Mangalore: In a heart-wrenching tale, an athlete who has won 3 Gold medals and 11 Silver medals is left struggling with her day to day expenses. She is selling plastic bags in a fish market. Geetha Bai is a former national powerlifting champion. Her story not only shows the alarming callousness of the state, but is also a reflection of how national athletes are left to fend for themselves.
Geetha has lost count of the number of medals she has won for Karnataka at the national level. But this 36-year-old powerlifting champion is now struggling to make ends meet. Geeta is now forced to sell plastic bags at a local fish market in Mangalore, the same market where her late mother sold fish for 60 years. Geetha says every time she approached the government for work, including the railways, she was told she needed qualifications. All this despite the fact that she has three gold medals, 11 silvers and 16 bronze at the national level, and 27 gold medals in Karnataka.
“I was one of the best sportspersons in Karnataka, I hope the government can give me a small job, otherwise I will end up in poverty. There are so many sportspersons facing the same situation in rural areas. I hope the government can look after them also,” says Geetha Bai.
Former athletes say the time has come for the national sports policy to be adopted to ensure sportspersons like Geetha are looked after properly. Reeth Abraham, former athlete, says, “Only when you reach a certain level, say the Olympics, Asian games or the Commonwealth Games, you are recognised and given support but if somebody has done well only at the national games, which is really credible, then there is no recognition at all.”
Geetha says she was selected more than 10 times for international meets but didn't have the funds. The spotlight now is on the state government to ensure that sportspersons like her are not left to live in near poverty conditions.