the CIVIL Services
Exam puts UPSC on test
Statistics show Hindi-medium and arts background candidates’ success has dropped with the introduction of the aptitude-cum-English exam. But the debate is if it is alright to have administrators without modern-day communication and technical skills?
By Aditi Tandon
or the second time in two years, the government has had to dilute the Civil Services Examination (CSE) under pressure from candidates and politicians who feel it is skewed in favour of the English-speaking and technical-background aspirants. In early 2013, a similar protest as seen this season had forced the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), constitutionally tasked with the job of selecting future administrators, to abandon critical examination reforms from the test structure.






glasgow CWG
Medal hunt over, time we found more athletes
For the number of athletes it fielded, India has not done badly. The need is to expand the sporting base to throw up more international-class players. The Tribune checks out the Indian performance at Glasgow.
By Rohit Mahajan
Fighting without adequate training is like going blindfolded into a new city – you’re lost. The boxers have been trying to find themselves – they didn’t quite find themselves in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

What makes Haryana the champ
Of India’s tally of 64 medals in the Glasgow CWG, 22 came from Haryana. Standing tall among their male counterparts are women sportspersons who have brought medal honour to the tiny state.
Naveen S Garewal
There is no better place in the country than Haryana to be a sportsperson, especially if one is interested in wrestling, boxing, kabaddi and hockey. Infrastructure and encouragement that sports receive here is perhaps unparalleled, both in terms of financial rewards and a career choice that translates into a secure government job. Sports is the single factor that has checked the use of drugs among the youth, unlike in Punjab where the problem is alarming.



the CIVIL Services
Exam puts UPSC on test
Statistics show Hindi-medium and arts background candidates’ success has dropped with the introduction of the aptitude-cum-English exam. But the debate is if it is alright to have administrators without modern-day communication and technical skills?
By Aditi Tandon

Candidates protest against the CSAT paper in the Civil Services Exam conducted by the UPSC
Candidates protest against the CSAT paper in the Civil Services Exam conducted by the UPSC (headquarters, below), in New Delhi. File photo

For the second time in two years, the government has had to dilute the Civil Services Examination (CSE) under pressure from candidates and politicians who feel it is skewed in favour of the English-speaking and technical-background aspirants.

In early 2013, a similar protest as seen this season had forced the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), constitutionally tasked with the job of selecting future administrators, to abandon critical examination reforms from the test structure.

Among them was the inclusion of a compulsory English précis paper in the CSE Mains examination — a reform which the UPSC-commissioned expert committee led by Founder Director of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council and former UGC Chairman Arun Nigavekar had forcefully recommended to ensure that civil service hopefuls had the working knowledge of English, which is now a global “link language”. The UPSC had to abandon this reform after leaders of the Samajwadi Party, BSP, and the JDU among other parties obstructed parliamentary proceedings accusing the commission of “hatching a conspiracy against Hindi and other regional languages by making an English précis compulsory”.

Familiar voices of dissent have been hounding the UPSC again this year. Beginning June 18, a section of students, mainly from the Hindi heartland, began agitating against the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), the second paper in the CSE Preliminary Examination which screens candidates for CSE Mains.

Their grouse – CSAT is designed to suit the English-speaking aspirants and those from science and engineering backgrounds. “CSAT is edging students from the Hindi and other regional language mediums and humanities streams out of the civil services. It is a conspiracy against us. It must be scrapped and the CSE Prelims advanced to a later date,” says Prabhat Ranjan, one of the protesters. Students’ concerns found a resonance in Parliament throughout the ongoing budget session with socialist parties, regional outfits and even the Congress joining the protest.

Finally, although unsuccessful in getting the CSE Prelims postponed (the exam will be held as scheduled on August 24 this year), the protesters did manage the following dilution in the 80 question CSAT paper – eight questions which tested aspirants’ English comprehension skills were dropped. Additionally, the government, while agreeing that CSAT, introduced from 2011, had caused disadvantage to certain students, agreed to give the 2011 batch of CSE aspirants an additional chance at the exam in 2011.


Every year the UPSC conducts the Civil Services Examination (CSE) to select future administrators for Central government services, including the IAS, IFS and the IRS. The examination is held in three stages — CSE Prelims; CSE Mains and Interview.

Obsessive interest in the exam structure stems from the fact that the CSE is a fiercely contested test in which lakhs of students vie annually for a handful of coveted posts.

On an average, around 3 lakh sit for the CSE Prelims every year. By the end of Mains, 15,000 are left in the fray. The interview sifts the best from the rest with only around 1,000 making the final cut.

In 2011, as part of the CSE reform process, the UPSC introduced changes in the Prelims exam. A new paper called CSAT was brought to test aspirants’ problem solving skills, basic numeracy, decision making and analytical skills, communication, and English language grasp. “The idea was to create a level playing field for all applicants by removing the previous bias towards subject knowledge in the Prelims. Students were to be tested for their natural, not coaching-acquired abilities,” says a UPSC official.

