Sports Ministry to request legends to be SAI mentors


Rattled by the suicide attempt of four young athletes in Kerala, the sports ministry is set to revamp SAI centres across the country and could request “iconic sportspersons to act as trainee mentors” as part of a series of changes it seeks to bring about.

In a heartbreaking turn of events last week, a young athlete died and three of her colleagues battled for life after they attempted suicide at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Kerala, prompting a stunned ministry to launch an inquiry.

One of the athletes, 15-year-old Aparna Ramambhadran, died and three others, all undergoing training at Water Sports Centre of SAI in Alappuzha, were hospitalised after they ate a poisonous fruit in an apparent suicide pact owing to alleged harassment by seniors.

“We may request iconic sportspersons to adopt SAI centres and act as SAI trainee mentors. This will not only inspire young SAI trainees but also enable them to emulate the qualities of their role model,” Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, speaking on behalf of sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal, said in the Lok Sabha in a suo moto statement.

As part of the revamp, the Ministry has recommended the involvement of counsellors to help the the trainees. An Assistant Director of SAI will be stationed at Alappuzha until normalcy is restored, Rudy said.

“Psychology counsellors may be engaged to counsel the trainees so that they can come out of the emotional trauma. Particular care would be taken to ensure psychological and emotional rehabilitation of the three girls who have survived the suicide attempt.”

The girls are suspected to have consumed the fruit, locally called `Othalanga`, inside the SAI women`s hostel. They were rushed to a hospital after they fainted and were later taken to Alapuzha Medical College. Relatives alleged that the girls were being physically and mentally tortured by some seniors.

“The mothers of girl trainees may be allowed to stay in the hostel for a week or so until the situation normalises.

“The trainees who are keen to take a short break may be allowed to be taken home by their parents provided their presence is not required for the ongoing investigations, Rudy said.

He further added, “Engagement of counselling psychologists in all SAI training Centres for the purpose of group counselling as well as one-on-one counselling. This is considered most essential for the emotional well-being of the trainees.

“Yoga may be introduced as a compulsory activity in all SAI centres, as it would have a salutary effect on holistic development and emotional well-being of SAI trainees. Part-time Yoga instructors may be engaged for this purpose.

“AIIMS to develop a two-day module on sports psychology for SAI trainees, which would be extremely useful for them.”

He said, “Hostels should be constructed by using pre-fabricated technology and all the inmates should be shifted within the shortest possible time to the premises of SAI centre.”