The performance of Indian Athletes at Commonwealth Games 2018 narrates the story of India’s emerging pool of sporting talents who are ready to conquer the world. A proud and jubilant Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore represented the Country at the closing ceremony of the Games at Gold Coast. A man of straight talk and clear direction, Shri Rathore spoke to Organiser Correspondents Nishant Kr Azad and Shaan Kashyap o n a wide ranging issues extending from sporting culture in India to politics. Excerpts from the Exclusive interview:
How do you see the performance of Indian athletes at the Commonwealth Games, 2018?
It is a reflection of the confidence that is there in the Indian youth today. This is visible in all the sectors of the country; sports is one of them. Sports is one sector where our confidence and our will to win are clearly demonstrable. The number of people who moved from the silver and bronze to gold has increased. We continue to dominate the sports we have dominated. Other sports emulating the other colleagues have started to dominate too, like Table Tennis and Athletics. It is a clear reflection of the emerging Indian youth’s aspiration and their belief in them.
Moreover, the Ministry and its programmes are being professionalised. There is a large effort into broad basing the sports which is being reflected in Khelo India school games. There is a greater reflection in creating Champions!
Khelo India School Games is a big success. What would be the next step in bringing in the talent pool, both from the rural and the urban India?
Sports is a State subject and they are supposed to invest into sports. Then it is also the responsibility of the Federations. The role of the Central Government is to coordinate between the States and different Federations and support them. However, the Prime Minister feels very close to the issues related to the youth and repeatedly he is speaking about encouraging the youth and promoting their potentials. Till now, the school level national championships had almost no audience and few competitors. There were no incentives. All this has been addressed in Khelo India.
You will be happier to know that now we have added a priority status to some of the indigenous and rural sports of the country as well. On January 26, the sports table had live Mallakhambh appearing on it. So, that is the message that we are investing now into the Mallakhambh, Kho-Kho, and South Indian martial arts
So, for the first time there is a Government scheme which is not just investing in infrastructure but also investing in the soft-infrastructure. First time ever, that we conducted the school games, the children travelled in second ACs, stayed in four-star hotels, and there were three and a half thousand of them, there were dedicated transport facilities, high quality playing arena and officials of international standards. There was hundred hour live television broadcast in high definition on Star Sports. We are selecting one thousand athletes among these young champions every year and giving them scholarships of Rupees Five lakh every year for eight years in a row. We are also training the trainers under a programme. So Khelo India would change the way and Indian Sports would grow from here onwards!
There has been a splendid performance by women players all along. What would you say to those who still box Indian women as weak?
Those people are living in a different world. India has already changed and the changed face of India is visible in the number of women athletes winning medals for the country. They are bringing glory and joy to their families, State and the Country. It is also reflected in the Cinema, if there is a film on Milkha Singh, there is a film on Mary Kom too. If Hockey was taken up for a film, the Women team was depicted in the movie Chak De India! Films like Dangal are compensating for a Paan Singh Tomar. The society has already accepted and embraced women. Those who are lagging behind, need to change their mindset and walk along with the society.
Indian shuttlers have exceptionally performed well at the Games. Does the Government have plans to promote other sports like Badminton?
Wrestling, Boxing, Shooting, and Badminton are the sports which are doing extremely well. New emerging sports which are there in the Olympics are Table Tennis and Gymnastics. We also have to focus on Athletics, Swimming and Fencing because these have large number of medals. Now we have a scheme called Target Olympic Podium which has now been made very professional. Athletes’ injury issues, their physical status, training on the equipments that would be there in the main competition, cutting down the bureaucracy and red-tapism and direct communication with the athletes-all this is being done. You will be happier to know that now we have added a priority status to some of the indigenous and rural sports of the country as well. And I would compare this to the Shaolin monks of China. On January 26, the sports table had live Mallakhambh appearing on it. So, that is the message that we are investing now into the Mallakhambh, Kho-Kho, and South Indian martial arts.
Doping charges have ashamed the Indian contingent in the past. What are the ways to prevent such cases?
We are investing into building icons for India. When we do so, we are looking at people who are disciplined and who win by fair means. We are not for winning at any cost. Therefore, cheating and doping are not at all acceptable. We have awareness campaigns where in the athletes are made aware of the harm that can come to them both physically and socially by taking drugs. Secondly, we have a mechanism to carry out random tests to curb the menace
of doping. We have now gone down to control dope control even at the level of the school games. This has been done to send a message that no cheat could become a role model for us.
