Unfair Games

Despite the promises made by the centre and state government to build new sports infrastructure in Kashmir valley to involve the disgruntled youth, it is the Jammu region that has got a larger piece of cake, Saima Bhat reports.

J&K sports minister RS Chib laying foundation of sports stadium at Samba, Jammu
J&K sports minister RS Chib laying foundation of sports stadium at Samba, Jammu

Following the mass uprising in Kashmir valley in 2008, the centre and J&K government had announced that they will refurbish old and build new sports infrastructure in the Kashmir valley to involve youth in sports who were pelting stones on the government forces.

The unrest of 2008 and 2010 in Kashmir valley, which resulted in death of more than 120 youth, mostly teenagers, had forced the state as well as central government to think of alternatives, which will involve the younger generation of the state, who were fighting ding-dong battles with security forces almost on daily basis. And later the decision of developing all season football stadiums, training by top former Indian cricketers and building boxing rings in each district was portrayed as the weapon of government of India to check the stone pelting in Kashmir Valley.

In fact, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came up with a grand plan of above Rs 500 crores to attract Kashmiri youth towards sports in a bid to wean them away from stone pelting. He had said that ‘sports should be promoted to distance youth from pelting stones’ in Kashmir valley.

To fulfill its and centre’s ambitious promises, the state government identified 571 playgrounds including 293 in Jammu and 278 in Kashmir for development, according to the figures released by the state minister of Youth Services and Sports department in the autumn session of legislative assembly here.

In order to promote games and sports, the government invests funds in various constituencies of J&K under various schemes like Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA), a rural sports initiative introduced by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. PYKKA provides funds for the development and maintenance of sports grounds in villages and block Panchayats.

The state government also decided to renovate 10 stadiums in Jammu at a cost of Rs 656.39 lakh and eight in Kashmir for Rs 511.44 lakh. From the amount invested in Kashmir, where the need for raising sports infrastructure was felt more, Rs 320 lakh alone were used in building a multi-sports facility at Rajbagh and rest Rs 191.44 lakh was spent on the eight stadiums of Kashmir.

So far, more than Rs 3.88 crore has been spent in all 10 districts of Jammu from 2009 to 2011 under sports council program while Rs 2.86 crore was spent in the same period in the 10 districts of Kashmir. Under the same program, while Rs 24. 06 lakh was spent for building stadiums in Jammu in 2010-11, an amount of only Rs 10. 28 lakh was spent for stadiums in Srinagar in the same period.

Under the district wise allocation, the documents show that Rs 227. 49 lakh was spent in Jammu and Rs 458.06 lakh in Kashmir. However, under the state sector allocation, Rs 223.63 lakh were spent in Jammu and Rs. 76.26 lakhs in Kashmir. Under PYKKA, Jammu got a share of Rs 253. 75 lakh while Kashmir got Rs 1871.55 lakhs.

On a careful analysis, the documents reveal that the playfields in major areas of Kashmir valley where youth were allegedly found involved in stone pelting during the unrest of 2008-10 were not on the list drafted by the state government while as in Jammu, the development of sports infrastructure has taken place uniformly across the division.

In Jammu, various playfields, mini stadiums and stadiums were developed in 294 constituencies while as in Kashmir, the sports facilities were developed in 278 constituencies. But the funds were distributed disproportionately when both the regions have an equal number of districts and the need for refurbishing sports infrastructure was felt more in Kashmir valley than Jammu, according to the government’s own admission.

‘The promotion of sports has become the government’s prime concern,’ the J&K’s minister for youth services and sports department, RS Chib had said on a number of occasions. But his statement is contrary to the government’s stance. If the Jammu district received Rs 40.95 lakh in 2009-2011, the Srinagar district received Rs 22.20 lakh only.

In Jammu region, Udhampur was the highest receiver of funds in 2009 – 2011 for the development of its various sports facilities at Rs 98.80 lakh. In Kashmir, Islamabad district got the maximum share of Rs 111.22 lakh in the same period under the department of youth services and sports.

During the current year, to engage youth in sports-related activities, the state government with the support of army organized Kashmir Premium League and Jammu Premium League for which Rs 20 lakh was sanctioned by the government. Besides sports tournaments, a goodwill match was also played on July 4 this year after a gap of 25 years between Mohammedan Sporting Club, Kolkata and JK-XI for which around 30,000 spectators gathered in Srinagar’s Bakshi Stadium. But these are only token measures taken by the government to engage the youth.

Also, an international cycling race, the first of its kind, was organized in November 2012 in Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar. More than 100 cyclists participated in the second leg of ‘Tour De India’ cycling race held on Srinagar’s Foreshore Road. Teams like Rabobank, Lotto and Astana along with some local cyclists participated in the event. Although the event would not make any big impact on the sports enthusiasts in the valley, the state government didn’t shy away from scoring a political point.

Girls playing Rugby at the outdated Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar
Girls playing Rugby at the outdated Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar

J&K’s minister for Youth Services and Sports, RS Chib said on the occasion, “We have very talented cyclists over here and we believe with Tour de India, the enthusiasts will consider making this sport as their profession.” The state sports ministry is also paving way for the local youth to take interest in the sports and chose it as their profession.

Another budding game, Rugby, is also in the promotion list of J&K government. Although unregistered, the Rugby players are given full support to play at National as well as International level. The same rules apply to other games like Taikandow, Rifle Shooting, Baseball, Tennis Ball, etc. But there are very few places in Kashmir valley where such sports can be played.

To breed a sports culture in the state, there are many hurdles as well. Despite huge claims, the much-hyped project of the state government to construct an international cricket stadium in Jammu has been quietly shelved for the time being. Insiders say it was because of rampant red-tapism and multi-crore scam unearthed in Jammu & Kashmir Cricket Association which cast a shadow over the project which was proposed to be complete by June 2013 and host international tournaments.

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