Sindhu, Sakshi, Dipa And So Many Others

Source : The Pioneer


Something is fundamentally flawed with the way we treat sports resulting in meagre medals to celebrate with in events like the Olympics. It’s time for a recast.

The victory of PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik at the Olympics led to unprecedented exuberation. For once, the nation, which our TV channels want us to believe as grim and riddled with problems, seemed to be rejoicing the spirit of victory. For once, it seemed we have grown past being a cricket-only nation and enjoyed ourselves at our victory in badminton and wrestling.

Thanks to the stupendous efforts of Dipa Karmakar, we also celebrated a sport that was hitherto unknown sports to the common man and woman — vault gymnastics. The excitement will prevail for some time till other narratives squeeze past this, and occupy the public sphere.

For many of us, while the significance of this victory is humongous, it should go much beyond ritualistic celebrations, awards, brand endorsements, special TV shows, and angry and emotional down pouring of ideas in columns. The victors and performers of this Olympics should become torch-bearers, bringing about a paradigm shift in the way we look at sports in the country.

What can be done to make our sporting culture more vibrant, so that we are able to perform better? More than that, what can be done to ensure that our stature in sports is at par with our reputation as an emerging superpower? It certainly pinches our conscience when tiny countries go back with more medals and pride than we do. What can be done to exalt our pride in the sporting arena?

Ethiopia, often perceived as a nation of starving children, bagged eight medals including one gold this Olympics. What does this tiny nation of 10 crore people do to beat a nation like India that is 12 times bigger, many times mightier? Possibly, it thinks simple, and acts smarter. Ethiopia is working diligently to put sports on the public agenda to ensure sustainability of sports development.

Other than setting up sports infrastructure, Ethiopia is running a special Growth & Transformation Plan, which is providing scientific training to 22,000 youth in the first plan, while in the second phase 55,000 youths are being trained. Focused and specialised training is key, even as regular efforts are being made to rope in all stakeholders to broadbase sports. Ethiopia has also roped in universities and private individuals for the same. It is expanding the number of sports academies from nine to 22.

Now compare this with an Indian State with has almost the same population as Ethiopia — Bihar. This State, which has been in the news for desperately trying to enforce alcohol prohibition, does not seem to even have a sports policy. Its website doesn’t show one. The Art, Culture & Youth Department which administers the Directorate of Youth Welfare and Sports functions has an annual report, dating back to 2008-09, which fails to provide any clue to its sports policies. According to the Directorate’s home-page, 70 per cent of the Indian population is in the age bracket of 15-30 years; therefore, the departmentm feels that the 21st century belongs to the young generation but does little about it.

In fact, while Ethiopia will soon have a stadium with a capacity of 60,000, Patna’s Moin-ul-Haq stadium with 25,000 capacity has hosted only two matches which includes a one day international cricket match 20 years ago. This speaks volumes about the Bihar’s sporting infrastructure. Sadly, the situation is no better in many of the other States.

I am in agreement with senior Congress leader and former sports Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar who recently wrote that we may not be able to match the previous Olympics medals tally, and that, “It is the inevitable consequence of our never having had a comprehensive sports policy aimed at developing a sporting culture to make ours a sporting nation.”

We need drastic realignment of priorities, a massive policy push at the national and States level, gigantic efforts at sprucing up infrastructure, scientific talent-spotting, and at least four zonal sporting excellence centres providing holistic training to selected sportspersons. Icons like Karmakar, Sindhu and Malik should be used for igniting passion through mass media including films, social media and special programs in schools and colleges.


By 2024, let’s aim to rise up the medals tally list!

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Source : The Pioneer

Kushan Mitra |


Despite the uplifting performances by gymnast Dipa Karmakar, wrestler Sakshi Malik and shuttler PV Sindhu, India’s overall performance at the Olympics in Rio has been horrendous. Sports in India is broken, and we need to fix it 

This is neither the first nor will it be the last hand-wringing piece written on the cringe-inducing performance at these Olympics by India. However, at the very outset, let it be made clear that this is not an attack on the athletes. The tremendous sacrifices our athletes have made throughout their lives, and not just them, the sacrifices their parents, siblings and coaches have made must also be celebrated.

And so what if people take a few selfies? Michael Phelps took a selfie with Novak Djokovic, but you would not accuse either of those men of not giving their best. Heck, America’s new sweetheart Simone Biles is a selfie star. These are young men and women on possibly one of the biggest moments of their lives, and unfortunately selfies are a modern affliction. Big deal.

