After coming to know the pathetic condition of former Indian athlete and 2006 Doha Asian Games Silver medalist, Santhi Soundarajan, one honestly feels that it is a shame. Who is responsible for Santhi Soundarajan's condition - is it the government, sports administrator, media, local authorities or is it her curse of being born as a poor Indian?
THESE DAYS we Indian sports spectators as well as world wide sports fans are concentrating on London Olympics. Everywhere we are discussing will our athletes perform better than they did in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, how many medals we will manage to win, who are our best prospects in London Olympics, etc., etc. But, very few of us remember who had won a medal in 2008 Olympics, 2010 Asian Games, and Commonwealth Games, etc. And it's not only common Indians but also Indian sports administrators, sports ministry, state government, and yes the media, who should be bothered about retired or previous athletes.
When I opened my newspaper, I was completely shocked to see the news "Asiad silver medallist Santhi Soundarajan labours at brick kiln" as reported in The Times of India. Like almost every Indian, my memory was not sharp to recognise Santhi Soundarajan. I tried hard to recognise her but there was no clue, then I read the details. Santhi Soundarajan had represented India
in the Doha Asian Games just six years back and won a silver medal in the 800m. However, after she failed a gender test, Santhi was stripped of all medals and all records were also wiped clean. Further, the Athletics Federation of India banned Santhi Soundarajan from participating at any level.
The Times of India also reported that South Africa supported her athlete Caster Semenya and fought for her dignity, who had also failed a gender test after she won a gold in the Berlin World Championship 2009. International Association of Athletics Federations, last year, revoked the ban on her because of her country's protest in favour of her support. Now, she is the flag bearer of her country in London Olympics. No one should have any doubt that Caster Semenya is lucky because she is not an Indian athlete. In India a poor athlete should not hope for justice from the government, sports administrators, and media, etc.
Santhi Soundarajan, who is very poor and one of the five children of brick-kiln labourer parents, opted for sports for her livelihood. It was Santhi's misfortune that she opted for athletics to find a secure job and escape grinding poverty. Her earning is merely Rs. 200 per day. She is in a pathetic condition. I don't know how many Indian athletes are facing the same horrible and pathetic condition, who had earlier represented their country. Last month, another athlete, Pinki Pramanik, who won Gold in 2006 Doha Asian Games, was arrested on June 14 after her live-in partner accused her of being a man and alleged that she had been raped.
In India, many aspirants come to opt sports as his or her profession. Despite less resources and because of their determination, hard work and dream, they get success and get a chance to represent the nation in international sports events. They won for the country and they are honoured with various ways, but if they are in need no one is ready to help them. Now, I'm sure many agencies will come forward in support of Santhi Soundarajan including sports federations and the government.
I want to know in the case of Santhi Soundarajan - why did the government not do anything for her? Why media had not supported her? Why sports ministry and administrators not support her? Why her home state government did not support her? Should our young crop go for athletics? Should we support our child to opt for sports, especially in lesser-known sports, as a career? How can we hope to win medals in international events, if our attitude is not good towards our own medalists.