With a mere 2 per cent of India’s population and much less than 2 per cent of the country’s geographical area, Haryana secures almost one-third of India’s medals in international sports events. The athletes from Haryana won 22 of India’s 66 medals in Commonwealth Games (CWG) of 2018 — they brought home nine gold medals out of the country’s total 26 golds. The state produced some of country’s best wrestlers including the Phogat sisters whose success had inspired the Bollywood blockbuster Dangal.
But the state government wants more and is keen to take the medals tally to the next level. To this end, it has thought of an innovative strategy — it plans to seek the assistance of young mothers in the state to encourage their children to take up some kind of sporting activity.
And the government is starting at the beginning — it has already assigned the health staff in the state to look after the wellbeing of pregnant women including their delivery and the immunisation of the kids. In coming days, the Anganwadi workers are likely to be asked to be more proactive on this front.
The officials believe that if mothers take their children to the playgrounds, then the number of sportspersons may increase significantly in the coming years. Officials of as many as seven departments, including Sports, Women and Child Development, will now be engaged in a mission to ensure that young mothers get all the assistance to ensure that their children make use of government playgrounds.
To this end, the government will soon introduce an App — called “Mothers for Sports and Fitness” — which will have details of all playgrounds and the contact persons of these playgrounds. The App will show the locations of the playgrounds like a taxi app shows the location of the available taxies.
“The idea is the brainchild of Chief Minister Manohar Lal. He believes in humanising governance. He believes that every mother, as a caregiver, has a right to access to the nearest playground and sporting opportunities for her growing children,” says senior IPS officer O P Singh, who is looking after the responsibility of Special Officer (Community Policing and Outreach) in the Chief Minister’s office.
The Chief Minister, according to Singh, wants the popular discourse about the youth in Haryana to change from “drugs and crime” to “sports for fitness”. “We plan to launch the App from next month,” says Additional Chief Secretary, Amit Jha.
The officials associated with the move believe that if the government succeeds in ensuring the health of young mothers and their kids, the number of the sportsperson in the state can increase significantly.
“Mothers, because of their proximity to and concern for the well-being of their children, can play a pivotal role on this count if they are well-informed, oriented and enabled to encourage their children to take to sports for fitness and help them, thereby, to stay away from drugs and delinquency,” said another official.
With the state government offering high cash awards and senior government jobs to those who perform well in international sporting events, taking up sports is already an attractive proposition in Haryana. A tour to different parts of the state reveals that ranging from 100 to 200 youths from every big village go to the playgrounds and join one or other sport for exercise daily. The state has almost 7,000 villages.
“Haryana has proved that success in the sports comes from participation in events, not from the size of the population of a particular state. We want to enhance this participation while associating mothers with the campaign,” says O P Singh, who has earlier held the assignments like Director and Principal Secretary of the Sports Department.
In the coming days, the officials plan to offer more services through its App. Though, initially, it will provide all types of information related to coaches and the facilities available in government-run playgrounds. The officers are also considering whether only mothers should be allowed to get registered on the proposed App or if this facility be provided to women of all age groups.
“We can also explore the angle of women’s safety by offering self-defence training to girls,” says senior IAS officer Amit Jha, who looks after Women and Child Development Department in the state government as its Additional Chief Secretary.