Arjun Munda, Cabinet minister for Tribal Affairs, has taken up a huge responsibility by becoming president of the Archery Association of India. He won the elections earlier this year and is keen the archers do not suffer and can do their best at the Tokyo Olympics.
With the men’s team having qualified and the women’s team still in with a chance, Arjun Munda says he will leave no stone unturned. He has taken over a federation that has been plagued by politics for over six years. He is also dealing with a very poor financial situation in the AAI and also trying to get the body again recognized by the sports ministry.
In an exclusive interview with Mail Today, Munda speaks about the roadmap ahead.
Can you tell us how the AAI is planning India’s Olympics campaign?
The Indian archers are capable of winning medals at the Olympics. To ensure that, AAI officials are working together at many levels. We are providing our archers with the best equipment for training. We were at the last leg of picking the team for the Olympics before everything came to a halt due the pandemic (Archery Olympics trials on March 24-25 were called off). Had things remained normal, we would have picked the team by third week of May. Now we are rearranging our plans to ensure our archers get more international exposure through World Archery. They have said there will be no competitions before September.
Apart from that, we are bound to host five national tournaments in a calendar year which will help our archers to be better prepared. To also ensure they don’t lose focus on the big stages, we are planning to rope in psychological experts to instill the killer instinct.
We are also working with the Sports Authority of India for a long-term training plan and selection for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.
You have been a lover of archery since childhood days. Your comments?
I belong to an ethnic community where you still can find ethnic archers. Eklavya is revered like God at every home. From our childhood days, bow and arrow have been among our toys and essentiality for hunting. So it was natural for me to love the sport. That was the reason why I started an archery academy in Kharshawan district, which identified a world-level archer such as Deepika Kumari. I believe there is hidden talent like Limba Ram, Shyam Lal and Deepika in rural areas of the country. My primary work is to find such talent from remote rural areas and ensure they reach world level.
It is well known the previous AAI regime has left the coffers empty. How has that hindered your operations so far?
I don’t want to get much into what happened during BVP Rao’s time and want to look ahead. Yes, it’s true that when I took charge of AAI, we got an empty treasury. But we are not bothered by that. The AAI has already started to look for sponsors, though matters have come to an abrupt halt because of the COVID-19 lockdown. At the moment the focus is on being independent as an association and to not face any monetary issue in the future.
Many archers have complained about facing issues during the previous regime. What is the new team doing to listen to the archers’ grievances?
To hear out archers’ problems and finding quick solutions we are going to form an ‘Archery Committee’ which will be constituted with famed archers the country. Our officials will not only meet with archers during training camps and competitions from time to time but also solve their problems. In fact, many archers and their coaches are in direct contact with me.
I will like to inform all big and small archers through Mail Today that AAI will take care of their problems so that they can focus on making India a leader in archery again.
What is your ultimate dream as AAI president?
I have always said this, my dream and aim is to make India a superpower in archery again. Everyone knows that archery started in India. India is the birthplace of legends such as Lord Ram, Laxman, Meghnad, Arjun, Eklavya, Dronacharya, Maharaja Ranjit Singh and archery has its presence in our ancient books and is connected to our soul as well. So I don’t see us failing in this game anymore.
What has been your recent conversation with the sports ministry regarding AAI’s recognition as an NSF?
The AAI elections took place on January 18 under the guidance of PK Tripathi while World Archery and Indian Olympic Association and Indian government representatives were also present at the spot. Tripathi and Indian government representative have already submitted their report to the sports ministry. AAI is in constant touch with the sports ministry and I am sure after the lockdown ends, we will get the recognition.
What is your message to all the archers and people of the country during these troubled times?
I would like to tell all the archers and all their coaches that wherever you are, train as per your capabilities and stay fit and safe during the lockdown. To ensure mental fitness, do yoga, meditation, and other exercises and work on your strengths and weaknesses through video analysis. And do ensure you eat properly.