‘Easy To Not Read Beyond Headlines’: Rajyavardhan Rathore 

Whatever we’ve promised, is it incumbent that it should be done in the 1st year itself, asks Rajyavardhan Rathore.

Updated
Politics
5 min read

Video Editor: Sandeep Suman

Union Minister Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore holds the reins of two important ministries. It has been a busy fortnight for him, what with the furore over trolling on social media, and a happening sports calendar.

As the Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, he has recently renamed the Sports Authority of India to ‘Sports India’. Before you think it is yet another renaming exercise that the central government is fond of, Rathore wants you to recall the numerous reforms that he set in motion.

Before we changed the name of ‘Sports Authority of India’ to ‘Sports India’, there are many things that we have done. We’ve taken sports to the grassroots level with ‘Khelo India’. Thousands of athletes are being selected for scholarships; 5 lakh rupees every year for 8 years in a row. Never before has this happened.
Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to The Quint

In the recently concluded General Body Meeting of the Sports Authority of India, where the rechristening also happened, several other decisions were taken. Rathore shares some of them.

“In all the national academies for children, their per day food allowance was Rs 200. It will be Rs 450 now. Why should the Indian coaches, masseurs and physiotherapists have a much lower salary? Whereas when a foreign coach comes he gets exactly what he wants. We have raised their salaries by 100 percent. We’ll attract better masseurs, better physios, better sports science specialists, and better coaches.”

Big Bang Announcements in the Final Year

With the name change, Rathore seeks to change the attitude of the officials. Dropping the word ‘authority’ will tell the officials that they are there to serve and not to boss around the athletes, he shares. But why should such a change in attitude come only in the final year of the government’s tenure? Are reforms used as an electoral plea bargain?

Rathore responds with a sports analogy. In a cricket match, nobody cares whether the target has been achieved in the last over, he says.

There is a full time-frame available for this government to work. Whatever we’ve promised, is it incumbent that it should be done in the first year itself? There are various things to be done, and therefore there are phases of work.
Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

Does Media Attention Compel Action?

Reforms in ‘Sports India’ have come on the heels of a slew of media reports on the poor food quality and unhygienic conditions in various SAI institutions across the country. Does the government wait for a moment of revelation before acting?

Rathore is quick to remind that he, too, was an athlete once. “From day one of my joining, we’ve been going around to various academies. And I as an athlete have gone to various academies and been a part of the process of growing up in Sports Authority of India and what happens there. Therefore, I’m aware as to the food quality there. I don’t have to wait for a newspaper report,” he says.

Truth vs Reality

PM Modi has received criticism for undermining the agency of his ministers. Earlier this year, senior BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha had remarked that the stature of Union ministers had diminished and called the government a “one-man show”. Rathore dismisses the charge.

We do get ideas from the Prime Minister. Of course, he’s the minister for all the ministries, so we will talk to him. But we are absolutely independent to work.
Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

He adds that PM Modi believes that the country can only progress when the chief ministers work in tandem with the central government. Rathore also shares how the PM urges the ordinary citizens to be stakeholders in processes like in the case of the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign.

India Needs Freedom From Unemployment

Ridding India of garbage is perhaps not enough. Young India needs jobs. And who will understand it better than the minister responsible for youth affairs. Going by the anger spilling out on the streets, India’s job scene appears to be bad. Rathore counters it with a firm, “That’s a fallacy. It’s a campaign done by the Opposition.”

He goes on to explain how in India we use ‘employment’ and ‘government employment’ interchangeably. “These days people are more entrepreneurial. When you collate data, where do you place women who produce and package spices or make dolls?” He however admits that employment and creating jobs for young people will always be a challenge, especially so for a country which has the largest number of youth in the whole world.

He fires back a question, “Is it not incumbent on the government, and is the government not creating an environment in the entire world that if you need to give jobs, Indian boys and girls are the best to get those jobs?”

Speaking about interventions in the agriculture sector, Rathore gives an example from the mandis of Jaipur Rural, his parliamentary constituency. He says that e-mandis have ensured that the farmers don’t sell their yield to the low-price mafia in one mandi but check the prices online and decide to sell elsewhere.

“This is today’s India, and this is the technology. All the mandis and all the prices are provided on an application to the farmers. This is what we have done,” he says. Rathore rues the fact that the government’s efforts and good work remains underappreciated.

In every sector we have gone ahead and worked. It’s so easy to not read beyond the headlines and just fall for a certain campaign.
Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

BJP’s Electoral Prospects

As the opposition parties contemplate a grand coalition, the BJP’s prospects appear not so flattering. Rathore, however, is nonplussed about the opposition unity which manifested itself in the Kairana bypolls and, to a degree, in the Karnataka assembly polls.

He wryly remarks, “People of different ideologies are now coming together. Why? Such a high sense of unity was never seen in India. Even when India was attacked by external forces. Such sense of unity was never there. So why is this unity there? This unity is there because they are hungry for power. They’ve realised that in these five years that if they do not come back to power these sort of political forces are finished forever.”

As if a United Opposition wasn’t enough, the party will also face anti-incumbency in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in the upcoming assembly polls. Rathore remains confident.

“These states have always been supportive of the BJP. Now that we have 20 states that are supporting the BJP and PM Modi, obviously they are supporting because they are seeing a certain work ethic. They are seeing transparency, delivery and commitment. I feel these states are going to support the BJP whole-heartedly,” he signs off.

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