India's kho-kho team captain Sarika is jobless

Osmanabad girl Sarika Kale battles unemployment and a financial crunch despite

In more ways than one, kho-kho is similar to cricket. The running team is called the batting side and the chasers are called fielders. Then, there’s an innings defeat here too. But unfortunately, kho-kho has not flourished as much as the gentleman’s game.

India’s kho-kho captain Sarika Kale (in blue) during tournament
India’s kho-kho captain Sarika Kale (in blue) during tournament

In fact, India’s women’s kho-kho captain Sarika Kale, who led the national team to gold at the recent 12th South Asian Games (SAG) in Guwahati, is struggling to make ends meet.

Financial difficulties
The 22-year-old Osmanabad resident is battling severe financial difficulties due to unemployment. “We live in a joint family (10 members). My mother works as a housemaid. We survive on a monthly pension of R9000, which my grandmother Tarabai Kale receives. My uncle works as a sports teacher in a public school, while my disabled father has recently taken up a watchman’s job. I’m very keen to contribute to my family financially, but I’ve been unable to find a job that permits me to pursue my kho-kho career,” Sarika told mid-day recently.

Sarika, who began playing kho-kho at the age of 10, has represented Maharashtra in 25 national championships.
She has applied to the Railways two years ago and recently to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for a job, but is yet to hear from either government body.

The Maharashtra Kho-Kho Association (MKKA) is helping her in this job search.

“We have been following up with the Railways over the last two years, and we have also requested AAI to consider her job application. Hopefully, she will get a job that will help enhance her sports career,” said MKKA secretary and Sarika’s coach Chandrajit Jadhav.

While Maharashtra’s sports minister, Vinod Tawade said he can help only once he receives a report on the SAG games from the Maharashtra Olympic Association (MOA). The report is expected sometime soon.

‘Proud of Sarika’
“Sarika has made us proud with her performance. We are awaiting the official report from the MOA on the performance of the players. Only then, can we provide jobs to deserving players. After going through the report, we will help her as per our GR (Government Resolution),” said Tawade.

Meanwhile, South East Central Railway’s sports official from Bilaspur, Venkateshan Devrajan admitted that women players, despite stellar performances, are not offered jobs as there is no women’s kho-kho team.

“Though the Railways have a men’s kho-kho team, we have yet to recruit a female kho-kho player. The Indian Kho-Kho Federation (IKKF) has requested us to recruit Sarika and a few other players, but it’s a matter of policy and we need approval from the Railway Board which we are awaiting,” said Devrajan, an Olympian and Arjuna awardee, who won the bronze medal at the 1994 Boxing World Cup in Bangkok.

Sarika, meanwhile, is confident that her sport, just like kabaddi, will grow leaps and bounds if the corporate sector steps in.

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