After the change, Prelims had two papers — Paper I called General Studies and Paper II called CSAT. General Studies tests candidates’ knowledge of current events, Indian history, national movement, economic, social developments, science and environment. CSAT tests their leadership and problem solving acumen.

The agitators don’t have any problems with the general studies paper. They just want the CSAT paper scrapped. Their demand stands even after the government dropped from this paper eight English comprehension questions worth 20 marks.

CSAT test comprises 200 marks and General Studies also has 200 marks. Together these two papers make Prelims account for 400 marks in the CSE exam. After the scrapping of eight questions from CSAT, its weightage is down to 180 marks.

UPSC sources say the 2014 Prelims aspirants would be marked on a cumulative of 380 (200 marks for general studies and 180 for CSAT).


The move to drop English questions has far from appeased the agitators. They want the CSAT scrapped altogether. Imran Ansari, a protester says, “CSAT comprises 30 to 36 questions in the language comprehension section. The UPSC drafts these questions in English and translates them into Hindi using Google Translator. The translations are so literal that even Hindi professors can’t understand the questions. This problem relates to 36 questions, each worth 2.5 marks. It puts Hindi speaking and regional language aspirants out of the contest.”

CSE exam papers are set in two official languages English and Hindi. Aspirants are, however, allowed to answer these exams (except the compulsory English questions such as the eight in CSAT which stand dropped) in any of the 22 Schedule Eight languages.

Another refrain of protesters is that CSAT is easy for engineering, science and management students as bulk of its queries relate to maths, analysis and reasoning.

“The earlier format was more equal than the new. The new pattern is preventing the Hindi and other regional language speaking students from getting into the Mains and ultimately the services,” says Birender Kumar, another protester from Bihar.

While the government has refused to advance Prelims or scrap CSAT, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu has admitted to the need for a “deeper deliberation” on the test structure. He has said that the government will call an all-party meeting on the issue after August 24, the scheduled date of CSE Prelims exam.


The UPSC’s records reveal that before 2011, the year CSAT was introduced, an average of 35 to 45 per cent Hindi-medium aspirants used to make it to the Mains on an average. The percentage fell to 15 after 2011.

A corresponding drop is seen in the proportion of other language students taking Mains examination.

Not just that, the UPSC’s annual reports contain data showing how in 2010, a year before CSAT, around 47.5 per cent students taking the Mains exam came from the humanities background, as against 31.2 per cent in 2011 when CSAT was implemented.

A similar story emerges when one digs into the records of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussorie, where civil service recruits are trained. In the 2012 batch, only 27 per cent of the 269 trainees had a rural background (31 per cent male and 15 per cent female). In the three pre-CSAT years, around 63 to 67 per cent men at the academy were from rural backgrounds.

More statistics: out of the 1,122 successful CSE candidates in 2013, only 53 were from the non-English medium. Of these 53, just 26 came from the Hindi medium. This was a sharp drop from the earlier years. For instance in 2009, out of 875 successful civil service recruits, 222 (25.4 per cent) were from Hindi background.

Prof Arun Nigavekar had himself recorded CSAT related issues in his report to the UPSC last year.

“Prelims Paper I (General Studies) is difficult compared to Paper II (CSAT). Candidates who are good in general studies are at a disadvantage because they may not get an edge with general studies. Contrarily, candidates good in aptitude get advantage and can pass the CSAT without much study of Paper I. Aspirants with engineering background formed the chunk of candidates who qualified Prelims in the first attempt,” Nigavekar said.


Students who choose to write their exams in Hindi say question paper translations from English to Hindi are being very poorly done in the CSE Prelims as well as Mains. Evidence from past papers shows “land reforms” in a CSAT question translated as “aarthik sudhar”; “steel plant” as “ispat ka paudha”. Around 36 questions on comprehension in CSAT are such where translations are critical.

“You need to understand a question to answer it. Translations are so mechanical that they kill the soul of the language. Every language has its own idiom. Google Translator cannot preserve that idiom,” says Prabhat Ranjan, another protester.

Evidence from 2013’s general studies paper in Prelims also presents translation problems. “Joint venture route” in the English paper is translated as “sanyukt sandhimarg” in the Hindi paper; “Go and no go zone” is translated as “Haan ya nahi avdharna”.

Regional or national?

Last week saw Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab MS Gill raising a banner of revolt against the practice of treating Hindi and English as national languages and all other languages as regional. Speaking for Punjabi and other Eighth Schedule languages, Gill quoted George Orwell during CSAT discussions in the House to say, “Nobody is more equal than the others. All languages spoken in India are national languages. Don’t call our languages regional. We are not a unilingual country. Whatever you do in Hindi and English you must do in all other languages.”

The South Indian politicians rallied behind Gill in his anti-Hindi pitch maintaining that the current protest against CSAT was by a miniscule Hindi-speaking student population. Gill’s remarks set the tone for another longstanding debate – the need to set the CSE exam in all 22 Eighth Schedule languages – something Nigavekar had recommended in his report.

