Basanti Kumari of Kumardungi, West Singbhum district of Jharkhand, is all set to participate in 10,000 meters race at Chengdu in China between July 28 and August 8. The coach, athletic association, and ministers are all in praise of her as it is a matter of pride for the entire state. Sapna Kumari, Florence Barla, Asha Kiran, Priyanka Kerketta and the likes from Jharkhand have brought laurels for the country by participating and winning in foreign lands. In athletics, one can hardly find the names of boys as compared to girls in the state.
However, one can hardly spot the same names when it comes to the important posts of several sports associations. Jharkhand currently has 39 sports associations among which 34 are part of the Olympics, except cricket and a few others. Most of the associations have their district-level branches across 24 districts. Notably, the Jharkhand State Athletics Association, which has branches across the districts, have only 2 women among 75 administrative posts.
Purnima Mahto is the secretary of the Jharkhand Archery Association, and Asrita Lakra is the treasurer of the Hockey Association. In these associations, there has been a long-drawn demand for restructuring of the Golf Association. Also, not a single committee of the Jharkhand Equestrian Association has been made in any of the districts.
However, none of them holds the position of secretary, president or treasurer.
Speaking to Outlook, Madhukant Pathak, who is currently the president of the Jharkhand Athletics Association, says, “It is a matter of grave concern that no woman is there in these associations. As per the guidelines issued by the International Olympic Association, by 2036, the total representation of women should be 30 per cent in all sports associations. However, as the President of the Jharkhand Athletics Association, I have decided to accomplish the target by 2028 and set a role model for other sports associations to follow. I will try my level best to ensure that women get proper representation at both the state and district levels.”
As per Pathak, the officer bearers’ posts of president, secretary, and treasurer are of utmost importance in any sports association. He, however, believes that the absence of women from these associations also indicates their lack of interest in joining. He says that there is a reason for this. "Firstly, women do not show any interest in joining the association and secondly, marriage and children make them busy with their household chores."
However, Sarojini Lakra, sports director, Jharkhand, begs to differ. She is of the opinion that women in Jharkhand do not have ample opportunities in the associations. Being an athlete herself she says, “Women will come forward only if they get proper exposure and opportunity. I could reach this place (Director Post) since I got several opportunities. For running a good administration, it is essential that we have a proper balance of men and women. The office bearers of the association need to be asked the question as to why there isn’t a fair representation of women in the association.”
Sarojini Lakra also reiterates that in all of the 39 sports associations of Jharkhand, there is very less representation of women.
If one looks at all the district and state level associations, out of 2088 posts of president, secretary and treasurer, only 58 have been filled by women.
In the 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan, Nikki Pradhan and Salima Tete of Jharkhand had been a part of the Indian Hockey team. Dipika, Ropani, Mahima, Sangeeta Kumari and Beauty Dundung are some other famous names that have represented the state at many national and international sporting events.
Bijay Shakar Singh, secretary, Jharkhand Hockey Association, says that in hockey, only girls from Jharkhand are bringing laurels for the state and the nation. However, in 25 different sports associations for Hockey at the district and state levels, out of a total of 75 posts (president, secretary and treasurer), women hold only 8 posts.
Daughter of Jharkhand Ashtam Oraon was the captain of the Indian team in the FIFA world cup for under-17 women organised in India. Neetu Linda, Anjali Munda, Anita Kumari, Purnima Kumari and Sudha Ankita Tirkey were also part of the team. However, not a single post has been occupied by a woman in the Jharkhand football association.
Deepika Kumari, who has represented the country in the Commonwealth Games and won a gold medal in international sports events, also hails from the state of Jharkhand. Likewise in the field of boxing, volleyball, fencing, basketball, billiards and snooker, these daughters are making both the state and the nation proud. But their representation in the Association remains negligent.
The lack of representation of women in the association poses a question mark on society, the association and the government. Ansuta Lakra of Jharkhand was the captain of the Indian Women's Hockey team in 2011-12. At present, she is one of the selectors of the Indian Hockey team.
She too believes that women not being represented in the association is a matter of concern. “I think that women are not considered for different posts in sports associations. They should also get fair and equal representation. If people who have played sports are part of the association, it would function in a proper manner. I am very sure that in the times to come, participation of women will increase.”
An office bearer of an association, on the condition of anonymity, says, “More than sports, these people (the office bearers of association) are interested in the personal benefits. When I speak on this issue people feel bad about it. They do not post women here and even if they do, they are kept as mere puppets. I am a sports person. I know my sports very well. I have not been allotted the post that I want. There is politics involved. The place is filled with those people who are least interested in sports.”
Sports Director, Saojini Lakra, says that as per her own research, only a percentage of women hold posts at the sports association. Sports Minister Hafizul Hasan Ansari in this regard, while talking to Outlook, says, “It is true that the representation of women in sports associations is less both at the state and Centre. We are trying our best to encourage more women to be a part of the association. This is one of the reasons why we have made Sarojini Lakra the director of sports. In the coming years, we will make a policy that women should constitute 40 per cent of the total posts in the association.”
(translated by Kaveri Mishra)