Sixteen years after the foundation stone for a stadium was laid in Patti, the town is finally hoping to get a sports facility. Four-time MLA and minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon had laid the foundation stone on the ground of the then Government College on February 1, 2001. But the ground remains an empty piece of land. The college became part of Guru Nanak Dev University in 2012 but the ground was not transferred; now it does not belong to the college.
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Through its collapsed wall, it is now used as a shortcut by residents. Young people sit around playing cards. The foundation stone still stands, the only evidence of a promise not kept.
In 2015, Patti Municipal Committee president Surinder Kumar Shinda (SAD) laid the foundation stone for another stadium here, this one coming up at a cost of Rs 5.25 crore on six acres belonging to Government School.
“It will have an athletics track and football ground, hockey ground, gym, indoor games hall. It is expected to be completed by March 2017,” Mandi Board executive engineer D S Randhawa said. Kulwinder Singh, athletics coach with the sports department, says it is the first sporting facility coming up in the area.
“There is a saying that a hospital remains vacant when the sports ground are full,” SAD’s Patti president Gurcharan Singh Chann says. Agreeing that drugs are a problem, Chann says the stadium will bring about a change.
Patti has managed to produce one outstanding sportsman. Kirpal Singh Bath, 26, won several national medals in discus throw and was fourth in the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2012. In 2016, he came back from a two-year ban after testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol to win gold in the Taiwan Open Athletics Championships. He is now training at the National Institutes of Sports, Patiala, to qualify for CWG 2018.
As someone who came back against the odds, Bath could have been Patti’s poster boy. But not many know or talk about him. “It was I who requested minister Karion to build a stadium,” he claims, referring to the facility under construction. He was invited to the foundation ceremony in 2015, presided over by municipal president Shinda.
It was on the school ground where the stadium is coming up, Bath says, that he used to practice to win his first medal in the National School Games in 2005.
“Punjab is losing its shine in sports. Drugs naturally have an impact on sports,” he says, but also stresses, “If someone has an addiction for sports, he would go for games not drugs.”
Other than the stadium, Patti town does have the Dashmesh Akhara founded in 1965, squeezed into 100 sq feet on a narrow street, walled in between houses.
A theft took place recently at the small room in the akhara. The pehelwans are convinced it was the work of addicts. “Will you believe that no one in the neighbourhood woke up when thieves broke our iron gate? But everyone complained about the noise and vibration in their walls when we installed a new gate,” says Lakhan Sharma, who works out at the akhara. “They took all our weights. It cost us around Rs 15,000.”
The motor pump at the akhara was stolen a long time ago. The handle of the manual water pump was stolen twice; the pehelwans have since welded the handle permanently.
“We are sure this is the job of drug addicts. Professional thieves do not come for a pump handle again and again,” says Pardeep Singh, a regular at the akhara.
He says no youngsters have signed up at the akhara in recent years. “We know many who had the potential to become good pehelwans but surrendered to drugs. Even pehelwans have fallen prey to addiction. Some who began with steroids and moved to heroin,” he says.
Kairon sanctioned two “multi-station gyms”, each worth Rs 40 to 50,000, in Kairon, his village, one for upper caste youth, and the other for Dalits. The government sports department funds these “kits”, with the local MLA or SAD halqa in-charge deciding who gets these “gym kits”. In the last six months, Kairon gave 50 multi-gyms and 50 weight sets in 110 villages of Patti constituency but none were distributed in Patti town.
Baldev Singh, a Dalit panchayat member in Kairon village, says the gym was opened in a hurry due to the code of conduct, imminent then. “I was waiting for the panchayat to build a cement floor for the gym. But we placed the gym workstation machine without waiting for the floor.”