If the government’s tone is anything to go by, this demand could soon be realised. “We are open to this discussion,” said MoS (Personnel) Jitendra Singh whose ministry deals with Central service officers and the UPSC.

Tech check

Former UGC Chairman Nigavekar, when asked, admitted that the new test was meant to examine new-age administrators for their knowledge of technology and their ability to apply that knowledge for problem solving.

“We had recommended a new pattern for CSE Mains also. We reduced the weightage for subject optionals in Mains and increased the weightage of General Studies, introducing subjects like ethics, integrity and aptitude. We had gone to the extent of saying that students should be allowed to take only degree-level subjects as optionals in the Mains. Reason being students were found opting for high-scoring subjects, cramming their way to the academy. The UPSC did not agree to our ‘degree paper as optional’ suggestion nor did they create a bank of expert examiners to set CSE papers as we had recommended. CSE examiners must be people with strong fundamental knowledge of all subjects and of new technologies. The UPSC tends to pick examiners from Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram every year. That won’t help. The UPSC must test well to select the best minds. Question paper setting is the key to that,” Nigavekar says.

Issues with Mains

While the UPSC introduced reformed Prelims in 2011, it introduced reformed Mains from 2013 following the Nigavekar panel recommendations. Students protesting CSAT are also opposed to reformed Mains pattern as it reduces weightage for subject optionals (from 1,200 marks previously to 500) and enhances general studies marks from 600 previously to 1,000.

This was done after it was found that among IAS recruits since 2001 only a third were arts graduates, 13 per cent were science graduates, 25 per cent engineers, 15 per cent doctors, 8 per cent managers and 6 per cent were lawyers.

The dominance of science and engineering students in the CSE continues even after the 2011 reforms. A whopping 69 per cent candidates who made it to the Mains after CSAT introduction in 2011 were from non-humanities streams.

Getting the right mix of administrators to run the diverse country thus continues to be a challenge.

Speaking for language of the world

While the jury is still out on the merits of CSAT, most retired bureaucrats feel the protests are uncalled for and the bias against English unfortunate.

Shailaja Chandra, former Secretary to the GoI, backs CSAT. “CSAT was brought because every exam must test the aptitude of aspirants, their broad thinking, whether they are quick on their feet, whether they can respond to situations or are they simply coaching-class oriented. The refrain that CSAT is anti-Hindi is misplaced. Out of 80 questions in CSAT, 72 come with Hindi translations. I personally spoke to candidates at the Academy who have cleared the civil services exam post CSAT. They have worked hard to excel despite their rural backgrounds. I wonder if anti-CSAT protesters were even interested in taking the exam. Any civil services hopeful would know he won’t be allowed to write the test if he has ever been arrested. No politician can change that. Moreover, it is not known whether these students are agitating or being made to agitate. Not all aspirants are protesting. There are lakhs.”

A former UPSC Member, who was part of the commission when the exam format was changed, says the new test prepares future civil servants for challenges of the modern day world where English has become the link language in which knowledge is transmitted and shared.

“Our experience tells us that if there’s one thing the Chinese are wary of – it is Indian students’ English proficiency. Indian IT graduates are controlling the Silicon Valley only because they have the right mix of technical and English skills. The Chinese are now sending their students to the West to acquire English proficiency to outcompete India. Here we are running down our own skills,” the retired IFS officer says.

English origins

CSE papers were originally set only in English. It was after 1922 that the CSE exam itself began to be held in Allahabad, instead of England. In 1935 a Federal Service Public Commission was set up to conduct the exam. This commission came to be known as the UPSC after India adopted its Constitution.

Between 1947 and 1950, annual combined tests for the IAS, IPS, IFS and non-technical services were held in English. It was after the 1976 Kothari Committee report on CSE reforms that a two-stage CSE comprising Prelims and Mains (plus interview) was started and the need felt to test candidates' knowledge of English and at least one Eighth Schedule language.

In 1989 a compulsory Essay paper of matriculation level was actually introduced in the Mains. Candidates could write it in any Eighth Schedule language.

Gradually CSE began to be set in Hindi as successive governments realised that they needed to shed the paper's colonial legacy. Later candidates were allowed to answer the CSE exams in any of the 22 constitutionally recognised languages.



glasgow CWG
Medal hunt over, time we found more athletes
For the number of athletes it fielded, India has not done badly. The need is to expand the sporting base to throw up more international-class players. The Tribune checks out the Indian performance at Glasgow.
By Rohit Mahajan

(From left) Ashwini ponnappa, Jwala gutta, Kashyap Parupalli, gurusaidutt and PV Sindhu with their medals.
one for india: (From left) Ashwini ponnappa, Jwala gutta, Kashyap Parupalli, gurusaidutt and PV Sindhu with their medals. PTI

Fighting without adequate training is like going blindfolded into a new city – you’re lost. The boxers have been trying to find themselves – they didn’t quite find themselves in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

On October 19 last year, Irishman Jason Quigley fought Vijender Singh in the second round of the World Championship in Kazakhstan. Between then and the Glasgow CWG, much has happened in the life of Quigley, who has gone professional. Between that and the Glasgow CWG, Vijender didn’t get to fight a single international bout.

