Infrastructural and Societal Apathy: The State of Affairs of Sports in Bihar

* Written by Tauqueer Ahmad

It is the time of year when every Indian rejoices over the medals won by Indian athletes at the Common Wealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. I am also celebrating, but half-heartedly because I do not see any representation by my state's players, the Bihar. India made its debut at the Common Wealth Games in 1934. So far, India has clinched 503 medals and holds the 4th position in the overall medal tally. Day by day, the performance of India is improving at the international level.

Furthermore, it is the right moment to analyse the participation of athletes from different states of India in the international sports flora, especially where there are Bihar athletes. Why are they not part of the Indian squad? As per the Aadhar statistics, the population of Bihar is 120 million. It is the third most populated state in India. The economy of Bihar is one of the fastest-growing in India. In 2022-23, Bihar’s GSDP at its current price is projected to be Rs. 7.45 trillion. The state’s GSDP expanded at a CARDG of 10.44% between 2015-16 and 2022-23. Bihar has witnessed strong growth in per-capita net state domestic product.

Bihar's contribution to the different sectors is a matter of pride. The Civil Service, Bihar students perform very well in India's most challenging exam. In the current scenario, 452 IAS officers are serving the nation. In the IITs exam, Bihar is the second state after Andhra Pradesh, which gives the maximum number of qualified students. The medical field includes the navy, the army, the SSC, banking, and so on. In almost all the sectors, from time to time, the participants are enhanced, except for games and sports.

The ratio of participants in games and sports is declining. At the last Commonwealth Games, Bihar player Shrayshi Singh gave the gold medal to India. She is the only player from Bihar to whom India has given a consecutive medal. No single Indian player was selected for the Commonwealth Games squad this time. Moreover, only a few Bihar players got a chance to participate in the Olympic games, Commonwealth games, and Asian games team squads. Mewalal Sahu was a member of the Indian hockey team in 1948 in London. In 1976, Munich Olympic Shivnath Singh participated in the men’s marathon event. And there are very few at our fingertips. Bihar has almost 120 million people and is the third most populous state, following Uttar Pradesh. It’s a very upsetting statistical history illustrating how many players were born in Bihar. After independence, Indians participated 19 in the Olympics, 19 in the Commonwealth Games, and 18 in the Asian Games. Including all the mega events, only four players will become part of the Indian team. These stats show the very backwardness of Bihar as far as sports are concerned in international flora. Indeed, there are several factors involved in this, like the geographical factor, genetic factors, lack of infrastructure, lack of sponsors, Lack of scholarship scheme, lack of coaches, administrative carelessness, economic factor, lack of job opportunities, and lack of physical education institutions. Let us analyse some of the key factors.

Here the critical responsibility comes into the picture: livelihood. Athletes pursue their interest in sports, but they have also taken care of economic factors and paid a part of their attention to the academic or education sector. The key challenge is building a sports career along with educational or other pursuits. As per the NITI Aayog report, 51.9% of the population of Bihar is below the poverty line. So, theoretically, the majority of families in Bihar can't carry a load of two, both financially.

Here the critical question arises: how will we create a good sports culture with finance? In the words of Boria Majumdar, "Unless there is a synergised sports culture, you will never win a string of medals. A fundamental overhaul is needed and urgently so. " Without sports culture, athletes are left out of the supportive environment required for shaping a better-performing group of athletes.

These were the factors at the individual level, but what was the contribution of the consecutive state governments? The biggest challenges for players in Bihar are infrastructure and coaches. The infrastructure of sports complexes in Bihar is not competitive compared to other states like Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, and Kerala. These states' athletes perform in national and international level competitions.

Currently, the state government is constructing a new sports complex and gym in several districts of Bihar. Are those sports complexes for players only? In many districts, players are allotted only one time (evening or morning) for practice. It may be 3–4 hours. The rest of the time, sports complexes are used for fitness or entertainment by reputed businessmen, elite class officers, politicians, and administrative officers. Then we hope that Bihar gets a medal in national and international competitions. National-level athletes require at least 10 hours of rigorous training daily for optimal performance.

Chief minister Nitesh Kumar laid the foundation stone of a world-class sports academy at the cricket stadium in 2018. The project is planned for a vast 90 acres and is expected to cost Rs. 633 crores. Till now, that complex has not seen the light of the day.

Due to sports complexes being under construction, players are suffering in many districts across the state. Is it possible that without a coach, how do the players get training? Currently, the entire training module has shifted towards scientific training. How do players get tanning? If the state government does not hire coaches, NIS coaches migrate from Bihar to private academies or other states. Another crucial factor bothering athletes is "sponsorship". With each year's budget, funding for various development disciplines has increased as our economy has been doing well.

Given that the youth of Bihar want to take sports seriously, there is still comparatively very little finance allocated for sports. Eventually, the state champion of Bihar in different games does not get any scholarship. In many states, the government provides a huge amount of token money when a player becomes a state champion for their advanced training. It performs well in national and international matches.

And last but not least, the lack of job opportunities, In contrast to another state, it is now apparent that most of our youth are more interested in sports than academics. However, this interest still exists only as a dream due to a lack of support, a lack of career-oriented growth plans, etc. Parents are scared that their children will build a career in the sports industry.

The need of the hour is to show solid administrative collaboration at the state and district level. Also, sports associations should follow a robust bottom-up approach to bring dynamic athletes to the national flora.

*The author is an M.P. Ed graduate from Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

(The image used here is for representational purposes only)