Story of wrestlers from Mudhol, Karnataka whose fight goes beyond the combat ring.
By Mehak Khajuria
Mudhol, a small taluk in north Karnataka is famous for Malla (Wrestling) and Bella (Jaggery). The taluk has produced many state, national and international level, wrestlers.
Jai Hanuman Vyayam Shala under Hanuman Trust Committee Mudhol was started by the Mane family in the year 1952. At present Sidnath Mane (Karnataka Kanteerava) runs the Akhara. Around 70 students between the age of 6 to 20 years’ practice wrestling every day at the training centre. The coaching is provided free of cost by the Akhara under the guidance of coach Arun Kumkale. Five students under 14 years’ category won state gold medal from Mudhol taluk in the year 2019.
Two such girls are Lakshmi Patted and Vidyashree Belur. Both study in Grade VIII in National Girls Higher Secondary School, Mudhol. Lakshmi and Vidya are the first girls from Mudhol taluk to win state gold medal in wrestling. These sub-junior wrestlers hail from economically weak family background. Both their fathers are farmers and struggle every day to earn their daily bread and fulfil their daughters’ dreams.
Despite bringing laurels to the Taluk and State, Lakshmi and Vidya lack basic facilities from the state sports department. Under National Talent Sports Scheme (NTSC) Sports Authority of India adopts Akharas which have produced multiple wrestlers in the past few years and provides them with the basic necessities.
The adopted Akharas in addition to the service of experienced coaches is also provided with one set of Wrestling Mat and /or Multi-Gym. Under this scheme trainees, who are medal winners in State/National Level Competitions are admitted into the scheme, subject, to their being found medically fit.
However, such is not the case for wrestlers in Mudhol despite winning state, national and international level medals. “My daughter won state gold medal in Chikamagalur in 50 kgs category at sub-junior level. Government did not give us a single penny”, confessed Umesh Patted, Lakshmi’s father.
“We lack adequate sports kits, multi-gym and none of the medalists whether state, national or international have received any cash reward or stipend or insurance. Though we have been provided with practice Mat”, confirmed Coach Arun Kumkale.
Karnataka Sports Policy 2018page18 states that national and international level athlete (Olympic discipline) will be granted cash rewards by the state government.
|Particulars (Olympic Sport only)||Gold (INR)||Silver (INR)||Bronze (INR)|
Yet, players like Ningappa Gebenowar who won 9 gold medals in various competitions within Karnataka, a state gold and national bronze medal have not received any cash rewards by the state government.
Government authorizes to pay stipend for maintenance of the wrestlers, as their dietary requirements demand high-quality food products. “I try my best to provide Lakshmi with proper diet like almonds, apples, milk, cashews, bananas. I even do secondary work to compensate for her diet. My expenditure crosses Rs.5000 on her diet every month”, said Lakshmi’s father.
Vidya’s father does not have a land of his own. He works as a contract farmer. “Despite winning state gold, my daughter has not received any benefits from the state. The authorities only covered our train tickets during nationals and gave Rs. 200 per day for food. This amount is not enough to suffice a mineral water for a day. I spent the rest of the money out of my pocket, which summed up to more than Rs. 10,000”, said Nanappa Belur, Vidyashree’s father.
Lakshmi wants to excel in wrestling and later join sports wing in Indian Army. Likewise, Vidyashree wants to represent India in Olympics.
Coach Arun Kumkale is a former national level wrestler and started training young wrestlers in Jai Hanuman Vyayamshala in the year 2005. In 2011 Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports hired him for coaching students in the same Akhara with the monthly salary of Rs. 2000 per month. Few years back his salary rose to Rs. 9500 per month. He coaches 70 students every day and has produced multiple international medal-winning wrestlers from the taluk. However, he shares the same fate as that of the young wrestlers. He, too has not been benefitted by the state.
The statement in Karnataka Sports Policy 2018 asserts, “In addition to the cash awards for successful athletes, coaches from Karnataka who win international laurels will also be provided with suitable cash awards as may be determined from time to time.”
These young athletes represent taluk, district, state and country and bring laurels and pride to this nation. Yet they struggle to attain bare minimum benefits promised by the government. Despite from a poor background they battle with their economic conditions every day and achieve medals and success. But is that enough to live a sustainable life? Wrestlers in Mudhol not just wrestle in the Akahara, they wrestle in their lives with finances, food, future, studies etc. Many like Coach Arun Kumkale have left the wrestling profession to support their families.
This year’s Karnataka’s Education, Sports, Arts and Culture budget is Rs. 28,967 Crores. However, the deserving wrestlers in Mudhol have not received basic stipend of Rs. 1000 per month yet, let alone the cash rewards they merited for.