A Dronacharya rowing in troubled waters

India’s chief national rowing coach Ismail Baig along with his deputy E. Venkateshwar Rao (interestingly both ex-Servicemen survive on their pension) spend from their own pockets “to take care of the rowers who come from financially poor background.”

India's chief national rowing coach Ismail Baig (right) and his deputy E. Venkateshwar Rao at the Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad on Tuesday.   -  V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

The travails of being a Dronacharya! Well, India’s chief national rowing coach Ismail Baig cannot be faulted if he is left wondering after nearly two decades of dedication to his job whether all the efforts in producing champions including Asian Games and the Asian championship gold medallists are worth taking.

For, Baig, conferred with the prestigious Dronacharya Award in 2005, is actually jobless.

“Yes, it does hurt sometimes when I think about this aspect. I am paid only when I am in charge of the national camp, otherwise I don’t get even a single rupee (which means on an average for six months in an year he will be ‘jobless’),” says the soft-spoken coach.

Yet, it is an amazing story that he along with his deputy E. Venkateshwar Rao (interestingly both ex-Servicemen survive on their pension) spend from their own pockets “to take care of the rowers who come from financially poor background.”

If there is no national camp, the rowers have to be on their own for regular training with no food facility. And, if they are to be in the national camp, then they get all the nutritious food.

All that is available free for the rowers and the coaches are the two sheds of Sports Authority of Telangana State and the boats thanks to the combined efforts of the Rowing Federation of India and the SATS.

Ironically, it is Baig, through his widely acknowledged efforts traversing a distance of 40 km on his bike everyday, who has ensured that Hyderabad emerged as the hub of Indian rowing despite some other States having better facilities.

Even now they don’t crib and stay away from the rowers as they believe the young talent have joined the sport with great passion.

Initially there was a move to give Dronacharya Awardees atleast a monthly pension of Rs. 10,000. But that was shelved because of change of guard in the Central Government.

Striking contrast

In striking contrast, it is revealed that Madhya Pradesh Government pays a hefty salary of Rs. 1.5 lakh for the rowing coach in the Bhopal Upper Lake (for water sports alone MP budgetary allocation is said to about Rs. 20 crore). And, as if to show their loyalty to Hyderabad, these two coaches have politely declined, so far, those tempting offers from the MP Government even though they are struggling here.

Importantly, these two coaches thanks to the tie-up with the Telangana Sports School have ensured that rowing has become a more civilian-friendly sport than earlier when Armymen ruled the waters.

But, this scenario doesn’t actually deter Ismail and his deputy as they make it a point to be at the Lake everyday to guide the rowers even when there is no national camp.

By all means, all is not well for this Dronacharya despite producing some stunning results over the years as chief national coach.