According to the SGFI calendar, the girls event will be held in December last week

Former star athletes of India lash out at gender segregation in National School Athletic Event
news Athletetics Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 16:51

For the first time in India’s history, girls and boys will participate in the school athletic meet at two separate venues on two different dates.   

 The School Games Federation of India (SGFI) has planned to host the national school athletic events event at two separate venues and on different dates for boys and girls in Nashik and Pune respectively.

 This move has attracted criticism from many former athletes who feel it’s a conscious decision of the body to separate boys and girls.

 Indian sprint legend and chairman of the Athletic Commission, P T Usha said, “We have written a complaint to the Prime Minister, Sports Minister and all other related officials and officers of SGFI. But we are yet to receive an official reply.”

Rubbishing the explanation offered by SGIF officials that lack of infrastructure had forced them to split the venues, Usha said, “It is childish,” pointing out, “for the last 60 years we have had a combined sports meet,” and added that this is an ‘act of gender discrimination’.

“The stadium in Pune where the girls meet is scheduled to take place, can accommodate around 8000 participants, while the number of participants combining both boys and girls is less than that,” she added.

Anju Bobby George, a gold medalist at the World Athletics Championships also said, “Instead of holding separate events for boys and girls, the organizers should cancel the event.” Anju warns that 'this could be the beginning of something sinister'. The athlete has asked the central government and state government to oppose the move.

Speaking to The News Minute, Ashwini Nachappa, a former athlete said, “Instead of going forward we are going backward, this is ridiculous. This is 21st century, we should be providing better infrastructure rather than providing better platform for our boys and girls.”

According to the SGFI calendar, the girls event will be held in December last week while the boys event is scheduled for January second week.

However, in its defense, Narendra M Sopal, Treasurer (SGFI), told The News Minute, “Accommodating such a huge number of people becomes a problem logistically. There is no single complex available in any state that can house so many people together. Then there is the issue of separate living spaces for boys and girls.”

When asked how come the SGFI had place to accommodate all athletes together for the last so many years, he replied, “It was never easy. We have regularly been receiving complaints from those taking part in the event for the last couple of years. Those who are put up in dormitories complain why some have been given rooms, whereas some will complain about the facilities provided to them in their rooms.”

Sopal argued that participation in such an event can go up to as high as 3000, including the athletes as well as their coaches and managers. There is no government scheme under which this national championship is conducted, and we usually rely on grants and donations to organize this for the sake of athletes.

“No state government is ready to provide residential facility to all 3000 participants at a single time, nor are they willing to give funds. We have decided to organize this event separately so that the championship takes place smoothly,” he added.

Reacting to PT Usha’s gender discrimination charge, Sopal responded, “She is a noted athlete herself and runs an athletics academy in Kerala. We respect her immensely. Then why does she not insist the Kerala government to organize the national school athletics championship?”

(With inputs from Monalisa Das and Haritha John)

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