Arun Jaitley has been a known face for India's cricket fans. Though never been a player himself, his long association of at least one-and-a-half decades with Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) as president and Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) as vice-president ended abruptly only a few months back, but he is still being seen as a sports lover.
So, when he readied to present his first Union budget, there were signs of his eagerness to do something for the development of sports in India. Thankfully, it was not just about cricket.
In the budget he presented on Thursday, Jaitley proposed a Sports University in Manipur and Rs200 crore for the troubled state of Jammu & Kashmir which has 'a lot of sporting talent which was not finding expression due to inadequate facilities'. Not just this, he substantially hiked the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports budget by Rs562 crore.
Sports Authority of India (SAI) grant has also been increased by Rs85 crore with government setting aside Rs405.10 crore, while the National Sports Federations have also got a substantial hike of Rs25 crore in the assistance provided to them with Rs185 crore being allotted to them.
However, the highlight of Jaitley's budget was J&K and Manipur where sports can help bring in youth to the mainstream. Apart from Parvez Rasool, part of the current India 'A' cricket team, there is none coming up from this border state.
But the situation in North Eastern states is different. Though, there are none in the field of cricket, MC Mary Kom of Manipur is a household name in India apart from numerous football talents and clubs. So, a Sports University can actually help the youth here to make a career out of sports.
"It is great news for us and we cannot stop celebrating. This budget helps the northeast to dream of a better future in sports," said Olympic medallist Mary Kom.
Jaitley has also shown interest in inviting neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bhutan to participate in the games of the Sports University.
For J&K, the extra money will help upgrade and develop adequate sports facilities to encourage the youth participation in much better numbers than the present.
In a year of Commonwealth and Asian Games, an additional sum of Rs100 crore for training sportswomen and men has come as a major relief for the sports federations.
"It's heartening to see that sport is being seen as integral for society. The key now will be to utilise the funds in a proper way. For instance, the Asian Games is just a few months away and it will take good governance and quick and efficient utilisation of these funds to benefit the sportspersons participating," said Viren Rasquinha, former Indian hockey captain, on Thursday.
Academies with international level facilities for training of accomplished athletes and for nurturing best talent in the country at junior and sub-junior level will also be set up for shooting, archery, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting and various track and field events.
But there are other voices who feel that this proposed budget is perhaps too low for a country like India. "It is a no-brainer that the budget for sports should be a lot more than what it is. But in a country like India, we must understand that change will come gradually. We thank the government for providing us with the funds we had asked for," said Jiji Thomson, SAI Director General.