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Playgrounds and policies

There needs to be a well-oiled machinery to leverage the diversity of sports in the country.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images

India’s performance in sports at the international platform is dismal. The sporting ecosystem operates in silos which favour particular sports, regions and athletic elitism. Indian sports is marred by fundamental issues such as lack of mass participation, insufficient public infrastructure for sports and a lack of sporting culture at the grassroots. This is not to say that there is a lack of talent, rather the country lacks a structured sports policy framework.

There is much to be done to achieve the true potential of sports in India. The country offers stellar examples such as the ‘Haryana model’ that caters to athletics, and that of Pullela Gopichand’s efforts to make Hyderabad the ‘badminton capital’. There is a need to expand these practices beyond specific regions or locales across the length and breadth of India. In this milieu, India can adopt meso-level approaches with region-specific circumstances to integrate players, playgrounds and policies.

At first, player-centric reforms should promote sports as ‘rites of passage’ for the Indian youth to counter the growing epidemic of obesity and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. To make this possible, region-specific traditional sports needs to be promoted to ensure mass participation and cultivate an interest among people. The country needs regional centres of excellence by the Sports Authority of India (SAI) in places beyond the dominant sporting regions. Localised sports mega events such as ‘Rural Olympics’, on the lines of what the Rajasthan government has done, should be promoted countrywide to make traditional as well as modern sports accessible.

Second, there is a need to standardise playgrounds within schools to optimise resource utilisation and facilitate athletic upbringing. MGNREGS funds could be utilised to build sports infrastructure in rural areas. The ‘one panchayat, one playground’ initiative by the Kerala Government is a parameter that can be advocated across States to promote sporting culture at the grassroots. Moreover, the scope of public-private-partnerships (PPPs) for sporting infrastructure should be extended to Tier-2 cities of India to create purposeful urban topographies that cater to sports.

Third, at the policy level, sports scholars in India have repeatedly called for the inclusion of sports in the Concurrent List (common interest to both Centre and State). Such intervention would ensure that sports policy can intersect with health, education, and gender issues. At the same time, a ‘Right to Sports’ should be covered in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution for better implementation of macro-policies around sports.

An increased budgetary allocation with a ‘sports manifesto’ would cater to the increasing demand for sports infrastructure. Overall, there needs to be a well-oiled machinery to leverage the diversity of sports in the country beyond the traditional domains. In this way, we can benefit from the demographic dividend, ensure mass participation, explore tourism potential, and promote health.

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