Does the sports quota nurture sport talent or is it only an alibi for seeking a college admission? A look at how colleges across the country handle the issue.

The sports quota has turned into just an entry route for better educational institutions rather than an opportunity to enhance the sporting skills and take the sporting career ahead. The attitude is more unprofessional in the professional courses like engineering and medicine where seats are ‘costly’.

In a cricket-obsessed country that’s also equally obsessed with education, conflict of interest is but natural. Take Unmukt Chand’s case for example. Technically, with an attendance of eight per cent no college in its right mind would let its student sit for exams. But when you take into consideration that he’s the cricket U-19 World Cup-winning captain, rules and regulations have to be re-written.

Talking to The Hindu, Unmukt, who got into St. Stephen’s, Delhi, through the sports quota, says, “With whatever little time I get, this is how you’ll find me — trying to catch up with college stuff. For me, it has never been one over the other. Cricket and education are equally important, but it is practically impossible for me to make time for both at the same time.”

While his case garnered a lot of media attention and debate, ultimately resulting in a positive outcome for Unmukt, his teammate Ravi Kant Singh didn’t get as lucky. Though having gained admission through the sports quota in to Prafulla Chandra College (Calcutta University), his professor “forgot” to register him under it and thus began all the problems. With a poor attendance owing to cricketing commitment and not registered under the sports quota, he was not allowed by the college to sit for his exams. “Left with no choice, I have now applied in two other colleges and hopefully will be allowed to join the second year, instead of having to repeat my first year,” says Ravi Kant who hasn’t even had the time to celebrate the team’s victory.

Universities and colleges across the country have been recognising sporting talent by offering seats through the sports quota, though the percentages or seats may vary.

The Tamil Nadu government in a welcome move increased the seats under the sports quota to 500, a major leap from the 100 seats that were allocated till last year. Encouragement for most students trying to walk the tight rope between college and sports comes in the way of lower bars for attendance, ODs, and the facility to take their exams on a later date.

Natasha Phanse, a State-level basketball player, student of Vaze-Kelkar College at Mulund, Mumbai, vouches for it: “It’s been a boon to get admitted in sports quota because I get a lot of leeway in attendance when there’s any tournament coming up or a practice session happening. Once I had to miss a unit test due to a match, but my college generously allowed me to cope it up with a re-exam. It helps us balance our studies and sporting career.”

“Granting admission under sports quota is a recognition of what they’ve achieved so far and if they want to continue pursuing their sport we can only encourage them and not compel them to do so,” says Dr. M. Sekar, the Dean of College of Engineering Guindy-Anna University.

Pradeep Sawant, Senate Member, Mumbai University and Yuva Sena, lists the privileges offered to students in the sports quota: “Mumbai University has a sports quota of three per cent for those seeking admission in junior college. We have a system of giving grace marks (10 per cent of the total marks) to deserving students in the sports quota. As for attendance, it is the college’s decision to decide how much of a leeway to give a sports student.”

As per the regulations of the Delhi University, a minimum of 66 per cent attendance is required, beyond which special requests can be made to the VC. “There are ordinances in place, where attendance should be given to students participating in sports, but people don’t follow rules,” observes Meera Sood, Secretary, Delhi University Sports Council. She cites instances where teachers don’t grant attendance and put their foot down insisting that it is imperative that a student take up an assignment or test.

Mandatory

Delhi University has a quota of five per cent that’s split between sports and extra-curricular activities. The proportion of the split though is for each college to decide. This year, the DU has made it mandatory for all students given admission under the sports quota to sign a judicial stamp paper stating they would continue with their respective sports and also be available for all college and university sporting events.

An interesting move considering many discontinue sports once they gain admission to colleges.

Completely seconding the move is racer Aditya Patel: “I know students who get in through the sports quota and get laid back. They discontinue their sport but enjoy the privileges that come with the quota like less attendance and ODs. It is not fair on the student who has got in through the quota and works hard to balance both his studies and sport.”

