ON FEBRUARY 3, within a few hours of reaching the venue — District Sports Complex, Parbhani, out of 33 teams from various districts of Maharashtra, nearly 80 per cent of the sportspersons walked out of the venue to look out for an alternate accommodation at their own expense. The reason—poor state of the sports complex in Parbhani that was selected for the Maharashtra State Girl Boxing Championship, held from February 4 to 6.
At the hostel facility on its premises, there were just three bathrooms for nearly 200 girls of age group 8 to 18 years. The bathroom doors could not be locked properly. Eight to nine girls were accommodated in a room of 9X9 sq ft. The coaches of all the 33 district teams were accommodated in a single hall that was unclean and had betel leaf stains across the walls. Some of the ceiling fans were not working. Drinking water was not available at all on day one; even the toilets ran out of water.
“I have travelled for boxing championships across the country and have never experienced something like this. Even the boxing ring area did not have adequate ventilation. There were neither ceiling fans nor exhaust fans; there was just one table fan. The condition of toilets and bathrooms was pathetic. How can we expect young girls to stay in such inhuman conditions that make them vulnerable to infections. I see it as discrimination against women sportspersons,” said Phiroze Pundol, the coach of the Pune team and three-times gold medalist of the West Zone boxing championship. Besides, he has participated in national games held in Hyderabad in 2002 and in Delhi in 2003. He and his team of seven girls shifted to a private hotel at their own expense.
Being a small city, the teams had a hard time finding a decent hotel where they could stay. While those who decided early to shift, could find a place of their choice, the rest had to make do with a lodge, which they said was “still a better option than the hostel”.
Krishna Das, the coach of the Mumbai team shared that if he and his team wouldn’t have got a good hotel, they would have opted out of the championship itself. “On the first day, there was no drinking water at all. The bathrooms and toilets too ran out of water after a few hours. On the second day, they arranged a big vessel of drinking water but since we weren’t sure of its cleanliness, we started buying bottles of water. Once I reach Mumbai, I will be complaining to the authorities of the situation.”
Amrit Dhanju, one of the parents who travelled from Pune to Parbhani with his 13-year-old daughter, said that after the experience at Parbhani, he will think twice before taking his daughter anywhere for any boxing championship. Boxing is a game of power and how can we expect the players to survive without water and fans, he asks. Dhanju stated even the hall that had the boxing arena, didn’t have a toilet and the one outside the hall was a ‘sulabh shauchalaya’, which required the users to pay an amount.
Justifying the state of things, Bharat Whaval, secretary general of Maharashtra Boxing Association, who reached the venue on the last day of the event, said that the problem of water arose because Parbhani is a drought-prone area. “I admit we didn’t provide the necessary facilities. We were expecting a turnout of 100 to 120 girls but had nearly 200 girls at the stadium, which made accommodation a big problem. There were tankers brought in for the bathrooms and toilet water, however, some girls left the tap open and the water got finished. We resolved the problem on the second day,” he said, adding that there was a miscalculation on part of the local organisers — Parbhani District Boxing Association. “Next time, if we will have a championship of this level, we will organise it in big cities like Pune, Mumbai or Aurangabad, where we have big stadiums with state-of-the-art facilities.”