Shillong, Mar 10: Sports & Youth Affairs Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh (pictured left) was left momentarily perplexed by the questions put to him by first-timer MLA and former football icon Eugeneson Lyngdoh (right) in the Assembly today.

Making his debut in the legislature after hanging up his football boots and taking on the role of Mawphlang MLA following the untimely demise of his father, SK Sunn, Eugene made a solid question hour appearance.

Gaffe-prone Banteidor, on the other hand, did not shine but his colleagues and the public have come to expect that from him even after four years of being a minister.

Asked whether all the infrastructure being constructed for the 39th National Games, which Meghalaya is meant to host, will be utilised by the state’s sports associations after the mega-event, Banteidor spent minutes scrambling through a pile of papers to find the response to Eugene.

Leaving the house on the edge of their seats, the minister finally found the right piece of paper and said that since the construction is still underway the department has “yet to decide” on the matter.

Trinamool Congress MLA Zenith Sangma also sought a categorical answer about when Meghalaya will host the National Games; it was during Sangma’s tenure as Sports Minister that Meghalaya successfully bidded to host the Games. They were meant to be held in 2022 but this has been pushed back to an unspecified date.

Banteidor’s response caused mirth among his colleagues when he said, “The National Games will not go anywhere from our state. If not this year, maybe next year or maybe the coming year but the state will definitely host the National Games.”

Meanwhile, on the state’s sports policy, Banteidor informed the Assembly that, although the policy was notified on 12th December 2019, the Sports and Youth Affairs Department has not completed the policy’s operational manual because of the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic but will do so in the next three months.

Eugene had several other questions on Meghalaya’s preparedness to host the National Games, which were meant to be held in 2022 but were delayed because of the pandemic, in terms of athletes, coaches and infrastructure.

The minister responded that his department has had several meetings with the Meghalaya State Olympic Association in this regard. The department is scrutinising proposals sent by sports associations for the conduct of competitions, selection of athletes, training them and sending them for competition exposure trips and hiring experienced coaches.

The department has also worked with the MSOA and sports associations to understand the immediate requirements in regards to sports equipment, recruitment of technical staff and costs involved in participating in national-level events and the grant-in-aid is under process.

Grants-in-aid for 29 sports associations amounting to Rs 1 crore have been approved. In 2021-22, the Meghalaya government has given, among others, Rs 8 lakh to the archery association, Rs 3 lakh to athletics, Rs 3 lakh to badminton, Rs 10 lakh to basketball, Rs 3 lakh to billiards and snooker, Rs 3 lakh to boxing, Rs 3 lakh to football and even Rs 2 lakh to the non-sport of arm wrestling, Banteidor informed. In addition, Rs 6 lakh has been provided to the MSOA for 2022-23.

Extra funds will be provided for big events that the state is meant to host this year, namely the delayed National Table Tennis Championship (for which Rs 1 crore has been allocated), Meghalaya Games in May and North East Olympics in October.

The minister urged all sports associations to submit their utilisation certificates on time so that more financial assistance can be given to them.

On a question from Eugene about incentives and rewards for successful athletes, the minister said that the Meghalaya Public Service Commission has been requested to provide an answer as to how many athletes have received government jobs through the sports quota.

Eugene also raised a question whether any scholarship programme has been implemented by the department when it comes to supporting children in education through sports, to which Banteidor replied that the government has sanctioned more than Rs 1 crore in the current financial year for cash awards for 264 athletes who have won medals in regional, national and international events. The government has also allocated funds to District Sports Promotion Societies for sports scholarships for medallists at state-level competitions.

(TSR file photos)

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