Abasaheb Gaikwad, a 32-year-old bus conductor, and Nivas Raskar, a 40-year-old bus driver, have made their employer MSRTC and the whole of their home district of Sangli proud by qualifying for the 17th Asia Masters Athletics Championship to be held in Taipei in November.
Gaikwad and Raskar, who hail from poor families that virtually live from hand to mouth in their drought-ridden district, will be participating in shot put and relay race respectively.
Gaikwad and Raskar bagged the silver and gold medals, respectively, in the National Masters Athletics Championship held in Bangalore last month.
Sangli MSRTC depot officials and colleagues of Gaikwad and Raskar have extended their support to both the athletes and decided to give them financial assistance to make their Taipei dream come true.
Encouraged by ST
Both Gaikwad and Raskar said MSRTC had played a big role in their achievements so far. “I belong to Islampur taluka in Sangli district and after completing SSC, I joined MSRTC as a bus driver,” Raskar said. “Since childhood, I had a great inclination towards sports and decided to make a career in the relay race, but as the financial condition of the family was weak, and I had to join MSRTC to become the breadwinner for my family.”
Raskar said he was grateful to MSRTC for encouraging him to keep up with his passion. “In my school days I was active in games and used to take part in different sports. After joining MSRTC, the corporation encouraged me further and I started participating in district and state level games and bagged gold, silver and bronze medals,” he said. Raskar said he also played hockey and had even reached the state level, but the relay race was his first passion and so he decided to focus on it.
“I have participated in several competitions at the district, state and national level on behalf of the MSRTC and bagged medals and, fortunately, the corporation always stood by me and supported me in several ways,” he said. He said in June he and Gaikwad got the opportunity to participate in the 32nd National Masters Athletics Competition, where he won the gold medal in 4x100 relay and Gaikwad bagged the silver medal in the shot put.
Raskar said his father was a retired MSRTC bus driver. “We own no farmland and I am the only breadwinner of the family. My parents, wife and children have also given me tremendous help in achieving success in sports,” he said. “I am sure I and Gaikwad will outshine others in Taipei and bag gold for India.”
The family of Raskar’s colleague Gaikwad is into farming, but because of the drought situation the financial condition of the family is not good. Gaikwad said he was the sole earner in his family. “Since childhood I have a special inclination for sports and in school days I took part in discus throw, shot put and hammer throw,” he said.
Gaikwad said when he was in Std IX his father suffered a paralysis attack and became bedridden, and he knew from then on that he would have to start earning early to bring home money. “After completing my HSC, I joined the MSRTC as a bus conductor, and was happy that the corporation gave me every opportunity to explore my talent,” he said. “Before going to Bangalore and winning the silver medal in shot put in the 31-35 age group, I participated in several tournaments in the district and state and bagged 14 medals and also received certificates.”
Though both athletes work more than 10-hour shifts while discharging their duties as driver and conductor, they do not compromise on the practice sessions. As both earn a meagre salary, they are practising without a coach and proper sports infrastructure in the small town of Sangli.
“Our Depot Controller Rahul Toro has been pushing us to give our best and for that he has given us suitable (bus) trips so that we can focus on our practice,” Gaikwad said. “Our colleagues are also helping us in adjusting their working hours so that we get shifts that allow us to practise.”
Hoping for govt help
Their boss Toro said he and his entire department were proud of Gaikwad and Raskar. “Such extraordinary talent as they have should be nurtured,” Toro said. “There is no provision in the department to give financial help in such matters, but we have sent a special proposal to the government to provide monetary help to these two. And if we do not get help, we are ready to contribute from our own pockets so that they can go to (Republic of) China and bag medals for India.”
Mahendra Singh Thakur, an officer with the Sangli depot, has also appealed to some NGOs and the government to come forward and help both the players financially. “The total expenditure of the tour will be huge, but after seeing the untiring efforts of Gaikwad and Raskar, we have decided to contribute from our pockets,” Thakur said.
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