PM’s Plan For Valley: Take To Sport, Not Streets12 April 2011
The Hindustan Times
New Delhi: The Centre is planning to infuse sports in a big way in the Valley as a weapon to check stone-pelting incidents. An all-season football stadium, cricket training by former players and boxing rings in each district - these are part of PM Manmohan Singh’s plan for Kashmir. Singh had entrusted sports minister Ajay Maken with the task of identifying the sports to that can be promoted. The ministry has identified football, cricket and boxing. “We wanted to concentrate on a few sports popular in the Valley…” a ministry official said. If implemented effectively, this would be just a push the Valley needs as sports infrastructure is in a shambles here. The two main stadia - Bakshi and Sher-i-Kashmir - are under troop control. The only indoor stadium is also under troop control, but youth are allowed to play. “The polo ground has been divided into two for football and cricket-lovers. The cricket side has developed ditches, while the football side is covered with weeds. Who cares to maintain these grounds?” said 29-year-old cricketer Ishfaq Ahmad. The sports ministry’s proposal will provide the biggest boost to football in the form of India’s first all-weather stadium. Young Kashmiri footballers had, in a recent interaction with Maken, complained they could not practice for around six months due to snow and rain. “The stadium with flood-lights will have a roof for winters,” a ministry official said. The ministry has also proposed to construct concrete areas for training during the rainy months. “The infrastructure will be developed by sports authority of India,” an official said. The ministry has decided to get former cricket captains Kapil Dev, Mohammed Azharuddin and Bishen Singh Bedi to conduct training camps for budding cricketers. The government will provide money for setting up cricket academies, officials said. The sports ministry has also found that decades of militancy has destroyed sports infrastructure in the state. The ministry plans to re-build the half-a-dozen boxing rings burnt during the 1990s and to build boxing arenas in each district. Ministry officials said the proposal will soon be submitted to the PMO for final approval. The plan is expected to cost over R500 crore. However, the funding pattern is not yet decided.