The trouble with Indian sport – well, one of the troubles with Indian sport – is that sporting mediocrity at home means that there’s little challenge to the top dog. And then, as in boxing over the past couple of years, if athletes are unable to train and compete against the best in the world, they’re always unprepared, always in for rude shocks when they come up against elite athletes.

The CWG are not brimming with elite athletes – sprinter Usain Bolt, for instance, didn’t deem them worthy of a look at Delhi 2010 and ran only the relay race in Glasgow. Yet, they provide athletes a look and feel of what it is to be at events likes the Olympics.

India finished fifth on the Glasgow medals table — this may make people a wee bit gloomy, but it should depress or dishearten no one. Being fifth was a fair and appropriate reflection of India’s performance, and it was the best the country could have hoped for.

Before CWG began, the Indian officials and coaches sat down and did a reckoning — they asked themselves if it would be possible to match India’s No. 2 spot at Delhi 2010, when they picked up 101 medals, 30 of them gold.

The answer was a firm ‘no’. So, has Indian sport regressed since 2010? The answer remains ‘no’, though there’s room for ambiguity and difference of opinion here.

The numbers

India had 215 athletes in Glasgow, 619 in Delhi. More significant was the eduction/removal of events in which India had won many medals in New Delhi. Tennis, archery, Greco Roman wrestling and pairs shooting events were dropped from Glasgow — that took out a massive chunk of India’s favourite events.

India had won 15 gold, 8 silver and 10 bronze medals in these events. In other words, if the same programme had been in place Delhi four years ago, India would have finished with 33 medals – and 15 gold – fewer.

That was what was driving the wrestling team to try harder, says Sushil Kumar, who won another gold in Glasgow. “We won seven Greco Roman medals in Delhi,” he says. “So we wanted to make sure that we won all the gold in freestyle, to make up for the loss of the Greco Roman medals.”

In the event, the male freestylers ended up with three gold, three silver and one bronze; the women got two gold, three silver and one bronze. An impressive performance all right.

John Melling, a one-time Commonwealth silver medallist and now a commentator and analyst, said he was very impressed with the rise of Indian wrestlers in CWG. “I first came across Indians in 1987, in a tournament in Manchester,” he says. “At that time, they were generally in the lighter weight categories. But now they have a lot more wrestlers, in all weight categories.” “I’ve been very impressed with the women, too” he adds. “Vinesh (gold) was excellent, and in fact all women who made the final were impressive.”

The rise of women’s wrestling is very impressive, says England’s Non Evens, who lost to Geeta Phogat in Delhi four years ago. “Indian women haven’t been wrestling as long as the men, but now they’re doing so well here. The girls’ team is very different from four years ago, now you’ve got a lot of depth now, more wrestlers to choose from.”

India won five gold in wrestling in Glasgow (Canada had seven), but India had the maximum medals — 13 of the 14 men and women fielded by India came back with medals.

India did very well in weightlifting too — they won 14 medals, including three gold and five silver, to finish with the most number of medals, though Nigeria won more gold (six).

No dope

More significant was another number — none of the Indian wrestlers were subjected to random dope tests. This is important because doping had become a huge problem for India over the past few years. Even juniors were getting caught; the Weightlifting Federation of India (WFI) was banned by the sport’s global governing body, and India could participate in Delhi 2010 only because the India paid Rs 3 crore to the WFI as fine.

Has India turned its back on doping? There is hope — only four members of the Indian weightlifting contingent in Glasgow were tested. Maybe the cloud of suspicion that has darkened the sport in India is lifting.

“Only two of our five girls who won medals and two of the seven male medallists, were tested for drugs in Glasgow,” says Hansa Sharma, weightlifting coach. “This means we’re winning back the trust.”

This was made possible by many steps taken by the WFI – including greater supervision of the weightlifters; greater efforts at educating them about the perils of drug-taking; and the supply of safe dietary supplements.

Boxing bane

The pugilists had no world-class practice at all, because the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) had been suspended by the international boxing association (AIBA) for “manipulation” in its elections in late 2012; then, earlier this year, the IABF was terminated. AIBA had then said that the boxing office-bearers were “damaging the image, reputation and interest” of the sport in India.

The Indian boxers at one point seemed to be in the danger of missing CWG altogether, or at least not competing under the Indian flag.

That’s how the officialdom batters athletes. Then the antagonist in the ring does it. It’s trouble doubled. “We had little international-class exposure practice before CWG, but we managed to get four boxers into the finals, for the first time in the history of the CWG,” national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu says.

He says he is not unhappy with the fact that India failed to win a single gold medal.

“That’s because our expectations were very low, because of reasons I’ve explained,” he says. “We thought we’d struggle to win even a single medal. So these silver medals are like gold to me.”

