Gold medals won by midday, Tuesday, at the Khelo India Youth Games 2020 underway in Guwahati by Maharashtra numbered 71. Bihar’s score – one! Haryana was at 53, striving for first place via favourite one-on-one sports like boxing. Delhi was third with thirty-three golds, Uttarakhand, four, and Manipur, eleven. The remaining states are scattered up and down the table. This loosely tells the tale of how India is shaping up for the future and the conditions that prevail at the grassroots in the participating states. That Punjab was at 14 golds – a state with an older profile and similar background as Haryana – indicates a disappointing decline and – for want of a proper study – one can only make a surmise at the reasons.
It is the tendency among people to comment on India as a whole, when obviously there are so many contrasting variables. What makes Maharashtra such a leader? How does considerably smaller Haryana perform so well? How can a populous state like Bihar, which supplies so much ‘manpower’ to the nation, be such a laggard? How is Manipur’s score to be calculated when so many youngsters from the state are representing other states? How do the socio- economic parameters impact upon the performance? Maharashtra, for instance, is an economic powerhouse, as are Delhi and Haryana. It must be remembered that Bihar’s society is ‘social-justice’ obsessed, while the leading states are urbanised, market-oriented and reward performance! How much are sports specific and targeted schemes helping talented youngsters realise their potential?
The purpose of these games would not be entirely realised if these statistics are not studied thoroughly enough by those entrusted with the promotion of sports. The Youth Games are the PM’s initiative to ‘catch them young’, but without specific feedback to the respective governments and the Centre, corrective action will not be possible. Funds are being allocated to be used where most needed. They will prove less useful without an understanding of what needs to be done. Crisis control teams should be directed at stragglers like Bihar, who will otherwise drag the national average down when it comes to performing at the international level.
State Governments, too, have to read the signs. The economic, social and health parameters in Uttarakhand, for instance, cannot be described as poor. Given the quality schools in the state with the best possible facilities, and the huge pool of coaching talent available in just ex-servicemen, for instance, what is keeping it from reaching at least a Manipur like level? Clearly, it is a strategic failure at the planning level and possible corruption in the use of funds. These need to be speedily corrected. Thus far, without taking away from the achievements of the medal winning youths, the state’s performance has been underwhelming, to say the least.