Priority is to make process quick and finish off infra projects within a timeframe, says Maharashtra Sports Minister

Mumbai: Development in sports has always been an agenda no matter which government is at the Centre or the state.

But the million-dollar question remains: Is there a required level of urgency to pursue the desired implementation? According to the new Minister of School Education, Sports and Youth Welfare of Maharashtra, Ashish Shelar, it was for the dillydallying of the previous ministries that Maharashtra wasn’t able to become the sporting powerhouse it could have been.

“If you study the track record of the sports ministries after 2014, the priority has been to speed up the process and keep moving in the right direction. 

We are focused on preparing quality infrastructure within a timeframe and then give athletes a platform to showcase their talent. You can see the results, the success of Khelo India Youth Games 2019 held in Pune is the proof.”

Being honest, the sports minister, who is also a former President of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), admitted that the number of grounds and facilities do not do justice to the demography and ambitions of Maharashtra.

The focus is on developing sports infrastructure professionally and provide all sports equal attention, he said, adding, “The state wants to prepare a kind of infrastructure throughout the state for all kinds of sports - not only for cricket - and apart from that, a recreational facility for the respective tehsils and districts.”  

Particularly in Mumbai, with only a handful of grounds to facilitate over 350 schools registered with Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA), organisers are forced to face the ground realities: finding ground space will be one of the biggest issues in the near future.

“Lack of grounds was already a concern and with a major portion of the Azad Maidan now occupied with Metro construction, it hampers our ability, but we still get the matches (at other grounds),” said an MSSA official while talking to The Free Press Journal.

Even the sports complexes at present are finding it tough to meet the maintenance costs but the sports minister hinted that the government is looking to design a programme through which we can put facilities like the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune to more use.

“If we come up with new ways or adopt methods to generate revenue, I’m sure that it can cover the maintenance costs,” he said while citing the example of Dharavi Sports Complex.

“But for making the facilities self-reliant, we need to have a model based on public private partnership (PPP). For this, we require transparency as it will build trust among authorities, operators and the players who will use it,” he said.

There have been genuine concerns of corruption and discomfort over implementing the PPP model in developing sports, but the idea of it helping the infrastructure is gradually gaining a foothold.

“By creating only facilities, we cannot achieve our objectives. But having a well-equipped and maintained facility with a mechanism of generating revenue all the while being affordable can create wonders.

So the state is mulling over a model based on these lines and you will soon hear about the new strategy and policy adjustments as we are on its last leg,” he said.