The team’s foreign coach, Cuban Fernandez, asks: “Did you note how L Devendro Singh improved during this competition? He began in a patchy manner, improved after each round, and he fought the final brilliantly against Paddy Barnes. The big difference was that Barnes is very, very experienced.”

It’s impossible to replicate that sort of challenge when your team is not participating in competitions abroad, when all you could do is rustle up just a fistful of worthy sparring partners. “At home, when we train Devendro, he might have a few tough opponents,” he says. “Here, every round is tough.”

Akhil Kumar, who won gold in Melbourne CWG 2006, says even one gold would have been creditable under the circumstances. He was hoping there would be many, but his optimistic expectation was that his protégé Mandeep Jangra or Vijender Singh would get the gold medals.

“I’ve told Jangra that there’s 2020 Olympics too, to not just think that his chance will come in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” Akhil says. “But from Glasgow, I thought even one gold medal would have been a great achievement.”

Missing the mark

Shooters provided 14 of India’s 30 gold medals in Delhi 2014; they were quite disappointing in Glasgow.

Among the men, Abhinav Bindra took his 10m air rifle gold and Jitu Rai won the 50m pistol title – only two gold from the men. Expectations were that Vijay Kumar, Manavjit Singh Sandhu, Mansher Singh and Gagan Narang would win a gold each. None of them succeeded, and Vijay failed to even qualify for the final.

A still bigger shock was that Heena Sidhu too didn’t win a medal. Heena is the first pistol shooter from India to win gold in the World Cup. She had risen to the world No. 1 position in the women’s 10m pistol rankings, but she finished a disappointing seventh in Glasgow.

Apurvi Chandela (10m air rifle) and Rahi Sarnobat (25m pistol) won a gold each to save India from greater humiliation. India won 17 medals in Delhi, but the number was a big climbdown from the 30 they took home in 2010. India ended up third on the shooting medals table, below Australia and England but above Singapore.


Singapore took the table tennis honours, and Achanta Sharath Kamal, India’s No. 1 player, is not happy. “The standard of Chinese players is very high, and now more Chinese players are coming to play for other nations,” he says. “It’s become very difficult to compete, because China has amazing depth, and if they supply players to other countries as well, it becomes very difficult.”

Peter Engel, the Indian team’s coach, says: “When I was coaching the Netherlands, one woman player of Chinese origin once told me, ‘Until now I’m the only one from China, now there will be the men’s team too!’”

Sharath Kamal had won the CWG singles gold in 2006; in Glasgow he won the men’s doubles silver along with Anthony Amalraj.

Sharath is ageing, India need more players. “We started in October last year, we can’t become champs overnight,” says Engel. “I’m quite happy with the way we’re improving.”

Surprise, surprise

Dipika Pallikal and Joshna Chinappa won the gold medal in the squash women’s doubles – this was the surprise gold for India, for the Indians were playing England’s No. 1 team of Jenny Duncalf and Laura Massaro. Jenny is a one-time world No. 2 singles player; Laura is current world singles No. 2. The Indians won the final in straight games. Later, they said they didn’t expect much jubilation at home, even though this was India’s first ever gold in CWG squash events.

Vikas Gowda won gold in the men’s discus throw, Seema Punia (nee Antil) silver in the women’s discus, and Arpinder Singh got gold in the men’s long jump. These should be prized medals, for athletics is one of the more world-class competitions at the CWG. Two CWG nations (Jamaica, Kenya) were among the top five finishers in last year’s Athletics World Championships.

Just compare this with other sports. In the 2013 boxing World Championship, CWG nations won four medals but no gold. England, with one bronze, were joint 11th with seven others. At the 2013 weightlifting World Championships, CWG nations didn’t win a single medal; at last year’s World Gymnastics (Artistic and Rhythmic), CWG nations won two out of 60 medals.

India didn’t do badly at Glasgow, but our sport is plagued by one constant worry – not enough young talent is coming through to challenge the established stars.

At world level, CWG nations lag

2013 Athletics World Championships
CWG nations in Top 5: Jamaica, Kenya

2013 Boxing World Championship
CWG nations in Top 10: Ireland (1 silver, 1 bronze)

40 medals available: CWG nations win 4, no gold

2013 World Weightlifting Championships
45 medals available: CWG nations didn't win any

2013 World Gymnastics (Artistic and Rhythmic)
60 medals available: CWG nations win 2 medals (GB 1 silver, 1 bronze)

2013 Badminton World Championship
20 medals available: CWG nations win 2

2013 TT World Championship
20 medals available: CWG nations win 1 bronze

2013 Swimming World Championship
CWG nations in Top 10: Australia (3 golds, 11 silver)

2013 World Wrestling Championships
CWG nations in Top 15: None

84 medals available: CWG nations win 5, no gold



What makes Haryana the champ
Of India’s tally of 64 medals in the Glasgow CWG, 22 came from Haryana. Standing tall among their male counterparts are women sportspersons who have brought medal honour to the tiny state.
Naveen S Garewal

Yogeshwar Dutt
Yogeshwar Dutt

There is no better place in the country than Haryana to be a sportsperson, especially if one is interested in wrestling, boxing, kabaddi and hockey. Infrastructure and encouragement that sports receive here is perhaps unparalleled, both in terms of financial rewards and a career choice that translates into a secure government job. Sports is the single factor that has checked the use of drugs among the youth, unlike in Punjab where the problem is alarming.

