The sports ministry has not appointed fresh government observers for various national sports federations. In April 2019, the terms of well known athletes like PT Usha (athletics), Sanjeev Kumar Singh (archery), Aparna Popat (badminton), Akhil Kumar (boxing), Jagbir Singh (hockey), Somdev Devvarman (tennis), IM Vijayan (football) and Khajan Singh (swimming) who were observers, came to an end.
It is learnt that none of these athletes has been offered an extension, which is permissible as per the government guidelines. Many athletes who spoke to Mail Today said they were clueless on their tenure.
“We are more than willing to continue offering our services for Indian sport but nobody has contacted us. In the absence of fresh communication from the government, we are not discharging duties anymore,” said few observers when contacted.
When the government decided on hiring experts as government observers, their roles were fairly well defined: To function as the eyes and ears of the Government of India with respect to ensuring free and transparent selection of teams. To visit national camps and give feedback on status of infrastructure/equipment and medical facilities available to campers. To observe, analyse review and report on the performance of Indian and foreign coaches, and the progress of national campers. To observe selection of national teams. To monitor performance of the national teams.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics now coming closer, many above mentioned observers felt they would have been in a position to offer advice. In a sport like boxing, there have been selection issues with legend Mary Kom now in a war of words with Nikhat Zareen. The presence of an observer could have helped in this case.
In disciplines like hockey, athletics, boxing and archery, the days ahead for Indian athletes are crucial as they seek to qualify for the Olympics. There is no doubt, if some national sports federations have had to deal with selection problems or other issues in recent times, lack of an observer has been felt.
How the busy sports ministry has overlooked absence of observers needs to be addressed on a priority basis.