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Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

The Odisha government is no doubt doing a commendable job by honouring selective sportspersons on the occasion of National Sports Day. The State government has also done its bit in promoting sports especially hockey at the international level. However, beneath the hoopla, the State's own grassroots programme for the development of the game seems to have taken a back seat.

Several infrastructural projects for hockey undertaken or announced by the State government in various parts of the State are in the doldrums. Now, question mark has been raised over the real intention of the government in uplifting the game in the State and the country.

The sorry state of hockey infrastructure across the State reveals that Odisha’s sports think tank has overlooked grassroots development.

The State government conferred the prestigious Biju Patnaik Sports Award on star hockey defender Amit Rohidas today. However, many upcoming talented hockey players at Rohidas’ village Saunamura are staring at an uncertain future in the absence of modern-day infrastructure.  The budding players are forced to practice in a dangerous half-built stadium without synthetic turf, which is a basic infrastructure in modern-day hockey.

Former India captain Padma Shri Dilip Tirkey’s birthplace is also no different. Laying of an artificial hockey pitch has been undertaken there since 2012.  The work is yet to be finished.

“Great hockey player Dilip Tirkey is our inspiration. He had promised to produce many more quality hockey players from his area. However, without a proper stadium his dream has been shattered. The half-built stadium has turned into a haven for drug addicts. The development has frustrated aspiring budding players of the area,” said Ashis Lakra, a promising hockey player.

Sundargarh Collector Nikhil Pavan Kalyan said the construction work at the stadium will resume from the third week of February next year.

“The project work has been halted for some reason. Now, the issue has been resolved and work will resume from February last week,” said Kalyan.

The old and dilapidated hockey stadium at Koraput City in the tribal-dominated district also speaks volumes about the lackadaisical attitude of the State government towards the enrichment of the game.

Major portion of the stadium has been occupied by scrapped vehicles seized by the police. Moreover, the main gate of the stadium is locked for years. Hockey lovers in the city have expressed their dissatisfaction over the state of affairs.

“There is no scope for budding players to play hockey in Koraput. We suspect that the funds meant for the renovation of the stadium have been embezzled for years. No coach has been appointed at the stadium. The emerging young players have no scope to learn the intricacies of the game under these circumstances,” said former hockey player Hemachandra Roy.

In another case of gross neglect to the grassroots infrastructure in the State, the proposed stadium at Rairangpur, announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik himself in 2019, is yet to see the light of the day. Even two years after the announcement, no construction work has been undertaken so far.

Rairangpur MLA Naba Charan Majhi alleged that the Odisha government has cheated the people of his constituency.

“If the announcement by the Chief Minister has no value, whom should we believe? No step has been taken for the construction of the stadium as yet. The people of the constituency are deeply hurt,” said Majhi.

Recently, the Odisha government had announced to construct mini stadiums at 89 blocks across the State. However, the existing mini stadiums at various places are in crumbling condition due to poor maintenance.

Sports Minister Tusharkant Behera said the responsibility will be fixed very soon for the maintenance of these stadiums.  

“We have discussed about the maintenance of these stadiums in review meetings. A committee in the respective Gram Panchayat will be formed and the responsibility for the maintenance work will be given to them along with the BDOs,” said Behera.

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