The Hooda government’s tag line “No. 1 Haryana” may not hold very well for social and economic parameters, but in sports, there is no competition. With 22 medals, including five golds, out of the Indian tally of 64, the state has again stamped its supremacy over the Indian sporting scene.

The sporting culture among the people, infrastructure and player-friendly sports policy with a catchy tagline “padak lao, pad pao” (bring medals, get job) is pushing sportspersons to scale new heights. Sardar Singh of the Indian national hockey team is from Santnagar in Hisar.

On July 31, the government unveiled a bonanza in the form of a hike in the award money.

Seema Punia
Seema Punia

Babita Phogat
Babita Phogat

Pinki Jangra
Pinki Jangra

Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar

Vinesh Phogat
Vinesh Phogat

Vijender Kumar
ijender Kumar

Mandeep Jangra
Mandeep Jangra


Citadel of wrestling
“Deshan mein desh Haryana, ghee, doodh, dahi ka khana” explains the lifestyle of Haryanvis and is perhaps the reason for this sporting glory. The dominance of players in wrestling and boxing is overwhelming. In the CWG, out of 13 medals in wrestling, nine medals (including four golds) were won by Haryana wrestlers. Similarly, out of five medals in boxing, three were won by state players.

While wrestling has been a traditional sport here, the emergence in boxing owes it to Bhiwani district that has produced international-level boxers like Vijender Kumar, Akhil Kumar, Vikash Krishan, Jitender and Kavita Goyat.

The most remarkable has been the success story of women wrestlers, who bagged almost equal number of medals as their male counterparts. Out of the total 13 medals, men won seven and women six. Five of the six medal-winning girls — Babita, Vinesh, Geetika Jakhar, Sakshi Malik and Lalita — belong to Haryana.

Private academies outshine
The sports and physical aptitude test is creating a pool of talent, but players complain that government facilities are below international standards. Only private academies have produced world-class players. Wrestlers Babita and Vinesh, boxer Mandeep Jangra and discus thrower Seema Punia are self-made.

Complaining of government apathy as he set up a wrestling hall to train girls, coach Mahavir Singh says, “I got no support from the government. Hard work by girls who have won medals in CWG and Asian Games have compensated for it.”

Seema Punia also complains of poor support. “I had to fight against the system, be it for Bhim Award or claiming a government job. Despite being the lone athlete to bring a medal in three CWG, I have been facing discrimination.”

However, Amit Jangra, a state-level boxer and Pinki Jangra’s brother (who brought the first medal in women boxing), says the infrastructure is adequate for a launchpad. “There can’t be international facilities at the district level. Once a player reaches the national stage, he/she gets the best facilities,” he says.

Joginder Bishnoi, in charge of SAI centre, says the best infrastructure and coaching facilities are available at the centre. “Our programme is based on SAI norms. We have facilities for boxing, wrestling, hockey, athletics, judo, handball and 11 coaches for different disciplines,” he says.

Milk, ghee flows
The secret of their success perhaps lies in their simple food, though rich in calories. While traditional coaches support “doodh, ghee ka khana”, the modern ones stress on changing the diet. “Traditional food is nutritious and rich in calories and gives players a psychological edge as they believe ghee and milk has made them strong enough to beat their opponents,” maintains Jagdish Singh, a boxing coach in Bhiwani.

Paramjit Samota, who won a gold medal in the Delhi CWG four years ago, eats “churma” made of bajra and ghee. Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Kumar too is partial towards “churma” and “kheer”. Another favourite is “goond laddoo”.

Mahavir Singh, who coaches his daughter-wrestlers Geeta, Babita and Vinesh, justifies the food, saying players must sweat it out profusely to burn fat, which makes them practice harder. Apart from milk, juice and dry fruits, he gives them 50 gm ghee every day.

However, Usha Sharma, a wrestling coach in Sisay village, argues that wrestling is now faster and technique based and more of a power game. “A player needs carbohydrates and protein for agility,” she says.

Tejpal Dalal, a historian, says the rich diet and combative culture of the state promoted wrestling and boxing. “Drugs are not rampant in the state. People love to consume rich food. Their lifestyle has been rigorous, which makes them digest it,” he says.

The intake of milk is also high. A report of the National Sample Survey Organisation reveals that a family in a Haryana village on an average consumes 14.7 litres milk in a month, which is over three times the national average of 4.3 litres.