“I did not get admission into Loyola College through sports quota because when I’d finished schooling, motorsport wasn’t included in the eligibility,” he explains. “While my teachers helped me with my attendance, when it came to missing exams I had to deal with the management who were not very supportive. Hence, it took me four years to complete my three-year course.”

Though the presence of sports quota across universities is a boon to young sporting talent, looks like there’s still a long way to go till it shapes up to fully justify its existence.

Liberal policy in Kerala

It is smooth sailing, by and large, for students admitted under the sports quota in the universities in Kerala. Dedicated seats for such candidates, a liberal policy regarding attendance — or shortage thereof — and the provision for ‘grace marks’ can be said to be the main features of sports quota admissions in these universities.

“No deserving sportsperson has failed to get admission to a college under our university,” says Rajan Verghese the pro-vice chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi University. “We have two seats per batch for sports quota in our degree programmes. However, if a college takes in 20 sports persons and wants to bunch 10 of them in one batch, it can be done. We don’t insist that there be two sportspersons in each class,” he points out.

The director of physical education in the University of Kerala, Eugene Sunil, says sports quota students almost never face any problem relating to shortage of attendance. “The Kerala University is very liberal about this. Any shortage in attendance is either made good by the college concerned or, in some cases, by the university.” According to Mr. Varghese, there has not been any instance in the MG University during the last four years when a sportsperson had to run from pillar to post in order that he may get the attendance required to write any examination.

Unsporting in A.P.

In Andhra Pradesh, there is nothing sporting about the sports quota in the educational institutions and unfortunately some unsporting methods are used to drive away the real sportsmen.

It is shocking, but seldom players from popular sports like cricket, football, hockey, basket ball or athletics get a fair share in sports quota admissions and the lion’s share is grabbed by sports like Ice Hockey, Taekwondo and Roller Skating.

“It’s unfortunate but the sports quota is legally misused and it doesn’t serve its actual purpose,” says L.B. Laxmikanth Rathod, Secretary, Inter University tournaments, Osmania University. “The resulting loss is to sportsmen who purse team games like football, hockey, cricket and athletics as they don’t get admissions, and the opportunity and concessions to utilise the facilities in the universities.”

Physical Directors in the universities and colleges believe that lesser-known sports are included in the eligibility list by the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh to favour children of officers and politicians. “They secure national-level certificates of such games playing for one or two years and participating in the competitions that lack seriousness,” argues a Physical Director. For example, seats in the popular OU College of Engineering have been taken by roller skating sportsmen in the last three years.

Admissions in the sports quota are based on the level of the competition played by the candidates and not the marks secured in the qualifying examination. “It is easy to manipulate in lesser-known games whereas it takes at least 10 years to reach national-level in popular sports,” says an official seeking anonymity.

Does the university or the individual colleges provide concessions to serious sportsmen? Officials say that at the degree level attendance is taken care of. Colleges traditionally known for sports attract cricketers and athletes offering academic and monetary concessions. Unfortunately, those who excel at the degree level fade out later due to a combination of factors, and the very purpose of sports quota is defeated.

Credits mechanism

According to Ashish Phulkar, Deputy Director, Sports and Physical Education, Symbiosis International University (SIU), Pune, the Symbiosis International University has introduced the mechanism of credits for sports.

“Credits for sports instead of marks for sports encourage the students. For every 15 hours of sports activity, be it participating or organising events, the students can avail of one credit. Three credits are reserved for sports in a year per student,” he says. “Giving marks freely will be like comparing physical activity to mental activity. Students should be awarded for what they have worked.”

“Recognition for the talent is important, and the academic institute should ensure that there are no repercussions on the future of the students,” he says. The Academic Council members and the Directors of the various institutes have been co-operative with the implementation of this mechanism. “This is important to build a sports culture. The solutions need to be found within the system, with policy changes that ensure that the students don’t suffer,” says Mr. Phulkar.

Inputs from Archana Subramanian, Reshma S. Kulkarni and Amruta Byatnal

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