Lack of good sports infrastructure

In 2019, the global sports market was valued at approximately 458.8 billion U.S dollars. The annual growth rate increased up to 3.4% since 2015. In 2020, the market declined from 458.8 billion U.S. dollars to 388.3 billion U.S. dollars at a rate of -15.4%. The downgrade of the market can largely be attributed to Covid-19 disease.

The market size of the sports industry across India was over 91 billion rupees in 2019. In 2018, the industry was over 77.62 billion rupees and in 2017, it was over 73 billion rupees. India is doing wonders in the field of sports. In 2020, the government had allocated Rs 2829.92 crores as a sports budget. This budget was 50 crore more than 2019-2020.

Now let’s come to Jammu & Kashmir; former Governor of the erstwhile state, Satya Pal Malik approved Rs 350 crore budget for raising infrastructure in separate sports. This budget was to complete all ongoing work in stadiums, play fields including game specific infrastructure. The budget was to be spent in 2019-2020. This had been approved for establishment of 5 synthetic football turfs, 5 synthetic Astro turfs for hockey, 90 basketball courts, 80 volleyball courts, 102 badminton courts, 50 handball synthetic courts, 500 Table Tennis courts, 4 synthetic maintenance machines, 7 lawn tennis courts, 40 cricket net/wicket, 24 bowling machines, 22 cricket pitch roller, one shooting range, 6 swimming pools, 8 roller skating rinks, 2 climbing walls, 2 cycling track, 6 synthetic athletic track, 2 archery field and 1 synthetic rugby playfield. Unfortunately, a very less percentage of work has been done in this regard so far.

The youth of Jammu and Kashmir are very enthusiastic and have always proved their talent in every discipline. The sports infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir is meager with only 18 stadiums and 23 training centers with disappointing maintenance. I myself am a basketball player and have participated in various nationals. With all my experience of playing in other states, the way their sports employees show dedication towards maintenance of sports grounds is above par and back home, it is in shambles.

There is no dearth of talent in Jammu and Kashmir. The enthusiasm and excitement that was created in 2016 by Sports Council amongst youth mainly in the age group of under 17 & under 14 Boys and girls is being understood as a medium of expression of youth energies of otherwise anarchic young generation that has fallen a victim to long turbulent turmoil in the valley.

But unfortunately, from August 2018, J&K State Sports Council has failed to understand the concern of taking the youth Sports Engagement programme in continuity without break to sustain the effort for bringing a paradigm intellectual shift in the targeted derailed youth generation.

I have seen how other states maintain their stadiums, training centres and the save area where sports are being practiced and played. But here in Kashmir, as I said is in shambles and no one is bothered to maintain the already devastated playgrounds and the training centres. From the last 3-4 years the stadiums and training centers are in shambles and due to the non- maintenance, these stadiums and training centers have become a safe haven for various diseases including dengue and cholera.

The basketball court at Indoor Sports Stadium Srinagar is still under  reconstruction from past 3-4 years and the giant swimming pool in Joggers Park Srinagar is under construction from past 5 years and is still under construction.

There are lot of grounds and stadiums in Kashmir which are still under developed. Pertinent to mention here that the developmental work for the under developed stadiums started in 2016-17 & due to political vendetta, the work on those grounds and stadiums is still a distant dream.

J&K Sports Council is the caretaker of almost all stadiums and grounds in Jammu and Kashmir. How do they organize programs without having a proper stadium and ground maintenance? Why most of the construction work is still ‘under construction’ despite the budget availability. How many of the infrastructure is ready for which the budget was allocated during the tenure of former governor Satyapal Malik.

Since I have been in the basketball game, I have never seen any improvement in any basketball court. The basketball rings at indoor stadium and joggers park are not upto the mark.  There are other sports disciplines either suffering for the sake of infrastructure or for the maintenance. In 2020, a project worth over Rs 400 crore was under execution to upgrade the sports infrastructure in Jammu & Kashmir. This project was funded by Jammu and Kashmir infrastructure development finance corporation (JKIDFC) and was for upgrading the sports infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir. If the government is doing funding, it is their responsibility to follow up the projects of infrastructure. They need to check whether the money they are funding for is spent on that project or is getting wasted by the non-callous approach of babus.

Meanwhile, the government’s focus should go on rural areas where lack of infrastructure and will of trainers to train youngsters is negligible. Until and unless the issues of ground level and local youth icons are not answered, it will remain a distant dream of creating a culture of sports in the country especially in Jammu and Kashmir.

It is high time for the government to revisit these infrastructural projects and set a deadline for their completion. It is important that the government should also roll the positions of officers to lessen the chances of corruption. Otherwise, time is not far when Jammu and Kashmir won’t be able to produce quality sportspersons.

Let’s join hands to work for better sports and infrastructural facilities in Jammu and Kashmir.

(The author is studying in Kashmir Government Polytechnic College).