West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday announced financial aid of Rs 5 lakh each to all sports bodies in the state nurturing Olympic talents. The Chief Minister also loosened her purse strings for 13 top city clubs, each of which, she said, will get Rs 50 lakh from the state sports department for development of sports. “The clubs and bodies that come under Olympic bracket, who produce national and international talents, will be given Rs 5 lakh each. I will tell Aroop Biswas (West Bengal Youth Affairs and Sports Minister) to allocate the funds,” Banerjee said on the sidelines of a felicitation programme of eminent sports personalities here.
The Trinamool Congress supremo, who has consistently opposed the central government’s demonetisation drive, said it has taken a toll on sports sponsorship. “It is difficult for them (sports bodies) to run. It is because they organise sporting activities. They just need that push from us. Sponsorship has ebbed. How will players and organisations run without sponsorship?” Banerjee also said the budget allocation in the Sports Policy formed by the state in 2015 has been increased. Enlisting her government’s achievements in building sports infrastructure, Banerjee said: “We have built 16 new stadiums, refurbished 46 and built 23 youth hostels.” The Chief Minister also said that she will compose a theme song for the sports department, and emphasised that there is need for one since it will foster identity and a sense of pride.
Incidentally, the Chief Minister was earlier criticised by the opposition for handing out liberal doles for thousands of clubs, which, they alleged, was just another means of squandering scarce public money for political reasons. Nearly 12,000 clubs have so far got these grants that range from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. Special awards were dished out during the day to archer Atanu Das, who impressed with his fifth place finish in the qualification round in Rio Olympics, sprinter Debashree Mazumdar, and paddlers Soumyajit Ghosh and Mouma Das. Dipa Karmakar, who finished fourth in gymnastics at Rio and missed a bronze medal by the skin of her teeth, was feted for her feat with the ‘Ananya Samman’ (unique award).
“I am honoured to receive this award. Despite not being from the state, the affection and respect I have got from West Bengal is overwhelming,” said gymnast Dipa Karmakar, whose coach Bisheswar Nandi was invited to set up an academy by the Chief Minister. Banerjee even offered to help Karmakar, who is a resident of Tripura, if she faced any difficulty. “I have told Dipa that we will help her in case of any difficulty.” Former Davis Cup squad captain Naresh Kumar and soccer olympian Samar (Badru) Banerjee were given lifetime achievement award “Jiban Kriti Samman”. Mohun Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen was among those who received the “Kriraguru Samman” for best coach.