History of wrestling
Author Tejpal Dalal writes Haryana has been the land of Lord Hanuman, Shri Krishan, Bheem and Balram, synonymous for physical power and ‘malla yudha’ (duel). “Greek invader Sikander tasted his first defeat in this region when he challenged local wrestlers. Later, there is a reference of wrestler Veer Gokula who took on Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to protect the interests of the peasantry community,” he says. Dalal has written about wrestling legends Nand Lal, Sukh Lal, Jangli Pahelwan, Subha Ram, Ram Kishan, Desraj, Ramkishan, Jagroop, Ratiram and Jagdish.

“Nand Lal, a 200-kg wrestler, was unbeatable. He used to have lunch after manually tilling a bigha of sugarcane field every day with spade. Sukh Lal was awarded around 100 bighas by the British after he defeated wrestlers of the Indian Army as well as army wrestlers of other countries. Jangli Pahelwan had trounced a Middle-Eastern wrestler twice his weight along the Suez Canal during his Mesopotamia trip with the Indian Army under the British during the early 20th century,” he writes.

The next generation of wrestlers comprised Padma Shri Leela Ram from Bhiwani. He won the first gold in wrestling for India in the Cardiff CWG in 1958.

Wrestler Uday Chand — the first Arjuna awardee of Hisar district — was a national champion for 13 consecutive years and won a gold medal in the CWG in 1970. Uday Chand, who lives in Hisar, was also a coach at Haryana Agriculture University for many years.


India’s Cuba in boxing
It was his passion for boxing that drove Capt Hawa Singh (retd) of Umarwas village, Bhiwani, to set up the Bhiwani Boxing Club in the early ’90s. Locals say he would zero in on stout, agile youngsters during his visits to adjoining villages and urge them to take up boxing. “His hard work has brought name and fame to Bhiwani, which is now known as India’s Cuba in boxing,” says Jagdish Singh, who took the baton to run the club that has produced several medal winners. Hawa Singh was a world-class boxer who dominated Indian and Asian amateur boxing for a decade. He won the Asian Games gold medal in the heavyweight category in 1966 and 1970, a feat unmatched by any other Indian boxer. He won the National Championships for a record 11 consecutive times from 1961 to 1972.


Love for the ‘three’
The district is known for its three sports — wrestling, kabaddi and hockey. These are pursued as a hobby even by those youngsters who have no knowledge of national and international events.

Wrestling became an additional qualification for recruitment in the Army and the police, leading to the opening of private “akharas” at various places with expert wrestlers of yesteryear as coaches.

There is a sports stadium in Sonepat and a mini stadium in Gohana. Rajiv Gandhi Khel Parishars have been constructed at 16 places in the district. With the recent appointment of new coaches, the number of coaches in the district has increased to 23, including four women coaches.

There are around 23 private “akharas” in the district. The government had opened a wrestling academy with day boarding facility for 25 inmates at Subhash Stadium; and a wrestling nursery at Purkhas village.

The government has set up a hockey nursery at CRZ Senior Secondary School for 20 boys (boarding facilities) and another at Tika Ram Girls School for 25 girls. A women hockey academy for 25 inmates (day boarding) has also been set up.

The players of these nurseries carry out routine practices at the AstroTurf hockey ground in Motilal Nehru Sports School, Rai. There is another private hockey coaching centre for girls in the old industrial area, Sonepat, where hockey coach Devender Singh and former India women hockey captain Pritam Siwach train them.

Master Ved Prakash Malik of Bhainswal Kalan village and a zila parishad member, says: “We cannot ignore the role of masters of private ‘akharas’ who groom youngsters. The government should give financial incentive to them. The gram panchayats should be given the responsibility to maintain Rajiv Gandhi Khel Parishars as anti-social elements misuse these places.”


MDU link common
Players owing allegiance to Maharshi Dayanand University-affiliated colleges have brought laurels to the state in the CWG. The wrestlers have excelled in their events. Their coaches say most of these players come from rural background and used to practice on bare earth in the initial phase of their career.

Official sources say nine players of MDU-affiliated institutions bagged medals. They include Yogeshwar Dutt, Babita, Vinesh, Sakshi Malik, Satyawrat and Pawan Kumar in wrestling; Vijender in boxing; Aneesa Sayyed in pistol-shooting; and Seema Poonia in discus throw.

“Several other MDU athletes and players who participated in judo and archery also performed well, but could not win medals,” says Devender Dhull, director (sports) at the university.

The Haryana Government has established the multi-facility Rajiv Gandhi State Sports Complex in Rohtak. Though well-equipped, the complex requires proper maintenance.

Coach Amarjeet of Rohtak has been focusing on grooming paraplegic athletes, many of whom have performed well at national and international platforms.


Facilities yes, but not much else
The district boasts of two of its players representing national teams — Sardar Singh (national men hockey team skipper) and Savita Punia (women hockey team goalkeeper). The district has good sports infrastructure, with a stadium at Dabwali and another at Chautala village.

The district has eight Rajiv Gandhi stadiums, 12 stadiums and 11 mini stadiums in various villages. Shaheed Bhagat Singh Stadium is among the best stadiums of the state, with a basketball court, volleyball court, hockey ground (AstroTurf), football ground, cricket practice pitch and athletics ground.