However, the fact remains that for a nation of 1.25 billion people which sent 155 athletes in 15 disciplines to the Olympics this time, a return of a silver and a bronze medal seems pitiful. Make no mistakes Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu put up valiant efforts. On the day, Sindhu played her remarkable final against the ultimately victorious Spanish woman Carolina Marin, a majority of this country was tuned in watching badminton. And despite the relative success of the sport (invented in Pune, no less) that Indians have had, that was quite a feat.

But everywhere else, it seemed that Indians made valiant efforts and lost. Again, all of the athletes who wore our country’s colours have strived and sacrificed immensely to have made it to Rio and most of them had qualified fair and square.

After the six medals at London 2012, the fact that India was sending her largest delegation was seen as a matter of pride and progress. However, the progress that India made was nothing compared to the leaps and bounds made by Great Britain and the dominance of the United States. If Donald Trump wants to make America Great ‘Again’; the Olympics were a repudiation of that statement. America’s dominance at the top of the medal tables is a tremendous display of soft power.

If we truly aspire to be a ‘big’ country, a superpower even, it cannot be solely due to economic heft and military might, there has to be a sporting and cultural element to it. Our various movie industries have the cultural bit down pat, but sporting success? Other than cricket, the cupboard is fairly bare.

In 1984, when China returned to the Olympics after a 32-year self-imposed exile, it stormed back to win 15 gold medals. Sure, the 1984 Olympics were lopsided due to the boycott by the Eastern Bloc, but those 15 golds were a statement of intent by the People’s Republic. And in the 32 years since then, China has not only become an Olympic superpower it has become a global economic superpower.

There will be tens of editorials with multiple recommendations on how to fix Indian sport. There will be social media campaigns demanding that the Ministry of Sport be shut down. However, fixing sports will have to be done with the International Olympic Committee’s blessings, otherwise India and Indian sporting associations run the risk of being disqualified.

Despite the IOC demanding sports bodies not be touched, it is unlikely that they will ever question China or Russia. The last time the Government intervened was to fix the mess in Indian hockey and while that was a good thing and Indian hockey has taken long strides back, in a hyper-competitive world countries like Argentina which won the gold medal at Rio have taken even bigger strides.

Not all Indian sports associations should be tarred with the same brush. The Badminton Association of India in 2006 decided to make Pullela Gopichand the head coach of India and despite a player revolt against his methods in the early days, stuck by the All-England champion — and we have seen the emergence of Saina Nehwal, PS Sindhu and Srikanth Kidambi. Yet, much more money needs to be sunk in Gopichand’s academy for the future to remain bright.

There have to changes driven from the very top for India’s sporting success. Our Prime Minister has spoken about the potential of India’s youth, but these young people should be out there winning international honours for the country. One believes that Modi realises this and puts some of the top brains he has at his disposal towards fixing this problem.

But the biggest change that has to be made is in the attitude of parents. Your columnist has said this before, many children are extremely talented sportspersons, but thanks to a perverse system which rewards a career as a mediocre engineer over that of a successful sportsperson, parents discourage participation. Sports becomes a means to an end, some athletes want to get into national-level sports to snag a Government job. Not to fly the flag on a foreign field.

And the second major change, and this is happening slowly, is to increase private sector participation in sport. Several companies notably JSW Steel and Apollo Tyres have promoted sports, and sports television network Star Sports has made several attempts, not always successful, to set up professional sports leagues. But why can’t contributions to recognised sports academies be made tax-deductible? Why can’t more private companies sponsor athletes as part of their corporate social responsibility?


If India wants to stand up and be counted, it has to garner some success on the sports fields of the world. We cannot lament about the dominance of cricket. Keep in mind that dominance was achieved thanks to a glorious fluke at Lord’s in 1983. It is thanks to the smart minds that leveraged cricket afterwards that it has become so successful. Success begets success, yet we have to start somewhere and it will take all of us to put in an effort here. Not just the Government and not just administrators.


