Sport is quintessential in promoting universal values that transcend language and culture and has potential to effect social change. Irrespective of age or gender, sport is enjoyed by all; its reach is unparalleled. Furthermore, the ‘Khelo India’ and ‘Fit India’ movements by the Government of India have started a new revolution in the country and provided a new platform for young and talented athletes in the last two years.
I saw this firsthand during the Khelo India University Games we hosted earlier this year, where we had athletes from all over the country display some jaw-breaking talent and at the same time showcase some great camaraderie as they won as a team and lost as a team. It was a sheer joy to witness the spectacle of the tournament and also see people in large numbers come out and cheer for athletes in the stadiums across the state. Uttar Pradesh has always been known as a sporting state because of the phenomenal number of UP athletes who have brought laurels to the country. In the past year, Uttar Pradesh has steadily become the sports capital of the country, hosting the most successful Khelo India University Games, Asian Youth Handball Championship, Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship, and ITF Men’s. The state is now all set to host the Davis Cup and MotoGP in September.
Sports and physical activities are known to improve the health and well-being of individuals, both physically and mentally, and teach important values and social skills that are much needed in this digital age. Sport doesn’t just empower on an individual basis; it also unites and inspires people collectively, which builds communities. Therefore, strengthening the sporting ecosystem is a must for state governments, given the personal and social development benefits sport offers. Increasing access to and participation in sporting infrastructure is a development goal. This is one major reason why sports have emerged as a soft power for a state like Uttar Pradesh. During my tenure as the Additional Chief Secretary of Sports, we came out with a formidable sports policy, as in government, the change starts at the policy level.
As part of the new sports policy, special focus is laid on a range of aspects, from a player’s physical fitness to training. Along with this, various provisions have been made to support the development of new institutions while connecting schools, colleges, and private academies with sports. The Uttar Pradesh government will also provide financial assistance to budding athletes, and it has also included provisions for the same. Each registered player will receive health insurance coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh from the state government.
We aimed to focus on the grassroots level and, at the same time, invest in infrastructure and be on par with the constant evolution of the sports industry. The construction of mini-stadiums at developmental blocks is currently underway in the first phase. Also, a stadium is being built in every district, and many programmes, including the formation of young welfare and women welfare committees in every village panchayat, are being undertaken to promote sports among youths in the state at the grassroots level. Also, sports kits have been provided to 65,000 youth and women welfare committees, and various efforts are being made to enhance facilities for athletes and encourage them at every level. Similarly, we signed MoUs with leading organisations in the country like JSW Sports, Abhinav Bindra Targeting Performance, and Sporta Technologies (Dream 11 and Fancode), among others, for the sustainable growth of sports in the state.
After the inclusion of e-sports in the new sports policy, Uttar Pradesh has also become the first state in the country in whose programme, youth across the state, are being encouraged for e-sports. We recently signed an MoU with Garena, and e-sports will prove to be a milestone in the state and would help generate additional employment. An MoU has also been signed with the private sector to promote e-sports in the state. This company, along with the Hiranandani Group, will set up an e-sports centre in Greater Noida and organise e-sports. This year, a big tournament of e-sports will also be organised in the state. UP has a bright future ahead in e-sports, and we are excited that this is the first time that a global brand like Garena has chosen Uttar Pradesh to host the tournament.
Giving jobs to athletes has also been a priority for us. Uttar Pradesh Police has recruited the highest number of 579 athletes, the most by any Indian state, into the police force. Furthermore, under the schemes to promote sports in the state, Olympic athletes were being awarded a cash prize of ₹6 crores for winning a gold medal, ₹4 crores for a silver medal, and ₹2 crores for a bronze medal. Team event winners in the Olympic Games received ₹3 crores for gold, ₹2 crores for silver, and ₹1 crore for bronze, he added. In the Asian Games, gold medalists would be awarded ₹3 crores, silver medalists ₹1.5 crores, and bronze medalists ₹75 lakhs.
(The writer is a retired IAS officer and was formerly the Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Sports, Government of Uttar Pradesh)
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