Chaudhary Dalbir Singh Indoor Stadium has facilities for gymnastics, handball, judo, badminton and table tennis.

Lakshman Singh Saini, District Sports Officer, says the department has 22 coaches for judo, handball, athletics, volleyball, hockey, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, wrestling, cricket and football.

While facilities for most sports are available in Sirsa, the sports department lacks facilities for sports like swimming and lawn tennis. There is no stadium for playing cricket either.

For these sports, the youths go to the Dera Sacha Sauda, which has a cricket stadium, swimming pool and roller skating hockey stadium.

However, despite the infrastructure, not many sportspersons have come on the top. Even Sardar Singh, who heads the national hockey team, is a product of the hockey academy owned by the Namdhari sect at Santnagar in the district.

(Inputs from Pradeep Sharma, Sushil Manav, Deepender Deswal, BS Malik, Sunit Dhawan)

CWG state winners

Gold medal

Amit Kumar (wrestling), Vinesh Phogat (wrestling), Sushil Kumar (wrestling), Babita (wrestling), Yogeshwar Dutt (wrestling)

Silver medal

Geetika Jakhar (wrestling), Bajrang (wrestling), Satyawrat Kadian (wrestling), Lalita (wrestling), Sakshi Malik (wrestling), Anisha Sayyed (shooting), Gurpal Singh (shooting), Gagan Narang (shooting), Harpreet Singh (shooting), Sanjeev Rajput (shooting), Seema Punia (discus throw), Vijender Singh (boxing), Mandeep Jangra (boxing), Sardara Singh (hockey)

Bronze medal

Pawan Kumar (wrestling), Gagan Narang (shooting), Pinki Rani (boxing)

‘Players first’

Baldev SinghIn Haryana, players and coaches come first. We get monetary support and respect. The government has honoured me thrice. I asked for a coach and within weeks I got one. The government has hired many coaches. Many hockey centres will now become operational. There is already a turf in Shahbad, Gurgaon, Sonepat and Bhiwani and two new ones in Rohtak.
Baldev Singh, Dronacharya Awardee and Coach

‘Many incentives’

Jasjeet KaurThe biggest incentive is the cash prize. The sports policy encourages players by giving cash incentives and jobs. Facilities have improved in the last 10-15 years. The academy at Shahbad has been producing top women hockey players for the last 20 years. The government noticed it and we started getting better diet and equipment. But still, only bigger centres of wrestling and boxing get attention.
—Jasjeet Kaur, arjuna awardee

‘More to be done’

Raj Singh ChhikaraFacilities have improved. Almost every village has a wrestling mat now. We still need to improve to match the international level. There is a shortage of coaches. The sports department has hired around 40 new wrestling coaches but we need more. We also need doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists, etc. Our main centres don’t have these facilities. After initial training, wrestlers shift to Delhi. I coach at Sonepat and get 150 trainees but the stadium is not big enough. We don’t have proper hostels. We need at least one centre with world-class facilities in each district.
—Raj Singh Chhikara, chief coach, indian cadet wrestling team

‘Playing to win’

OP SinghThere are pockets of excellence. Bhiwani is the ‘Cuba of boxing’. Sonepat-Rohtak have produced world-class wrestlers. Shahbad contributes half of the players to the national women hockey team. Shooting has gained grounds in the NCR. Narwana sends hordes of handball players to the national team. Players seem to have overcome the mental barrier. They play to win. They know a good life is just a good win away.
—OP Singh, former sports director

‘Govt seeking publicity’

Jagdish SinghThe government only wants to fete medal winners. A boxing academy sanctioned by the Centre is being opened in Rohtak instead of Bhiwani. This government has done more than the others but only for publicity. At the ground level, there is still no infrastructure and financial security for budding players. If something were to happen to a player, he/she has nowhere to go. Only international players and national campers have a token insurance.
—Jagdish Singh, boxing coach

‘No financial security’

Bajrang PuniaI have seen a change in the attitude towards wrestling. It is being considered as the top sport in Haryana. The government has rewarded outstanding wrestlers. If the government does more to encourage wrestlers, we can win more medals. The prize money is the only security we have.
—Bajrang Punia, cwg silver medallist grappler

‘Sporting powerhouse’

Vinod KumarHaryana has become a sporting powerhouse. Athletes know if they perform well at international competitions, they stand a good chance of getting a government job and cash rewards. Another game changer has been the introduction of sports quota. There may not be many schools in villages but one can easily spot ‘akharas’, boxing centres and stadiums.”
—Vinod Kumar, national coach, wrestling

‘Incentives help’

YogeshwarAthletes from other states look up to Haryana when it comes to rewarding medal winners. The success of Sushil in wrestling and Vijender in boxing inspired others to take up sports as a career. Women athletes are also bringing medal glory to the state. Athletes don’t feel financially insecure after retiring from sports due to job security.
—Yogeshwar, wrestler

Compiled by Subhash Rajta



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