Sports can reweave socio-economic fabric in rural India

 The recent farmers’ agitation to repeal the three agriculture reform Acts has brought focus to the villages again. The agitating farmers from Punjab, Haryana, and other parts of India gather at the Delhi border and protest against these Acts. The four-week-long protest amid the December chill has witnessed the death of nearly 45 farmers; a Sikh religious leader shot himself dead to show his solidarity with the farmers’ cause. The Supreme Court has advised the Union government to keep the Acts on hold. The farmers feel the Acts would deprive them of farming activities and their ancestral land. The Modi government says the Acts will increase the farmers’ income many folds and protect them from unscrupulous traders and middlemen. In fact, more than the Acts and the Minimum Support Price, the farmers need a healthy social and cultural life to keep their enthusiasm high in order to increase farm productivity.

Sports activities in rural areas can create a healthy socio-cultural life, bring unity among villagers to increase their joint bargaining power. It will prevent large scale migration and make Indian village an attractive place to live in. Every Indian village once had a community pond; the ponds still exist in many villages but many of those ponds are in dilapidated condition. Those community ponds can be revived so that the village youth can use them to develop swimming skills. India is yet to win an Olympic medal in the swimming competition in spite of having 2.02 million sq k.m of exclusive economic zones, 1.91 lakh k.m of rivers and canals, 3.15 million ha of reservoirs, and 1.24 million ha of brackish water.

Indian villages can serve as the launch pads for the young wrestlers who can hone their skills before they reach professional coaching centers in the cities. Villages of Adilabad district in Telangana on the Maharashtra border has produced many wrestlers who have won medals in a national-level wrestling competition. Similarly, wrestling is popular in many villages of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Odisha; the majority of young wrestlers in fact get little scope to undergo professional training. Many of them give up their wrestling careers halfway due to a lack of finance and proper coaching facility. Though the wrestling tradition in India finds its mention in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, India has long forgotten this tradition. Out of 135 crore people, only one person, Sushil Kumar of India has won the Olympic medals in the wrestling competition.

The majority of the athlete who hogged the Olympic games belonged to villages. When Indian cities shrink at a rapid pace due to population pressure, it is necessary to develop sports infrastructure in villages for individual sports like swimming, wrestling, javelin, high jump, walkathon, short put, weight lifting, running, boxing and archery, etc., which will not only keep the villagers healthy but sports culture will inculcate discipline among people. It will indirectly generate employment and revenue; the sports talents may fetch Olympic medals with foreign currency. Let the present farmers’ agitation end on a happy note.

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