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Home > Sports > Interviews

The Rediff Interview/Sprint Legend P T Usha

'Politicians must not meddle in sports'

August 18, 2003

P T UshaP T Usha, India's best-known woman athlete,is busy with the Usha School of Athletics, which she started a yearago at Koyilandy in Kerala's Kozhikode district. It has been a tough job for Usha to open the Academy,the first and biggestprivate sporting school opened by an athlete in the country.

Usha says her sport school's mission is to get an Indian on the victory podium atthe 2008 Olympics. But even as sheimparts relentless training to young athletes at theAcademy, Usha is often upset at the "bad waythe government treats sports andsportspersons in India."

"The national sports awards have lost their glamour because awards from the government always come withcontroversies," says the athlete known as the 'Payyoli Express.'

In an exclusive interview with Deputy Managing Editor George Iype, Usha asks the government to change theguidelines for selecting the best sportspersons in the country.

You have called forrevampingthe guidelines for the national sports awards. Is the present set of guidelinesineffective to honourthe right sports talent in the country?
The biggest problem with the national sports awards in India is that the selection committee which the government appointsevery year does not have any real powers. I wasa member of the sport awards selection committee last year. I was given abooklet for each of the awards and then asked to tick suitable names. I asked my colleagueswhythe selectioncommittee is duty-bound to only selectnames from the booklet?

Why can't we go beyond the booklet and choosenames? I felt the sports awards selection committee does not have enough freedom. Therefore, the government needs to setnew guidelines to ensure that the prestigious sports awards should be given to the right people and the status of the awards is notdiluted.

Hasthe prestige of these awardsbeen diluted over the years?
P T UshaI feel so. Ihave won so many awards including the Padma Shri and Arjuna Award. But all these awards do notcarry the kind of prestige they didonce. These days, what follows the declaration of prestigious awards like the Rajiv Gandhi KhelRatna and the Arjuna Awards are endless controversies. This yearwhat followed the national sports awardswas controversy. I blame the government forthis.

Look at what happened this year. The selection committee recommendednames for the awards including the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Aruna Awards; but the government got back to thecommittee insistingit should revise the names. I stand bythe committee's recommendations. The committee did nothingwrong by recommending two athletes for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awards. I think the government should change the rules thatonly one person should be give the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award and that only 15 people should be bestowed the Arjuna Awards.

But the government argues that there should be a stipulated number of awards to be given to the sportspersons. Otherwiseit could create problems.
I do not agree. There cannot be any strict, compartmentalized rules and regulations on the number of awards to begiven. That should be flexible. The motto should be good, great, promising athletes should always be honoured and promoted.

What happens if two Indian athletes win Olympics gold medals? Can the governmentstick to the rule thatonly one Indian athlete can be awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna?

Do you feel money,political power or influence plays a role in the finalization of sports awards?
I do not have any evidence to make such allegations. But I have often feltthat the powers-that-be ingovernment tried toinfluence the sports awards. There are many incidents in which I have seen and experienced cheap politics. When sports getsinvolved with petty politics from authorities and co-athletes, it becomes a nasty game. That happens in all the fields. But if an ableathletic is forced to play politics to qualify for competition, then it is very sad.

What doessports in India lack?
We need to have an effective sports policy. We need to have good guidelines to avoid delicate problems and controversies thatoccur year after year overvarious national sports awards. Now if I need to get an award, I have to apply for that. Why can't we setup a system where the awards come todeserving sportspersons without applying for them? The government has to come outwith a general set of rules and regulations that helpssportspersons.

What hope do you have for India's athletic future?
I think in the last few years,Indian athleteshave been doing quite well. It is improving a lot thanksto the goodsupport the government is giving tosportspersons. There is a general awareness among the people and ingovernment that
sports is one field that Indianeglected over the years. India has a brilliant future in sports. But we need to do two things to promote sports better. First, politicians should not be allowed to meddle in sports. Second, we need to setup cientificapproach to sports in the country.

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Number of User Comments: 3

Sub: athletes,sports and awards

Usha's observation that awards should come to deserving people rather than to those who apply for it absolutely correct. But this system itself makes awards ...

Posted by george

Sub: Ridiculous

India lose the final of world cup cricket due to politicians going to South Africa to watch final. This is ridiculous. This kind of behavior ...

Posted by Sachin Manchanda

Sub: Political intervention in sports

Right. Not only sports but in any field political intervention should not be there coz that means we are pulled in corrupt environment there ...




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