If we shift from sports to politics, another big match is coming up in your home State Rajasthan. Assembly election will take place there by this year end. Where does the BJP stand in the State, especially after losing the by-polls?
In sports there is a term called big-match temperament. There are people who do well in matches at lower level and there are people who are made for big events. Certainly the result of by-polls was a setback for the BJP but remember we are still waiting for the big match to start in 2018 December in Rajasthan. There are lot of development initiatives, such as Bhamashah Card which is very progressive in nature, and Labour Card, a scheme initiated in the present tenure of the CM is also a remarkable scheme that allows anybody who has been working for a period of 90 days to be certified not just by government agencies but also by the private contractor that ensures education for their children and health for their family. Also to sort out the problem of water which is plaguing Rajasthan, all the fund and efforts of all departments are brought under ‘Jal Swawlamban Programme’ so as to resolve the issue of water shortage in a unified manner. So I do feel that people would realise the work done in Rajasthan by the State Government and also commitment and transparency of the Central Leadership, when it comes to the Assembly polls and General Elections. Rajasthani people will stand along with the rest of the nation in choosing good governance over a party that has been associated with scandal and dynastic politics.
Q. How do you categorise the people’s response to the on-going electoral campaign in the state of Karnataka, with regard to both BJP and the Congress?
I went to Karnataka. I found a major support there for Prime Minister and his method of working. There is a belief that Karnataka would be one of the many states that would have the opportunity of better governance. It is also very sad to see that how the thirst for power is luring the present political leadership there to divide the people in various groups and sub-groups. The one I am referring to is the Lingayat issue. India is always been divided into various castes, sub-castes and groups and that’s why we were ruled by others. I sincerely hope that 21st century would be a lot different than previous centuries.
Communists are on decline all over the world and now they have limited to a few States in India also. If you see the history of Communism, they have been very violent. Now they see that the tide is turning and they will never return to power, this is their frustration that is showing
Q. In the non-BJP ruled states, especially, Kerala, West Bengal and Karnataka, Hindus and political activists of opposition parties are on the target and being exterminated in a planned
way. How do you view this?
Communists are on decline all over the world and now they have limited to a few States in India also. If you see the history of Communism, they have been very violent. Now they see that the tide is turning and they will never return to power, this is their frustration that is showing. Their old habits that are reflected in their ways in trying to hold on to power. Even some of the Congress ruled states again its desperation that is visible. Their inability to see a different point of view and they still campaign on certain issues wherein the truth is subdued by the shrill campaign of untruth.
Q. What"s your take on the recent rape cases that shocked the nation? Some political parties and groups have tried to communalise it and they have succeeded in their motive somehow.
Rape is a crime against humanity. It is heinous and not acceptable at all. It’s even worse when the victim is a person of a younger age, especially a child. It is absolutely not acceptable in any cultured society. There has to be exemplary punishments. The worst that can be done is to use this as a weapon against somebody you have a vengeance with or somebody you oppose politically. This is exactly the reason why harsher punishments are not implemented because this is used as a political tool. The security and investigating agencies must be given the full liberty to investigate into the matter and the profile, religion or the social status of a person cannot be the reason for investigating agencies to go soft on a person. That is our stand, it’s very clear!
The groups and political parties who try to communalise rapes reflect their sorry state of mind and trivialises the issue wherein the entire sane society which should be speaking in one voice is seen divided. Politicisation of the issue divides the united protest, which is unfortunate.
Q. Despite having an all India character and full people representation, BJP is still slammed by the Opposition for being anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim, how do you react to this?
Anybody who wants to know the answer on this issue, should do a bit of study on the work done by this government or any of the past governments for Dalits. They will be able to compare lot of actions taken for upliftment of the Dalits by present government compare to the lip service done by the earlier governments. The Constitutions have provided them certain privileges and our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on many occasions enunciated his devotion to the Constitution and to the thought process of Babasaheb. Wherein Dr Ambedkar mentioned that, “No solution made in the law will ever be able to provide equanimity but it is only social change that will actually provide equal status to Dalits”. Apart from the Stand-Up India wherein certain amount of loan that can be taken only by Dalits from the banks, there are also specific programmes made for bring in a change of thinking in the society. There is also a committed effort to bring social justice by this government. Apart from this, naming the day Constitution was made as ‘Constitution Diwas’ is a part of whole process so that it sets in the mind of people that everybody is equal.