Union Minister of State of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports , Kiren Rijiju, spoke on the importance of promoting fitness and sport and the need for corporate-government partnership in achieving these goals, during an online webinar titled “Role of Corporate India for Fit India”. The webinar which was organized by the Associated Chambers of Commerce in India (ASSOCHAM) in association with Fit India, saw Rijiju interact with members from the corporate world as he encouraged them to get more involved in sports and promoting fitness.
The Sports Minister complimented ASSOCHAM for taking the lead in promoting the Fit India Movement which was launched by the Prime Minister in August 2019. He also said that it is essential that fitness is made a way of life as it helps in developing a distinctive sporting culture for the country. He mentioned that 2.5 lakh schools have registered under the Fit India Movement as of last week and to achieve such a thing in just 6-7 months is a significant achievement. “Sports has to be seen as a career option in India and viewed as something offering dignity and respect. There is no shortage of human resources in our country. It is important that at the grassroots level that we promote sports culture, and we will be encouraging schools to adopt all kinds of activities to encourage sports and fitness,” said the Minister.
He also added that every district in the country would have a centre of excellence. Moreover, he also mentioned that he is in discussion with the Union HRD Minister that sports will become more than an extra-curricular activity, to be an integral part of education.
In his interaction with members from the industry, the Minister said the role of corporates in sports had gained much more prominence than earlier. “It is heartening to see the corporate world come forward to support sports, those top athletes who are identified by the federations, they can use facilities developed by the corporates. Sports federation, government and corporates all have to come together and move in the same direction.”
Mr. Rijiju reiterated his desire to see India in the top 10 of the 2028 Olympics medal standings and outlined how he expects it to be accomplished, “Winning 10-12 gold medals is usually good enough to get into the top 10 of the Olympics medal tally. We have identified 14 disciplines as priority sports, including archery, boxing, wrestling, shooting, hockey, fencing. If we see some other sports, we will add them to priority sports.”
He added, “It’s critical that we start the process of talent scouting and identification as early as possible. If we spot a 10-year-old boy now, he will be 18 when the 2028 Olympics takes place. Our Khelo India Games are becoming very popular, if we spot potential, we will pick them up even if they have not won a medal at the Khelo India Games. We will have a talent identification scout in every region and in every sport.”
The Minister added that the reason he started a TOPS scheme for junior athletes is keeping in mind his long-term goal of the 2028 Olympics and that India as a country cannot be satisfied by winning one or two medals at the Olympics and should aim higher. “What another thing than an Olympic gold medal gives the country so much satisfaction? If you win a World Cup or an Olympic gold, it boosts the entire country’s morale,” he said.
Sharing his perspective, ASSOCHAM’s senior vice-president, Vineet Agarwal said, “Indian sports are undergoing a facelift. India is identified as one of the biggest markets for sports.”
He added, “There are multiple options, from the sporting leagues to Government-backed events like ‘Khelo India’ Scheme, which focusses on developing sports infrastructure in rural as well as urban areas, encouraging a sporting culture through competitions, and identifying and nurturing young talent.”
garwal further said, “It is the opportune time to focus on sports as a Priority Sector and improve the quality of infrastructure to drive growth. Proper infrastructural support has an impact on the development of sports talent and sports participation at the grassroots level. Having said that, development and maintenance are dependent on a large investment, policy support and technical expertise. Although India has started investing aggressively in sports infrastructure, it has a long way to go.”
“The Fit India Movement is an initiative to take the nation on a path of fitness and wellness. It provides a unique and exciting opportunity to work towards a healthier India. As part of the movement, individuals and organizations undertake efforts for the health and well-being of self and fellow Indians,” said ASSOCHAM’s secretary general, Deepak Sood.
He added, “The Fit India Movement will help bolster sports which is going to be the next big industry in India. In developed countries, sports contribute around 2 to 4 per cent of total employment as it opens a variety of career profiles.”