Kolkata: Absence of a state sports policy for rewarding its medal winners is a big impediment in consistently producing champion athletes like Swapna Barman, her coach Subhas Sarkar said on Tuesday.
Born with six toes on each foot, Swapna, who belonged to a poor family in North Bengal, made headlines winning an Asian Games gold medal in hepatathlon in August this year.
While her gold medal winning compatriots like Dutee Chand of Odisha (Rs 3 crore) and Hima Das of Assam (Rs 1.6 crore) were honoured with cash rewards running in crores, Swapna got a paltry financial incentive of Rs 10 lakh from the Mamata Banarjee-led government which also promised a job.
“I don’t want to get into political issues but everybody knows how much amount did Swapna get,” Sarkar rued, on the sidelines of felicitation programme by Bandhan Bank that awarded the heptathlete Rs 10 lakh.
Sarkar cited example of Haryana, which is now the leading state in producing medal winners. There were 18 medalists — five gold, five silver and eight bronze — at the Asian Games from the state.
Swapna, the first individual gold medalists from Bengal after Saraswati Saha (200m event in Asian Games 2002), was among the three medal winners — including two bronze — from the West Bengal at the Jakarta-Palembang Games this year.
“There’s no dearth of talent in West Bengal but our government should take up a sports policy that will set an example for the next generation. I want to say this for the sake of next generation. There has to be hunger in you, for that you need a financial incentive.
“There are many talented kids like Swapan Barman in interior West Bengal but they are getting lost in the way without proper guidance.
“But if there’s a financial incentive, for example one crore for an Asian Games or Commonwealth Games gold medal, many from downtrodden families of Bengal will be ready to even give their life. Just look at how Haryana are producing athletes with their government’s full support,” Sarkar said.
Sarkar, who spotted Swapna in 2011, said her financial status has not improved and they have also not yet accepted the job offer, as they were waiting for her graduation to complete to maker her eligible for a higher-ranked post.
“We are waiting for her to become a graduate so that she will be qualified to get an inspector-level post,” he added.