An Indian athlete’s javelin throw has won a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics. Neeraj Chopra, the proud son of a farmer, created history with this gold medal, the first in Tokyo Olympics and the second for India in the history of Olympics itself. This momentous win that needs to be celebrated is a joyous as well as a sad occasion. It is at the same time embarrassing that a country such as India boasting enormous human resources could garner only two gold medals when several poor countries in the world have bagged gold medals by the dozens and are celebrating. It is also true that the talented Indian youth are winning these medals for the country by overcoming all obstacles that the politicization of sports has created for them. While Ravi Kumar Dahiya and Mirabai Chanu won silver medals in wrestling and weightlifting respectively, P.V. Sindhu in badminton, Lovlina Borgohain in women’s boxing, and Bajarang Punia in wrestling were the bronze medal winners besides the Indian men’s hockey team that created history. The performance of the women’s hockey team won the hearts of Indians even in their defeat. The achievement of the athletes assumes even more significance in the light of the neglect that Indian athletics faces by both the administration and the people alike. These athletes who faced all odds and emerged successful are similar to the flowers blooming in fire. 

The developments that followed the victory of these athletes is true to the popular saying: ‘Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan.’  Politicians are trying to gain mileage out of the success of these medal winning athletes. At the same time, their achievements are also being projected as that of the government. While on the one hand, the Prime Minister is playing political dramatics on the pretext of congratulating the athletes, on the other hand, fake screenshots are being shared as though the Prime Minister himself participated in the Olympics and won medals! Fake news is being peddled to make it sound that Prime Minister Modi is responsible for the achievements of the athletes. While congratulating the hockey team, Modi issued several unnecessary political statements and used the occasion to hurl allegations against the Opposition. This is nothing but an insult to sporting ethics. Sports is beyond caste, religion, and politics. Politicians, who refuse to understand this, try to intervene and project the achievements of sportsmen as their own. 

Instead of trying to share the glory of sportspersons, the least those who govern us can do is to introspect on what exactly is their contribution towards this success.. If the Modi government had announced programmes, grants, or special gifts to encourage athletics as these young men and women were toiling to make it to the Olympics, at least then the government’s attempt to politicize their achievement could have made some sense. Forget providing additional grants, the government even reduced sports budget by Rs 230 crore. It also cut by Rs 232 crore the grants under ‘Khelo India.’ Also, it cut by 50 per cent the grants given for the national sports development. It also reduced grants to modernize the Commonwealth Games Stadium from Rs 75 crore to Rs 30 crore. Ironically, at the same time, it spent a lot of money for the development of the world’s largest cricket stadium in Gujarat and the credit for giving the stadium his own name should go to Prime Minister Modi. He is now facing a lot of criticism for trying to project in the media as though he participated in the Olympics and won medals. 

It is disappointing if an analysis is made about how the javelin section that got India its gold was encouraged by the system. Coach Uwe Hohn had expressing his outrage about the lack of encouragement in June last year. He had issued a public statement that ‘the country’s sports associations have completely failed to adequately prepare the  athletes who are participating in the Olympics. It has not been possible to provide the required nutrition for its athletes.’ He said: ‘I am not sure if the sports associations are negligent about this or if they are not even aware about these aspects. When I came here to take on this assignment, I was confident that I would be able to bring about some change. But now I don’t think it’s possible,’. When Hohn issued this statement, nobody could have predicted that our athlete Chopra would bag the gold medal. After winning the medal, he has been flooded with gifts galore. While several states announced cash awards, several organizations have come forward to indulge him with gifts perhaps to gain publicity. It is heartening to see this but more than the encouragement an athlete receives after winning, he needs to be encouraged in his journey towards victory. While the government gifts Rs 1 crore to those who have won a gold medal, the same government is not willing to spend the same amount to prepare these athletes to win.  

This is similar to the mindset of a farmer who adds manure to coconut trees if the trees give good yield whereas the trees need good manure, water, and nourishment from the beginning to be able to give good yield. India is a country of a rough terrain with hills and rocks. It is a country of hardworking people who struggle and toil hard. In such a country, it is easy to create athletes. But this process  should start from the ground level by identifying suitable persons and cleansing the sports sector of politics. It is not possible to expect good yields tomorrow by sowing seeds today. Long-term programmes should be designed. Athletes are born in poor families where children struggle because of malnutrition. If children grow without nutritious food, how can they achieve anything in the future? Talented athletes should be identified in childhood itself and nurtured from young age. Only then can politicians stake claim in their achievements. 

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Mumbai: Dhanya Rajendran, co-founder, and editor-in-chief of The News Minute, has been honored with the 2022 National RedInk Award for 'Journalist of the Year' by the Mumbai Press Club. She received this recognition for leading her team in exposing the tampering of voter data in Karnataka ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections. Independent journalist Sharad Vyas has also been awarded the 'Journalist of the Year.'

The Journalist of the Year Award, an accolade for outstanding journalism in 2022, is a key component of the Redink Awards for Excellence in Journalism, instituted by the Mumbai Press Club 12 years ago. Past recipients include prominent journalists like Srinivasan Jain of NDTV 24X7, Ravish Kumar of NDTV India, Raj Kamal Jha of Indian Express, Faye D’Souza of Mirror Now, and the late Danish Siddiqui of Reuters.

The Mumbai Press Club stated, “Dhanya led a team of journalists who did a series of investigations during the Karnataka elections that confirmed what had been suspected all along – that the election process in India is not always free and fair.”

In November 2022, Dhanya spearheaded The News Minute’s investigation into electoral data fraud in Karnataka, uncovering malpractices ahead of the 2023 elections. The investigation prompted the Election Commission to order a review of voter lists in three constituencies in Bengaluru and led to the arrest of Krishnappa Ravikumar, the director of Chilume, the NGO behind the voter data fraud. Subsequently, the local government prohibited private organizations from collecting voter data.

The Mumbai Press Club’s statement noted, “The investigation uncovered a working prototype of how the electioneering process can be tampered with and then illustrated it through one constituency in Bengaluru to show how voter data was being manipulated.”

Dhanya, with over 20 years of journalism experience, has covered significant and overlooked news stories from South India throughout her career. Her focus on women’s rights, child sexual abuse, politics and elections, climate disasters, and human rights has garnered attention for several important stories at a national level.

Co-recipient of the 'Journalist of the Year' award, Sharad Vyas, "unearthed and published how the Indian Government's Intelligence Bureau imported the spy software Pegasus from an Israeli company, which had been officially denied all along."

Veteran journalist, columnist, and author Neerja Chowdhury received the RedInk 'Lifetime Achievement' award "for her contribution of over four decades as a reporter and analyst of political affairs and government."

The awards ceremony took place at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai on Saturday, December 2, where the honors were presented by Swantatra Senani GG Parikh and former Additional Solicitor General of India Indira Jaising.