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Sports associations see red over ‘sport’ tag for dahi handi

Mumbai News : Last week, chief minister Eknath Shinde told the state legislative assembly that dahi handi would be included in the category of sports and a ‘pro-govinda’ league .

MumbaiThe Maharashtra government’s decision to allow those participating in dahi handi to be eligible for government jobs under the 5 per cent sports quota has riled sports associations and administrators. Bureaucrats too admit that the devil may lie in the details as formalities like the format of the competition and deciding who can be categorized as an outstanding sports person are tough to lay down for this ‘sport’ of building human pyramids.

Last week, chief minister Eknath Shinde told the state legislative assembly that dahi handi would be included in the category of sports and a ‘pro-govinda’ league would be launched by the state government from next year. This will also enable the ‘govindas’ to avail of the 5 per cent quotas as sportsmen in government jobs.

The Maharashtra government has a five per cent quota in recruitments to all departments for sportsmen who have made a mark in at least state-level tournaments. This covers those games and sports that are played in the Olympics, Asian games and Commonwealth games like wrestling, powerlifting, boxing, hockey, kayaking and canoeing apart from mallakhamb, kabbadi, chess and kho kho, which have been included as a special case.

Leader of opposition Ajit Pawar slammed the state’s decision, saying, “Governments cannot take decisions on the whims and fancies of one person” and questioned the criteria of announcing government jobs for govindas in the sports quota.

Jay Kowli, vice-president, Maharashtra Olympic Association and former secretary-general of the Boxing Federation of India, pointed out that genuine sportspersons had been deprived of government jobs, while opportunities were cornered by those who were ineligible. Kowli warned that the dahi handi decision would have major implications for sports and sportspersons.

“It could be celebrated as a tradition and as a tourism event like in Spain. But, to equate this with sports is not right,” said Sunder Iyer, sports administrator, noting that sportsmen put in more effort into developing themselves at their game. “Maintaining the integrity of the process is tough. Who can be judged as making the cut? The one part of a lower tier (in the human pyramid) or the one breaking the handi?” he pointed out.

Iyer said that the move was a dampener for those who were genuinely looking at making a career in sports and could also set a precedent for more such (politically-motivated) decisions.

A state government official admitted that compared to other games, it was difficult to lay down a format for dahi handi and decide who could be categorized as an outstanding sportsperson.

“First, they will have to form a state association (for dahi handi groups and players), finalise their organizational structure and lay down their rules and regulations… the real issue is, laying down the format of the competition. How can one lay down a grading system for dahi handi? Who will be eligible for this grading, the one breaking the handi or those on a particular tier of the human pyramid?” the official pointed out. He added that the real problems involved in this idea would come to the fore only when these details were being sorted out.

Industries minister Uday Samant, however, defended the decision and added that dahi handi needed to be classified as an adventure sports as players practiced it for months. He said that this reservation would be provided in the existing 5 per cent quota, and there would be no injustice on those studying for competitive examinations to get into government service. A set of rules will be laid down and a talent search will be organised to zero down on meritorious players, said Samant, adding that the opposition to the move was politically motivated.

Rebel Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik said that dahi handi celebrations had spread beyond Mumbai to across Maharashtra. He added that draft rules had been prepared by stakeholders in 2015.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by GOVT.in staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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