India woman footballer Sangita Kumar working in brick kiln
For the second time in less than a year, 20-year-old Sangita Kumari, an international footballer, has felt the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic. Working as a daily wager in a brick kiln in Dhanbad, Sangita said that the less stringent lockdown has allowed her to earn, even if it was a meagre amount for every brick she moved.
“Last year was really bad, there was a strict lockdown, and one could not even work for a daily wage,” she said. “There was nothing one could do, and we need the money.” This time it is different. “I get paid for every brick I lift. In a day, I make between ₹200-150.” She works from around 10am to 5pm.
Sangita’s plight was highlighted on Saturday by the National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma who wrote to Jharkhand’s chief secretary and the All India Football Federation to intervene and provide financial assistance. “The condition of Ms. Sangita does bring embarrassment and shame to the country which should be addressed at priority. Ms Sangita has not just represented India on an International platform, but she has also represented Jharkhand,” an NCW statement said.
According to the state sports secretary Pooja Singhal, the government is working to ascertain details. All necessary steps will be initiated to provide financial support, she said.
A state government official said Sangita should be eligible for at least one of the scholarships offered to sportspersons by Jharkhand. The official said the government had last year identified seven sportspersons and supported them during the pandemic by providing accommodation in Ranchi. “The chief minister (Hemant Soren) takes a personal interest in sport and even held the portfolio until a few months ago. A new sports policy is awaiting the state cabinet nod which will ensure that sportspersons can be provided accident and health insurance. It has been delayed due to Covid-19,” said the official.
Sangita, the second-youngest of five siblings, said that she had applied for a scholarship last year but didn’t get it. “I did apply, but have not received any amount yet,” she said. So she is not expecting much. “Last year, the government helped by providing ration,” she said. “The people who live nearby, some of our neighbours were the ones who got together and helped.” Her father, she said, has poor eyesight leaving the siblings to take care of the household.
The state official said the government’s priority was to ensure that Sangita received financial and structural support needed to continue playing. “The government will take action within the next couple of days. She is young, it not a job that she needs, but the wherewithal to pursue the sport,” said the official.
This has not stopped the young woman from chasing her dream though. Every morning at 6:30, she heads to the local stadium to practice. “I practice from around 6:30 to 9:30 and then head to kilns to work. There is no morning curfew time, so I get to play,” she said.
For all the latest Sports News Click Here