Harnessing sports to realise Viksit Bharat - Hindustan Times
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Harnessing sports to realise Viksit Bharat

Feb 07, 2024 09:45 PM IST

The sports and physical activity sector will be a key contributor to this transformation, where a healthy population will contribute to India’s progress

The confluence of social entrepreneurship and the benefits of sports make for some incredible stories and a major opportunity for community building. For example, the Brahmaputra Volleyball League, started by former India volleyball team captain Abhijit Bhattacharya, provides access to volleyball to thousands of children in Assam, as one of the largest grassroots leagues in the world. With almost 400 teams, the league has brought sports in a big way to rural areas and involved entire village communities to be a part of it. Naandi Foundation, in turn, works with close to two lakh young girls through 5,000 of its allies who are adopting sports in villages across India. One of the pioneers of the sport for development movement in India is Magic Bus, which implements a sports and activity-based life-skills programme to equip adolescents with essential life skills and facilitate a smoother transition from school to the workforce. It works with nearly four lakh adolescents and operates in 72 districts across 24 states. These are just a few organisations of the hundreds that work across the furthest reaches of India to drive positive change through sports in different ways using a variety of different disciplines. Meeting and speaking to representatives of many of these social enterprises gives us a clear sense of the potential of sports to make an enduring impact.

Asian Games - Hangzhou 2022 - Athletics - Olympic Sports Centre, Hangzhou, China - October 4, 2023 Member's of India's team react after winning the Men's 4X400 Relay Final REUTERS/Bryan Foo(REUTERS) PREMIUM
Asian Games - Hangzhou 2022 - Athletics - Olympic Sports Centre, Hangzhou, China - October 4, 2023 Member's of India's team react after winning the Men's 4X400 Relay Final REUTERS/Bryan Foo(REUTERS)

There is a significant and vital role for sports and physical activity (SAPA) in India today. India is at the forefront of radical change, and betterment of its citizens, especially people from under-represented communities. The SAPA sector will be a key contributor to this transformation, where a healthy and active population will contribute not just to India’s progress, but to the rest of the world as well. With an Olympics bid in 2036 and the vision of Viksit Bharat by 2047, SAPA will be key to the country’s transformation. With a vibrant ecosystem of social enterprises working to use the power of sport for social impact and healthy living, the future of broad-basing sport for all lies in realising this ecosystem’s full potential.

Every child should have the opportunity to play a sport. While State capacity is being expanded and increasingly nuanced towards mass participation, the private sector and civil society have equally important roles to play. SAPA is an intervention that is without limitation a positive and inexpensive one that has far-reaching benefits to everyone who participates. It is something that the GoI has prioritised with the active support of the Prime Minister, who champions sports and sportspersons at every juncture. We as a society must not waste this opportunity.

A critical role is to be played by social enterprises in broad-basing and enhancing sports participation. The potential to increase awareness and unlock access to SAPA has traditionally not been an area of focus in the country. It is widely acknowledged that India’s cultural heritage includes participation in indigenous sports such as kabaddi and kho kho, as well as engagement in fitness activities like yoga. The benefits of involvement in these activities are significant and have a positive impact on an individual’s long-term health and well-being.

In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of stakeholders harnessing the positive benefits of sports, ranging from grassroots community-based organisations to public-sector actors and companies. For example, government/public sector initiatives, such as the Khelo India and Fit India programmes, are focussed on reviving the rich culture of sports and physical activity, while State and private sector actors have been involved in the development of sports infrastructure, talent identification, and the provision of financial support to athletes. The growing SAPA movement is also reflected in the new National Education Policy (2020), which recognises the pedagogical power sports can possess and recommends the use of sports as a developmental tool for children and youth.

The SAPA ecosystem can contribute to economic growth by providing entrepreneurship opportunities, and livelihoods. Solving difficult problems for society through the transcendent power of sports is a common thread linking individuals and organisations. Holding the G20 presidency gave India a platform to be at the forefront of implementing universal participation in SAPA, and social enterprise will play a key role in expanding this opportunity. This is an opportunity for India to be a lighthouse nation for the rest of the world.

Amitabh Kant and Desh Gaurav Sekhri are G20 Sherpa, Government of India, and co-founder, Sports and Society Accelerator, respectively. The views expressed are personal

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