Guwahati: Nearly three decades before the country started celebrating the National Sports Day in 2012, Assam has been observing September 3 as its annual sports day to honour Bhogeswar Baruah, the first Arjuna awardee from the northeastern region.
India celebrates Rashtriya Khel Divas or National Sports Day on August 29 to commemorate the birth anniversary of hockey legend, Major Dhyan Chand.
“India had its first #NationalSportsDay in 2012. But Assam’s state sports day started by the then popular (and only Assamese) sports magazine Abhiruchi and thus known as #AbhruchiSportsDay or #AbhiruchiKriraDivas, has been an annual affair on September 3 since 1984,” National Award-winning filmmaker Utpal Borpujari recalled on Twitter on Saturday.
A campaign was started to get athlete Bhogeswar Baruah his due recognition from his employer ONGC in 1984 and later, a concerted effort was made to mark a day in the calendar as sports day, he said.
Baruah’s birthday on September 3 was chosen for the purpose.
The state government has now started marking September 3 as Sports Pension Day.
Borpujari said Baruah, the 1966 Asian Games medallist, was found to be working as a driver with ONGC Ltd after he retired from the Army, which led Balendra Mohan Chakraborty, the editor of the sports magazine, to do a cover story on the athlete.
Assam Chief Information Commissioner Samudra Gupta Kashyap, who was associated with the beginning of the ‘Abhiruchi Sports Day’, as a young journalist in the 1980s, claimed that ONGC created a post of “regional sports officer” for the athlete.
“Buoyed by the success in getting Baruah his due recognition from the employer, we thought why not celebrate his birthday as the ‘sports day’, and it started from there,” Kashyap told PTI.
Initially, the day was celebrated in Guwahati with a programme of jogging led by the Arjuna awardee and felicitation of the prominent sportsperson, Borpujari said.
“The cooperation of the people has been tremendous all along, and this year, we have organised programmes on this day at 107 places,” Sukumar Medhi, secretary general of Abhiruchi Sports Day Organising Committee, told PTI.
Borpujari on the microblogging site mentioned that eminent personalities such as Milkha Singh, PT Usha, Shiny Wilson, Kapil Dev, Kamlesh Mehta and Manohar Aich have graced the central programme at Guwahati as chief guests.
This year, Olympian and gymnast Dipa Karmakar was the chief guest at the Guwahati programme, while Baruah himself attended the celebration in the Sivasagar district.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday participated in the Sports Pension Day programme here.
He handed over a cheque of Rs 50 lakh to Commonwealth Games gold medallist Nayanmoni Saikia, who was also officially inducted into the state police force in the rank of deputy superintendent of police as per the state’s sports policy.
One-time assistance of Rs 50,000 to four sportspersons and a monthly pension of Rs 10,000 to four others were also presented by Sarma on the occasion.
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