Haryana&’s Sakshi Malik has done her country proud, ending India&’s medal drought with a bronze in the women&’s wrestling competition in the Rio Olympics, but for her counterparts in Bengal, who have the same dreams of bringing laurels for the country, the story is overwhelmingly of official apathy and neglect.
Women wrestlers in the state lack basic facilities and have to depend on outdated equipment to fulfil their aspirations. Pinky Sasmal (24), a resident of Liluah in Howrah has won gold in state level championship (under 48 kg) and has stood fourth in national sub-junior championship.
She wants to make her country proud in the Olympics someday, but the lack of infrastructure and her poverty present formidable hurdles. Her father works at a fish shop and earns a paltry amount which is not enough to run the family of five.
“It is very difficult for my father to run the family. Realising my dreams is almost impossible for him. Still I am pursuing my sport because of my passion. We practise with virtually obsolete equipment coupled with half-diet. No help has ever come from the state government,” she says while practising under a tin-shed at Panchanan Byam Samity at Jorabagan Park.
The condition of Nabanita Das (21) is almost the same. Her father runs a small teastall at Bally in Howrah and earns a paltry rupees 5000-6000 per month. She too has participated in National and state level championships. Officials say, that there has been an increase in the interest in women&’s wrestling in the state after the sport was depicted glamorously in a recently released Bollywood flick.
“The mindset of the parents are changing as they’re willing to admit their daughters in the wrestling clubs. But the apathy of the government has been putting us down. We urgently need wrestling mats, gymnasia, good food for wrestlers and dummy wrestlers to facilitate their training. The state government had promised us Rs 5 lakh for the development of the sport three years ago, but not a penny has been received till now,” said Mr Asit Kumar Saha, the vicepresident of Wrestling Association of India.
“The players need to spend at least rupees five thousand every month on their food, but most of them come from poor families and hardly manage to set aside even rupees hundred a day on their diet,” said Ms Runu Ghoroy, a coach with the West Bengal wrestling association.
A senior sports official pledged to look into the matter, “We will definitely look into the problems faced by them.”