The Indian contingent at the just concluded Gold Coast Commonwealth Games bettered the country’s medal tally at Glasgow by clinching a total of 66 medals this time. Although it was just 2 medals more than the previous event’s total, this time the country almost doubled the tally of the gold medals. It secured a total of 26 gold medals while it was 15 the last time. Although there is no single factor that can be attributed to the improvement in the performance by the athletes, the focus that the Central government is giving to sports at the grassroots over the years cannot be ignored. The diversification to other sports activities other than just cricket and the few other traditional games might also one of the factors. Along with it, one important factor is the rise in avenues for professional sports rather than the services and department-centric amateur competitions that was common throughout India for many years. Looking forward, the country promises a lot more professional sports persons with many more medals to come.
Khelo India is one such programme under the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports aimed at reviving the sports culture at the grassroots with 12 distinct verticals for development— play field development; community coaching development; state-level Khelo India centres; annual sports competition; talent search and development; utilisation and creation/upgrade of sports infrastructure; support to national/regional/ state sports academies, physical fitness of school children, sports for women, sports for people with disabilities, sports for peace and development; and promotion of rural and indigenous/tribal games.
As for Nagaland, the best example to describe the sports scene at present is that when the Khelo India School Games was launched in January 2018, Nagaland was busy with whether or not to conduct the Assembly Elections for the 13th Lok Sabha. Although the state chapter of the Khelo India school games was held in state capital Kohima in January 2017, there was no mention of Nagaland participating in the National levels this year. However as the case always is, the probable intention of the Centre to build nearly 100 football grounds was big news all over the Northeast. In the last 4-5 years it seems sports in Nagaland was relegated to the back bench by the government. It was especially conspicuous in the previous government. It seemed there was an unwritten understanding that any sports-related extravaganza was not required for the Naga youth. Details are slowly surfacing that indicates that the sports were not given due importance by the previous government as even after the sanction, the Dr. T Ao academy never materialised. So whatever professionalism was achieved in the years before was again somewhat relegated to mere amateur sporting events. Some sporting events were more akin to celebrity charity events that are conducted elsewhere.
The present government led by the Advisor Youth Resource and Sports has an uphill task ahead to develop sports as a profession in the state. At present Nagaland has neither head nor tail and all the money meant for sports is somewhat wasted because of lack of planning. As sports at the grassroots is taken care of by Khelo India, the state needs to leverage it to develop one professional sporting hub in the state. There are 11 district headquarters but only one town or city has to be developed as the sports capital initially. This way the main hub becomes the ultimate destination for all talents from the remote areas. Unless such a roadmap is charted out it will be the same story all over again – a repeat of what has been witnessed for the last 54 years since statehood.