Feb. 12: Sushanti Gudia was an attacking midfielder in her hockey heyday.

Today, this government-appointed coach for a day boarding school in rebel-hit Torpa block of Khunti must be cursing her fate. A debilitating hand injury and unpaid years of work is all she has received in return for her services to groom wannabes.

Like Gudia, Dulari Topno, Karuna Purty and over a dozen other former national hockey players-turned-coaches are victims of contemptible babudom and gross government apathy. They met district sports officer (DSO) D.S. Ram at Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi for succour today. Yesterday, they had sought audience with sports director Dadan Choubey too.

But, hopes remain dim as always in Jharkhand.

Gudia may still have to run from table to table in the sports department to claim her salary dues so that she can get her left wrist, fractured in a road accident on December 20 last year, operated.

“I don’t have strength in my left hand. It needs to be operated on before the injury can heal. But, I have no money. To ease pain, I am falling back on desi dawai (traditional herb treatments),” Gudia said.

She added that she hadn’t received parts of her pay from the sports department since 2010. “From last July till now, I have not got my monthly salary of Rs 5,500. Apart from that, two months’ pay in 2012 and six months’ pay — from September 2010 to February 2011 — are due. I have submitted a few medical bills in the past, but I am yet to get a penny,” she told this correspondent at Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi.

Purty, a coach at another state boarding centre in Murhu block, Khunti, rued that she had to give Christmas a miss last year for want of money.

She pointed out that while their salary structure was abysmal, untimely payment made their lives all the more difficult. “The government is setting a very bad precedent for the prospect of sports in the state,” she added.

Topno, who mentors students at St Joseph’s Girls’ High School at Hulhundu in Namkum, Ranchi, has recently opened a small grocery shop after taking loans from friends. Her husband runs a tea stall in Namkum. Her two daughters are wannabe players — one at the SAI centre and the other at Bariatu hockey cradle. Topno hasn’t seen a penny of her salary since October last year.

“There are some dues in 2012-13; I don’t exactly remember the amount or number of months. Will it matter anyway?” she said.

How does she survive? “Don’t even ask,” Topno said.

District sports officer Ram flagged many issues, ranging from non-allotment of funds from the government to delay in receiving claims from coaches and lack of time among others. He is the only district games head left in Jharkhand today because the state never recruited new ones.

At a time when Jharkhand is fast gaining recognition in national and international sporting disciplines, it is an irony that local talents and their sincere mentors continue to suffer.

Won’t sports mandarins ever ease their woes?

Sports minister Geetashree Oraon, who was learnt to be busy at the BIT-Mesra fest, didn’t respond to calls. Sports director Choubey claimed he had directed the DSO yesterday to take “corrective steps on priority basis”. On dues pending since 2010, he said: “I have to look into the matter. I have asked the DSO to streamline the process so that coaches don’t suffer.”