– Pro. Sanjay Dwivedi
In the vast Indian culture and traditions, along with studies since childhood, sports have also had a special importance. It is our belief that just as studies are essential for mental development, similarly sports play an important role in physical development. Sports and health have a huge contribution in our life. Sports inculcate team spirit in us. It also inculcates in us the ability to take the right decisions at the right time, leadership skills, goal setting and the confidence to take risks. Sports have been given equal importance in Indian knowledge, learning and teaching tradition for centuries, because building a strong personality is possible only when it includes both a ‘thinking mind’ and a ‘well-formed body’. The education imparted in our ancient gurukuls is proof of this, in which, apart from the scriptures-Vedas, various sports skills were also duly taught.
In the year 2014, when the National Democratic Alliance government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power at the center, the government started to reconsider it. In a country like India, which was still dominated by colonial and elite sports like cricket, other sports started to be encouraged. Then in no time, in many sports like athletics, kabaddi, archery, shooting, wrestling, javelin throw, weightlifting, which were still facing neglect, Indian players started achieving achievements one after the other. In no time, India started emerging as a sports super power at the international level. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, a sports culture emerged in the country, which was unprecedented.
In order to give greatness and comprehensiveness to this culture, the government started an innovative campaign in 2018, this was ‘Khelo India Games’. The initiative, which was launched under the name of ‘Khelo India School Games’, was further expanded in view of the stupendous success of this initiative. This year, it gained more strength and popularity when the Indian Olympic Association joined this initiative.
Increasing scope of Khelo India: The series of sports should not be limited to childhood, but it should be taken forward and youth should also be included in it. With this thought, the name was changed to ‘Khelo India Youth Games’ from the very next year, i.e. 2019. And in this the vast population of Indian youth was also included. The enthusiasm of childhood and the power and potential of youth together have given Khelo India such a comprehensive form that it has started being counted among the most successful campaigns of the country. We have not achieved this achievement by any chance, but behind it there is a huge contribution of creative, imaginative and visionary thinking and hard work of the central government led by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The result of this thinking was that in his second term, the Prime Minister handed over the charge of the Sports and Youth Ministry to Anurag Thakur. Thakur’s name was important because the whole country has been praising his vision towards sports.
Sportspersons get recognition: The ‘Khelo India Youth Games’, headquartered in New Delhi, is one such unprecedented scheme that has been implemented to pave the way for long-term development of Indian sportspersons. Khelo India athletes are selected on the basis of their performance in Khelo India Games, National Championships/Open Selection Trials. Union Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Anurag Thakur told the Lok Sabha last year that 2,841 athletes in 21 sports disciplines from across the country were selected as ‘Khelo India Athletes’. These selected athletes are given the opportunity to compete for a Khelo India scholarship and train under the best coaches in the country at state-of-the-art Khelo India academies. Along with this, they also get pocket money of Rs 10,000 per month.
So far, three ‘Khelo India School and Youth Games’, one ‘Khelo India University Games’ and two ‘Khelo India Winter Games’ have been held between 2017 and 2021, in which about twenty thousand athletes have participated. . Sports included in the Khelo India program so far are Athletics, Kabaddi, Wrestling, Kho-Kho, Judo, Gymnastics, Archery, Table Tennis, Swimming, Shooting, Football, Basketball, Badminton, Boxing, Lawn Tennis, Volley-ball Sports like weightlifting, hockey are included.
Sports for All, Sports for Excellence: One of the key underlying objectives of the Khelo India program is to promote ‘Sports for Excellence’ as well as ‘Sports for All’, Ensure large scale youth participation in annual sporting events, Central Govt. identification and nurturing and guidance of sports talents through sports academies, State Government or Public-Private Partnership (PPP) method and creation of sports infrastructure at Tehsil, District, and State level etc.
In short, ‘Khelo India Scheme’ is a program to strengthen and revitalize India’s sports culture at the grassroots level and develop sports culture by identifying, developing and nurturing sports talent. This program facilitates the underprivileged and poor youth to develop by engaging in sports instead of unproductive work. How comprehensive this scheme is can be gauged from the fact that it covers about twenty crore children between the age of 10 to 18 years under the National Physical Health Campaign. Keeping in view the size and utility of this scheme, the central government is constantly increasing the amount allocated for it. Rs 657.71 crore was allocated for this in the year 2021-22, which was increased to Rs 974 crore in the year 2022-23 and Rs 1045 crore in the current financial year (2023-24).
(The author is Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.)
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