The Sports Ministry budget will be of huge importance to how the future of sports in the country shapes up. With Finance Minister Arun Jaitley set to propose the union budget for 2018-19 on February 1, the allocation of funds to sports will be one major highlight in the deal as PM Narendra Modi has previously shown a keen interest in the sector and has promised a lot to the budding sportspersons. In 2017-18 the ministry had confirmed that the budget for sports was increased by a healthy margin of 40% than the previous year, it will be interesting to see what the government has in the package this time around. The sports budget will not only impact the athletes but also the local and national federations who form the grassroots of growth.

The Sports Authority of India will be expecting a substantial hike once again as last year with initiatives such as the Khelo India movement in place. After Indian athletes’ dismal show in the Rio Olympics where Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu were the only two medal winners, PM Modi was first among others last year to root for better allotment of sports budget. Taking the cognizance of the degrading conditions, the country supremo promised betterment. His first nail in the coffin came with the appointment of a sports person at the helm of affairs. 2004 Olympic medallist Dr Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is the current sports minister of India and is actively taking part in almost all sports events that he could and is also keeping track of the progress of the Khelo India scheme.

Here’s what the 2018 Union Budget would mean for sports in the country:

With the Commonwealth Games around the corner, it will be an opportunity for the Sports Ministry to provide more stability to the already existing structure and give the athletes everything they require to prepare for the elite tournament. The state federations play a crucial role in bringing up the players from the ground level, the budgetary allocations to them will help the federations nurture talent and polish them for the bigger stages. The likes of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and northeastern states have been constantly producing tremendous athletes who have been phenomenal at the national and global level. They would be hoping a good chunk of the budget when it is announced. Last year the allocation for the scheme for the Benefit of North Eastern Area was increased to Rs 148.4 crore from Rs 131.33 crore.

SAI has also been a force behind trying to revitalise the sports culture in the country with the backing of the sports ministry. The Khelo India programme has been introduced to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-root level by building a strong framework for all sports played in the country and establish India as a great sporting nation. The training infrastructure needs to be top notch and the mentors need to be of top level to ensure a holistic growth of the playing culture for which the budget needs to meet the expectations.

Though every time the Finance ministry has tried to improve the allocation, it will be important for it to not miss out on the factors such as assistance to the national sports federations and funds for promotion of sports among disabled. Currently, the budget for Khelo India also sustains the promotion of the disable category which needs to be rethought with the Paralympians consistently delivering on big stages.

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