A cash-strapped West Bengal government Saturday spent a fortune Rs 65 crore of its Rs 116 crore sports budget in felicitations in its bid to put across that it cared for sports.
A total of 64 sportspersons,former and present,were honoured with the Khel Samman,instituted this year in four categories,at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.
As many as 2,000 clubs were given Rs 2 lakh each to build infrastructure and shore up their facilities by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with sports minister Madan Mitra and other state bigwigs by her side. All winners also received blazers and mementos.
Interestingly,six members of the panel set up by the state sports ministry to nominate the awardees have themselves been nominated for prizes. Prasun Banerjee,former footballer and Trinamool Congress MP from Howrah,former footballers Gautam Sarkar and Bidesh Bose,athlete Soma Biswas,chess grandmaster Dibyendu Barua have nominated themselves in Banglar Gourab (Pride of Bengal) category. At the same time,Jyotirmoyee Sikdar,winner of two gold medals in athletics in 1998 Asian Games,and renowned swimmer Bula Chowdhury missed out.
Indias legendary football coach P K Banerjee,too,was absent from the list of Kriraguru (sports guru) awardees,but Mamata explained that since Banerjee has already received Bangabibhusan,the highest civilian award in the state,he was not considered.
Overall,however,the programme created a feel-good factor. Twenty-six players from different disciplines were given the Khel Samman Award and received
Rs 50,000 each.
Thirteen coaches,both active and former who were selected in the Kriraguru segment,were given Rs 1 lakh each. Twenty-three former stars were given the Banglar Gourab Award for Rs 1 lakh each. The Lifetime Achievement Award was the most prized segment of the show and Sourav Ganguly and Leander Paes were the obvious picks. The latter,however,was absent as he was busy playing a tournament overseas,but Ganguly walked on to the stage amid loud cheers.Proud to receive the award, said the former India captain. Mamata ordered her sports minister to form a concerted sports policy.
The state will come up with a sports academy but before that there will be a residential football academy in Bengal and the sports ministry is actively working on it, she announced.