Nagaland Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio was visibly upset and perhaps genuinely concerned about the State’s performance at a recent national sporting event.
Referring to state’s dismal performance at the recently concluded Khelo India Youth Games (KIYG) 2020 in Guwahati, he expressed apprehension that ‘Nagas as a whole and particularly the youth are becoming very casual.’
The Chief Minister’s discomfiture is understandable and to a great degree justified. Failing to earn even a single medal, Nagaland languished at the bottom of the Medal Tally list comprising of 35 states and union territories in the KIYG 2020. Meghalaya was the other state from the North East with ‘zero’ medal.
‘We are very proud people. People don’t praise us but we praise ourselves a lot. But in such National games, we can’t achieve even one medal… It is very depressing,’ Rio reportedly stated addressing the award ceremony of Chief Minister’s Meritorious Students Fellowship (CMMSF) in Kohima on January 31. Consequently, he challenged the gathering, particularly the youth, to “take things more seriously to excel in life,” implying it was otherwise.
The state government, Rio maintained, has serious concerns for the overall development of youth but they also need to work hard to excel.
While the Chief Minister harangue is timely and well-taken, both the youth and the state government could be equally at fault for adopting a casual approach towards sports or lack of seriousness, thereof.
Conversely, the state government can be questioned for its nonchalance, policy-wise in developing sports, and ‘challenged’ to take things more seriously to produce capable players to compete in national and international arena.
The reality, so far, is not encouraging. For instance, Nagaland could manage only 10 athletes out of nearly 7000 participants at the KIYG 2020, an event touted as the biggest platform for “grassroot level hunt for sportspersons.” Out of 20 sports events, the state was represented in three -Wrestling, Archery, and athletics. Unfortunately, it was a decrease from 13 athletes in 2019.
Where are the players? The Morung Express had commented earlier, adding that the problem was not funding as Nagaland’s share in the revised budgetary allocation for Khelo India Scheme was one of the highest among 25 states and UTs in India. On February 3, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports at the centre also informed that parliament that presently, 2747 athletes are benefiting under Khelo India Scheme, started in October 2017, of which 1335 are benefiting from residential training facilities. One wonders whether any athletes from the state are availing such benefit under the scheme. The Ministry also stated that the government is committed to expand Khelo India Scheme and provide all necessary financial support.
The first step towards correction is a comprehensive policy to develop sports in the state. A pledged sports policy is still stuck in perpetual limbo for nearly three years now, despite periodical assertion.
Addressing the closing ceremony of the 9th edition of North East Dr T Ao Trophy, at Indira Gandhi Stadium, Kohima on January 28, the Chief Minister apprised that the government in collaboration with the Nagaland Olympic Association, the government of India and the Indian Olympic Association is formulating a comprehensive long-term game plan to develop sports in the state.
The next session of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly starting February 7 is the most appropriate time to show that the state government is also ready to discard its casualness, and get serious about developing sports in the state.