Can’t We Respect Our Sportsmen?
Do sports in India mean only cricket and nothing else? This country has in the past produced Milkha Singh, P.T Usha, Mary Kom and many other stalwarts in different sports, who earned glory for the nation in spite of all struggles. But the sad part is that the country or the system still doesn’t give the much needed encouragement and recognition to the sportsmen other than that of cricket.
One such tale is that of Jagbir Singh, who is a wrestler by passion. But his passion didn’t remain confined to him but has earned many golds and recognitions not for the state but also for the country. But probably you may not know him. Go by all his pictures, you may not recognise this great hero of the country. Recently, he brought Gold Medal, earning international recognition for the country in World Police Games, America, 2015, which went unnoticed.
Jagbir Singh was born in Haryana in the year 1979 in a small village named Mandi. Since his initial days his surrounding had the occasional wrestling competitions, and the youths of the village were engaged in body building and wrestling apart from other works and studies. This is how Jagbir had his early initiation in wrestling.
It continued till 1995 when finally he started the formal training for wrestling under the guidance of Ranbir Singh Kundu in Mohali, Chandigarh. He is now a trained and expert wrestler in Greeco Roman in weight categories 84 and 98 kg. He underwent rigorous training.
The journey that began in the year 2002, when he participated in All India Police Games 2002 and earned the Gold Medal, has not stopped yet. Many national and international medals followed. Recently, Jagbir brought glory to the country when he participated in World Police Games, America, 2015, and earned Gold Medal for the country. But still no newspaper, magazine or television channel has find time or space for a story on this proud son of the country.
In spite of their magnificent saga in sports, what is perturbing is the fact that rather than encouraging such glorious personalities, we compel them to develop distaste for the sport, they like most. As for Jagbir, he cannot maintain his diet and his living by the meagre salary he gets as Assistance Sub Inspector of Haryana Police where he has been working since February 2002. He joined Haryana Police in 2002 under sports quota.
For want of proper diet, his stomach developed infection a few years back, due to which he had been unable to play and participate in competitions for almost two years. “I had to take complete rest for two long years; you can’t imagine the trauma I went through during that time,” said Jagbir Singh while talking to Uday India.
Even during his initial days of struggle, he was denied access to many sporting platforms. Once he was not allowed to participate in a competition, when he reached the venue, just late by 10 minutes, because he had to walk all the way from his home, for more than 10 kilometres to reach the venue, as he did not find any conveyance.
After his glorious victory in World Police Games, America, 2015, and after returning to India, he went on to meet the Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar. The Haryana Chief Minister appreciated Jagbir’s efforts in the international arena but didn’t announce any promotion or financial support for this sportsman. Speaking to Uday India, Jagbir said: “Sirf tariff karne se kya hoga. Mujhe khel ke alava aapne ghar ko bhi dekhna hota hain, jo is salary se possible nahi. Pata nahi aage kya hoga, khel paunga ki nah” (Appreciation is not enough. Besides wrestling, I have to earn bread and butter for my family, which is not possible with this salary. I do not know whether I will be able to wrestle in the future.). These are the words of a bright sportsman, which may fade away with time just because of little encouragement. Although he wants to play for the country and earn glory for the country, but doesn’t know how far he can continue, with such indifferent attitude of the government and the system.
His close friend and media professional Vishal Lather too believes that it is injustice for Jagbir. While speaking to Uday India, he says: “Sportsmen like Jagbir fade away just because of little encouragement from the government or system. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the media to bring out the unjust real tales of our sports heroes.”
Jagbir Singh may not be the only one sportsman in the country, who has to face such uncertainties of life, even after earning glory to the nation. There are many such victims. Recently when 2008 Olympic medallist and boxer Vijender Singh quit Indian National Boxing to opt for Pro and joined Queensbury Promotion Boxing League in England, it brought shame for all of us as a nation. Vijender’s professional plunge means he would not be representing India at the Olympics. Even the national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said that it is bad news for the team overall. This may happen to Jagbir and many more like him in India, if we do not recognise and respect our talents.
By Joydeep Dasgupta from Kolkata