Reinvigorated sports ecosystem: Fit India

It is a universally-known fact that health has remained the basis of success and prosperity in every society. In fact, the best factor to adequately determine the quality of life in any country is the health of its working population. With the widespread belief of the nation in the principle of Vyaayaamat Labhate Swasthyam Dirghaayushyam Balam Sukham, Aarogyam Paraman Bhaagyam Swaasthyam Sarvaarthasaadhanam — it has always been emphasised that fitness alone has the power to bring about good health, strength, happiness, long life and good fortune for its people. Good health is the greatest blessing. Health is means of everything.

To be healthy has remained the ultimate goal with the potential of aiding in the accomplishment of other works as well, and the nation has been able to make rapid strides in this direction over the last half a decade. To create that culture of fitness, numerous initiatives have been launched over the past few years in the form of Fit India, Khelo India, Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), International Yoga Day, etc. These have successfully resulted in a significant mindset shift with people becoming fitness-friendly as well as becoming conscious about the fact that there is a bare minimum level of exercise that is needed to remain healthy as well.

Even though stories and characters have kept changing over the past, the nation’s commitment to and obsession with sports has remained firmly footed and an important part of the culture of the Indian subcontinent. India stands as one of the very few countries in the world that has been able to retain its indigenous sports while adopting the ones that came from other countries as well. Sports like Kabaddi, Kho-Kho and Gilli-Danda along with ancient forms of martial arts like Mustiyuddha, Silambam and Kalarippayattu remain an essential part of the everyday life of a tribal as well as of rural Indian even today.

Gradually, with the newfound interest of the urban masses and the corporate world, these sports are beginning to make a mark in the commercial world of sporting extravaganza with leagues like the Kabbadi Pro League taking shape.

Among the many such initiatives, the one that has been able to create the maximum impact is the Fit India campaign that was launched on the National Sports Day in the year 2019. In a short span of three years that was plagued with the deadly pandemic, the slogan ‘Fitness Ka Dose, Aadha Ghanta Roz’ has become an integral part of the lifestyle of millions of Indians. Having become a mass movement, millions of Indians have been able to showcase how only 30 minutes of exercise every day has ensured their own physical and mental well-being. To aid in the monitoring of their own health, a mobile application ‘Fit India Mobile App’ has also been launched for citizens, full of unique features like animated videos, activity trackers, fitness scores for analysis and planning accordingly catering to individual needs.

To inculcate this habit of fitness, over 1.1 million schools have been registered with and verified under the Fit India campaign with different protocols being followed as per the relevant age bracket. Creating certain parameters for the performance of children in such schools, ratings have been issued to keep a track of their performance over the months. In consonance with the idea of intense school-level engagement, a grand event consisting of a Cyclothon, Prabhat Pheri, Fit India School Week and Fit India Freedom Run were organised between the months of August and October last year.

Results from these schemes have been witnessed by all. Although there are multiple facets to the issue, institutional support has been a major hurdle towards creating a better sports culture in India. Over the last five years, the Khelo India campaign that sought to identify and develop talent from the grassroots level itself has been able to create much-needed opportunities for raw talent and nurture them to bring home medals at global events. Early identification of deserving athletes, providing them with best training and modern facilities, the environment related to sports has undergone a radical shift. The financial assistance scholarship scheme of Rs 6.3 lakhs for every residential athlete has been a gamechanger in terms of encouraging mass participation as well as promoting excellence in sports.

In addition, 162 athletes included in the core group scheme along with 254 athletes in the development group of the TOPS have been given a certain amount of stipend as well as a separate out-of-pocket allowance during training, to enable them to focus on their goal of achieving excellence in their sport as well as take care of their families.

A well-researched policy often invariably leads to better results, as can be seen from the implementation and course correction in programmes that have been geared towards sports. In fact, the Government of India has been responsive enough to continue sports-related schemes with an outlay of Rs 3,165.5 crore during the tenure of the 15th Finance Commission and a budgetary provision of about Rs 974 crore (48 per cent more than the last estimate).

When we observe and analyse subtly India’s performance at recently concluded the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the 215-member strong contingent put on a stupendous display with a medal tally of 61 — including 22 gold, 16 silver and 23 bronze medals. The splendid performance helped India finish fourth despite the exclusion of shooting and archery in which the bulk of the medals to India’s accomplishment in earlier editions. Birmingham turned out to be a happy hunting ground for India as she shone in athletics, Lawn Bowls, Para Powerlifting apart from sports like wrestling, weightlifting, boxing, and badminton where India have traditionally done well. What was astonishing that the Indian grapplers won medals in all the events they competed in, stamping their authority!

The rich medal haul represents the new India, which has new vigor, grit and confidence. Though India needs some more time to become a sporting powerhouse, all indications are that the country is on the right track right now with amazing support system on priority basis.

Overall, it is clear that the sports ecosystem has been given a shot in the arm with numerous schemes and initiatives. As far as one can recall, there has never been a better time for sports in India than the present. With the best-ever tally in the Olympics, Paralympics, Deaflympics and a significant showing in new arenas at the Commonwealth Games, World Athlete Championships, etc., there is a new energy within the sporting culture of the nation. Such steps and decisions clearly have the potential to go a long way in ensuring that India becomes a global behemoth of sports in the foreseeable future.

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