By Khurram Habib
The Uttar Pradesh government may have spent Rs 2600 crore on building statues, memorials and parks for its political leaders and ideologues, but it cannot spare Rs three crore for buying a new turf for its elite junior hockey trainees. Everyday at 3 pm, about 30 elite boys at the state hockey hostel in Rampur, 150 km from Delhi, get on their bicycles for the five-km ride to their training ground --- a lawn.
Ironically, their own hostel has an astro-turf but it is unusable.
Torn in places, it’s never been fixed and resembles a worn-out carpet. Unless there is heavy rain that wets the turf and makes some play possible, the trainees have to undertake the daily exercise of cycling down for practice.
Simple methods like a sprinkler system would have helped, but it has been out of use for long.
The tubewell is out of order and there is no possibility of supplying water to the turf on a regular basis.
The turf, which was laid in 1995, is open from all four sides and to make matters worse, it is situated close to the Khaitan distillery, so dust and effluents have contributed to spoiling the turf.
“Initially, the hostel was in Meerut. In 1998, it was shifted to Rampur. For all practical reasons, Meerut was a better centre, including its proximity to Delhi.
The only thing that brought the hostel to Rampur was the astro-turf and if it is not in shape, then what is the point of having the hostel here,” says the coach at the training centre, JJ Akhtar.
The Director of Sports, Uttar Pradesh, Kunwar Vikram Singh, had little to say on the issue.
“It depends on the availability of funds. Besides, the government has to take a decision,” he says.
There are four state-run training hostels for hockey in Uttar Pradesh with each housing 30 trainees.
Varanasi, Saifai (Etawah) and Lucknow are the other centres.
“The current government has not shown much interest in replacing the turf,” says Congress leader Noor Banu, whose husband played a key role in the turf’s laying.
The average lifespan of an astroturf is seven years and in Rampur’s case, it has been close to 15 years since it was laid.
Although there are plans to replace it, it is unclear when it will happen.