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Research Suggests ‘self – Driven Attitude,’ as a Key to Crack Competitive Exams

In a recently conducted demographic research, by the experts at IIT Guwahati, it has been concluded that the success curve of aspirants making it to the IITs nationally still hail from the cities, thereby hinting at the conventional urban – centric trend. The findings of the research have highlighted the importance of self study, northwards of attending coaching classes or private tuitions. Out of the 10, 575 students who bagged an opportunity to follow their dreams this year, 5, 539 students had studied on their own, This ratio accounts for 52.4%, alongside 44.5% amounting from those candidates who had resorted to various coaching institutes and a paltry 2% comprising of those aspirants who either availed private tuition or pursued correspondence courses. Students hailing from CBSE schools have fared well and talking about parents; the wards of those into government service or business have done well to qualify into the government funded technical institutes like NITs and the IIITs, besides the IITs. However, the quest would be to assist rural students to have access to these premier institutes and break the urban monopoly, which accosted for 75% of the total admissions. As a part of the research, it was also deciphered that the children, whose parents are educated, qualified for the IITs.

CBSE’s Recruitment Drive for Teachers; Amendment in Bye – Laws

Just at a point when research and analyses depict dearth of trained teachers in the semi – urban and rural educational institutions, CBSE has planned to initiate hiring for teachers, to be inducted into the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and the Kendriya Vidyalayas; the motto of this move being inclusive growth and a positive learning experience for the students.


The CBSE has also drafted and presented a detailed report at the conference on ‘Examination Reform for Inclusive Education’, which includes policies to integrate the system with legal benchmarks such as Right to Education Act and Persons with Disabilities Act, so as to ensure all children with physical disabilities are provided free and compulsory education up to a minimum age of 18 years. Also, there would be no segregation between special children and the remaining students, as far as a rewarding learning experience is concerned. Curriculum will be developed in parallels to this concept. The Government will also formulate a new education policy in near future. As a common practice, schools use an inclusive model to cater to the needs of students with moderate to mild special needs. However, fully inclusive schools don’t separate general education and special education curriculum. Rather, inclusive schools structure curriculum in an unique method to facilitate comprehensive and effective andragogy.

Hall Tickets for GD/PI for SBI PO 2016, Available in the Official Website

To add to the joy of the qualified candidates in the SBI PO Mains Examination (held on 31st July, 2016), the State Bank of India has released the PO Phase 3 Exam Call Letter. The Hall Tickets have now been made available and can be downloaded from the official website, Eligible candidates are urged to do the needful at the earliest as the last day for downloading the hall tickets from the website is 11th September, 2016 (Sunday). Prior to this update, the SBI, a Public Sector Enterprise had announced its decision to fill up 2200 vacancies for the posts of probationary officers.



Following are the steps to assist the candidates:

  • Visit the website
  • Click on the link ‘Probationary Officer Phase 3 Call Letter 2016’
  • Enter relevant details like Reg. No., D.O.B and click on the Submit button
  • The call letter will be displayed on the screen
  • Save the document and print it

IITs Set to Embrace and Welcome non – Resident Academicians

  • India’s elite autonomous public institute, the Indian Institute of Technology, has decided to increase the number of students each year, for the various academic programs; good news being these students would not have to stay in the hostels within the campuses. In a bid to join international peers such as the MIT and Stanford, the IITs have realized the importance of technology – based value creation in education rather than just conducting academic programs. Senior officials are planning to take their total student intake to one lakh by 2020. Presently, there are 72,000 residential students considering UG, PG and Ph.D. To facilitate this agenda of non – residential admissions, there would be additional student strength of 4000 seats in the UG courses and 6000 seats in the PG and Ph.D. courses, respectively. Moreover, this decision is aided by introduction of the Prime Minister’s Research Fellowships and a formal induction for the students. Besides, the Board Members wish to reinvent a special pedagogy to enlighten the lives of all the academicians by promoting practical – driven and technologically aided curriculum, as the youth today is nurtured in the lap of technological gadgets since their salad days.

Reforms and the Disabled

Article source: Reforms and the Disabled


Any assessment of the economic reforms of the past 25 years could well do with some understanding of their impact on people with disabilities in India. Indeed, in view of the negligible levels of participation of people with various impairments in economically productive activity, the influence of these sweeping policy changes would seem at best minimal. In the event, even the staunchest critic of liberalisation would have to acknowledge that the greatest legislative and policy changes since Independence that affect such a large section of our population have been initiated in the post-privatisation phase. A plausible explanation of this post-protectionist paradox may be found in the need for greater regulation under more market-oriented conditions.


Codifying Rights for the Disabled

Most curiously, the history of codification of the rights of people with disabilities coincides more or less with the commencement of the era of economic reforms. Even though legal guarantees enshrined under the Constitution were read into judicial and executive decisions during earlier decades, they were notably few and far between, informed largely by an ad hoc approach to addressing issues, or at times a spillover from an activist judiciary.

