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The "uncomfortable" status of Jammu infrastructure explodes with outrage by gymnasts

The uncomfortable status of Jammu infrastructure explodes with outrage by gymnasts

Sohinee Basu

Published: 16 Aug 2018 12:41 PM GMT
The summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir has been a perennial producer of India's most promising Rhythmic gymnasts. The land, where the gurgling waters of the Sind rush by and pine trees swish in the wind, the air in Jammu is fraught with disappointment and pent-up anger even after tasting repeated success and recognition. From time eternal, the northern most state has been in the news for controversial reasons and the poor sporting facilities at Jammu have been drawn into the bare limelight and exposed by talented players, both upcoming and senior. The dwindling infrastructure of sporting facilities and the stadiums have reached a new low.
It's a long tightrope walk for the gymnasts and other athletes with such poor conditions being provided by the State. It's amusing how the State chooses to overlook Jammu and favors Srinagar well knowing that Jammu has equal potential especially in Rhythmic gymnastics which is again a discipline well overlooked by the country. Taking to the agile sport when she was all of 6 years, Palak Kour Bijral has grown up watching the unchanging condition of the practice hall and how it has always been cast aside from the hands of development. "It's been 16 years that I have been doing gymnastics. Every time I get a medal or something, I ask only for one thing that is the accommodation and the flooring needs...the basic amenities. "
, complains the 21 year old in an exclusive interview with The Bridge. Taking to Twitter recently, Palak, being a senior and a well-decorated gymnast, vented her anger and befuddlement with the State's complete inaction towards Jammu. The contrast is stark and disturbing, Palak says. "We went to Srinagar and saw the hall. It was big and well maintained. They repair it every year. While in Jammu, the bulbs fall down," she said. Although the accolades rolled in one after the other and Palak went out conquering new lands, the case at home still remained the same. Recalling her torment days in the run-up to the 2014 London Games, Palak says, 
"I've been to the Commonwealth Games. Nobody has done that before in Jammu. We have done whatever we could. And during CWG the hall was under construction and I used to practice in the park. "
Palak doesn't shy away from showing her absolute anger against the State's lethargy towards Jammu and the sarcasm lashes out abashedly, "And then they want medals. Firstly, they cannot provide us with basic facilities. We qualify and win medals, and then also they criticise." But she does account for the rare and countable people that came as a ray of hope in this struggle, " I went to Mehbooba Mufti and Para Sir(Waheed ur Rahman Para) the then Sports Secretary. He sponsored another girl and me for international training. He took the initiative. Nobody else did anything."
Kashmir has been ill-fraught with tension after a sudden change in the political climate. Palak regrets about how Jammu's chances for development became all the more slippery due to it. "Before the collapse of the government, BJP's Priya Setty was about to give us the floor. It was almost done. But then the government broke up. Our luck is bad. " However the sad bit is the real condition in which the athletes are made to practice. Nandani Lakhotra, the soft-spoken gymnast from Jammu also opened up about the pathetic state, "There are 200 students, and we all practised in that one court. It's very uncomfortable." "In Khelo India Games, J&K won 5 medals out of which four was for gymnastics. This shows the potential we have. The government can at least do this much for us.", Nandani asserted. Palak elaborates on the perils of the place as she gives a recent account of a mishap,  "I saw three lights burst in front of my eyes last month. Some children of 10-11 old were playing, and they came running,
"Ma'am, Ma'am, snake, look!"," when they spotted it on the compound. "We had to stop practice for that."
The natural hazards aside, the facilities provided by the Government are zero to none. "We don't have proper vault bars. We have 3 and that too the bars are missing. We have 2 ballet bars and that too provided by our coach. We have only one fan. We need more because it's very humid. ", complains a frustrated Nandani to The Bridge. What's more horrifying is that the Government is dormant about the repeated appeals from the players. "There are no proper fans or ventilation. People feel nauseous and vomit, but still, they come. We go in the morning at 5:30 and then in the evening from 4:30 to 9."
The odd treatment of Srinagar and Jammu this way is particularly bemusing. None of the athletes can make sense out of why Jammu keeps getting pushed back into the shadows despite brimming with so much talent as Srinagar gets all the perks of development. "There is discrimination in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no explanation why  Jammu is treated this way. Six players are young and very talented and capable of winning gold in the future. The next generation is up-and-coming. I want it for them, if not me. ", Palak says. This complete refusal to budge or take notice or address the situation perturbs Palak. 
" This has been going on for more than 20 years. I've seen it all my life ever since I started practising at the age of 6. "
The situation has reached such a point where no amount of saying and agitating will make things happen it seems. Yet in one more feeble try, Palak took to the social media and hurled out the evident facts. " I am happy my tweet created a stir. I am glad I could do this through social media. ", says the 21-year-old. The buzz that was created right after the tweet was assured. But the action that it should have provoked? Sadly, no. "The governor responded after seeing my post and asked me for an explanation. But nothing happened after that. Everybody is targeting me it seems after that. They stare at me and talk about it. "
, relays a dauntless Palak who is set on fighting for the sake of the talented future generation regardless of the glares she is being subjected to. At this point, Palak cannot even nurse a lot of optimism because the buzz has died down like all other times, "I can't rely on anybody. The J&K Government are watching, right? They should do it out of their motive. A new Secretary will come up and hopefully do it. " With a coach like Mrs Krupali Patel Singh, the future of gymnastics is in safe hands and waiting to soar higher skies believes Palak. " We get medals every year and it's all because of Krupali Ma'am. She is the youngest Arjuna awardee. She is my role model! " Young talent like Bavleen Kaur and so many others are also cropping up and it's about time the State took some action. Instead of opting for a very lackadaisical attitude, it's about time for the new government to shift and rouse in their chairs and pay the minimum heed to the budding talents from Jammu and give them their due for the sake of a glittering future.
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