It was the landmark Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, over four years after the reforms, which stipulated specific provisions concerning equal opportunities to basic education, employment, and accessibility. Every policy advance, or its absence, witnessed since that path-breaking legislation has turned on these three fundamental ingredients critical to a better quality of life. Since the passage of that comprehensive law, the lot of the disabled had moved, one might say, from a mode of thinking akin to the Directive Principles of State Policy discourse, to a more robust, Fundamental Rights approach to matters.

Any serious evaluation of what people with disabilities have gained in these past 25 years would probably have to begin with showcasing the political will India’s leadership displayed to generate the very tools to arrive at such an independent and impartial assessment. That was the bold decision the National Democratic Alliance government took to canvass disabilities in the 2001 decennial population census. The real import of the measure becomes apparent when we consider that the 1981 census was the lone exception to the otherwise routine exclusion of this category from the countrywide exercise since Independence.

As per the 2011 enumeration, India is home to 26.8 million people with disabilities, whereas other estimates put the figure at about thrice that number. Census 2011 also shows that 54.5 per cent of people with disabilities in India are literate — a 5.2 percentage point improvement over the previous decade.


Jobs and the Open Economy

Under liberalisation, employment opportunities have expanded into the private sector, almost unthinkable hitherto. Employers such as ITC, Lemon Tree Hotels, Mphasis, Wipro, and so many others have seen the economic wisdom behind playing on the strengths, rather than the impairments, of our manpower. Notable here are also the equality and diversity norms that the corporate sector is beginning to incorporate in its hiring practices. It would be hard to overlook the direct benefits flowing from the adoption of an open economy in these respects.

In the arena of state employment, the more industrious and enterprising among the disabled have, aided by the Supreme Court’s proactive interpretations of the equal opportunities provisions in the 1995 law, entered the corridors of the administrative services. There are athletes with disabilities who have brought laurels to the country. Access at polling booths seems to have become almost irreversible since the apex court’s landmark 2004 ruling stipulating easy access through ramps. The greater visibility for disability-related concerns in our media is also part of this broad picture of inclusion, howsoever restricted.

The Government of India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and corresponding domestic legislation is in the making. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship initiatives such as the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan — designed to bridge physical barriers — are encouraging signs. Yet, they cannot conceal the impatience among disabled people with the glaring disparities that stare us in the face every day.

The census and other data discussed above in fact capture this dismal reality. Of the literate among the disabled, only 8.5 per cent boast a graduate degree, as per the 2011 census. A mere 21.1 per cent of Indian schools adhere to inclusive education for children with disabilities; just 1.32 per cent of teachers have been equipped with the relevant special skills training. This finding of a survey by the National Council of Educational Research and Training points to the challenges in relation to employability. As much as 73.9 per cent of disabled people in the employable age are either non-workers or marginal workers.

These are the numbers that should worry us, and prod us into action. Women with disabilities are most vulnerable to exploitation, as also people with psycho-social impairments and those hard of hearing. The revised National Building Code of India and the corresponding revision of State bylaws can potentially break many of these barriers provided elements of universal design are incorporated.

Javed Abidi is Honorary Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People and founder of the Disability Rights Group.


Article source: The Pioneer

Pakistan has kept the Kashmir question alive… Its Army is sworn to avenge the humiliation of 1971 and the vivisection of India is on the top of its strategic objectives… It is in this context that we should read Modi’s expression of solidarity with the people of Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan… India may be fast coming to the conclusion that it has no further interest in a stable, united Pakistan.

Unless it is a commentary on the company he may be keeping of late, it is more than likely that Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s reference to “Indian-occupied Kashmir” was an unfortunate slip of the tongue that he should have unhesitatingly corrected. The Congress may have its shortcomings but a lack of faith in the territorial integrity of India isn’t one of them. Indeed, as the debates in Parliament clearly showed, on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir being an integral and inseparable part of India, there is no real dispute. Even the mainstream Communist parties that are alas burdened by the undivided CPI’s support for the Pakistan movement in the 1940s no longer parrot the dodgy “right of self-determination” principle.

The consensus over the status of Jammu & Kashmir in the Indian Union does not, however, extend to the vexed issue of dealing with Pakistan. Despite all the talk of a bipartisan foreign policy, the inescapable reality is that there are important differences when it comes to dealing with Islamabad.

The faultlines aren’t new and, more important don’t always correspond with party lines. There are the proverbial hawks in the BJP, Congress and among the followers of Ram Manohar Lohia. And there are the dripping wets in all three camps. The third category are numerically insignificant but punch above their weight, particularly in international circles.

The overall Government position since the post-1972 Pakistan launched its jihad of a “thousand cuts” on India has veered from explicit hostility to convivial but purposeless engagement. Indian policy makers have always tried to maintain a distinction between the “bad” military (and ISI), the “weak” politicians and the “good” people of Pakistan. We have thus celebrated the high points of Pakistani democracy, lamented the inevitable regression to military rule; we have promoted the belief that life would be hunky-dory if more cricket teams, Urdu poets, qawali singers and smart, US-educated individuals with a public profile became frequent cross-border travellers; and the approach that we are ‘estranged brothers’ has always secured the blessings of a minusculity that can understand (or pretend to understand) non-subtitled Urdu. But, when the occasion so demanded, the official position has reversed to cross-border abuse. Indian diplomacy has been adept at pursuing a twin track simultaneously.

The second position, once encapsulated in the disastrous Gujral doctrine of asymmetry has enjoyed the backing of dissident intellectuals, liberal journalists and those with deep connections with international ‘human rights’ agencies. Their position is that ‘elder brother’ India must walk a few extra steps to accommodate Pakistani concerns. This spirit of accommodation extends to proposing schemes such as visa-less travel, joint sovereignty over Jammu & Kashmir and, maybe, even granting PIO cards to Pakistani citizens. In the brief period the Gujral doctrine was operational, India unilaterally wound up its network of ‘assets’ inside Pakistan — a gesture that was gleefully reciprocated by the ISI strengthening its fifth column in India.

There is a third fringe position that believes India should magnanimously hand over the Kashmir Valley to Pakistan in return for peace. This lot has no real faith in the very existence of India and wouldn’t even mind if secessionist movements began flowering in the rest of India.

On the face of it, the three positions are distinct. Yet there is one principle that seems common: The belief that India stands for a united and stable Pakistan. Having facilitated the formation of Bangladesh — a process that began around 1968-69 and culminated with the Pakistani surrender in Dhaka in December 1971 — India suddenly (and inexplicably) became over-magnanimous towards Pakistan. Egged on by her pro-Soviet advisers, Indira Gandhi shied away from demanding the proverbial pound of flesh at the 1972 Simla. Otherwise hard-headed, Indira Gandhi was persuaded that India should not demand a Treaty of Versailles-type victor’s justice.

The magnanimity never worked. Pakistan has kept the Kashmir question alive and internationalised. Its Army is sworn to avenge the humiliation of 1971 and the vivisection of India is on the top of its strategic objectives. There may be ‘good’ politicians who realise that Pakistan should move away from the path of neighbourly confrontation but they are quite easily subdued by the so-called ‘deep State.’ More to the point, the military in Pakistan is also the guardian of a national sentiment that enjoys widespread popular backing. The Pakistan military has made a transition from being a professional Army to being the instrument of an Islamic jihad against India. Today, it reflects many of the ugly facets of the Islamist radicalism that is sweeping across the world.

It is in this context that we should read Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expression of solidarity with the people of Baluchistan and Gilgit-Baltistan who are waging their own battles with the Pakistani State. Although an expression of solidarity does not really amount to much, the move is highly significant. It constitutes the first tentative step towards reviewing an earlier doctrine. India may be fast coming to the conclusion that it has no further interest in a stable, united Pakistan.

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Upper Age Limit of UPSC IAS Exam Likely to Cut Down to 26 Years

An expert panel has recommended a reduction in the upper-age limit of candidates aspiring to get into India’s prestigious civil services exam. The implementations will reap in significant change in the civil service exam test.


Though recommendations have been made by the UPSC expert panel, but final decision rests with the Government.

The upper age is relaxed by five years for candidates from the scheduled caste and scheduled tribes while those from other backward classes get a three-year relaxation. Disabled candidates get an additional 10-year cut.

Several panels have advocated a upper-age reduction but successive governments have raised it as shown below:

Changing time UPSC

In the current context, the upper age is likely to be reduced to 26 years from 32 years for general category candidates. No recommendations for reduction in upper age in SC/ST have been suggested as yet from current 37 years.

Under the suggested plan, the change in upper age limit is likely to take place subsequently, over the period of 5 – 7 years.

The step was suggested in consideration of thousands of people preparing for the examination. The decision is being taken keeping in mind hardwork of several aspirants whose careers might be jeopardized if they find themselves ineligible for the exam in the middle of the process.

According the panel, 32 year olds are too old to be recruited for Civil services. Final call of taking the decision rests with Government.