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Will take traditional sports international, says sports minister Anurag Thakur


NEW DELHI: Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur on Friday assured the Lok Sabha that traditional sports such as Mallakhamb, Thang Ta, Yogasana, Gatka and Kalpetta will soon go international, and the ministry will open 1,000 Khelo India centres across the country by August 15 next year.

As the Lok Sabha resumed on Thursday debate on sports and the steps taken by the government in this regard, several MPs urged the government to create sports infrastructure in rural areas and initiate measures to include rural youth in selections. The discussion started in Lok Sabha on March 31, during the Budget Session of Parliament.

In his reply on Friday, Thakur said the focus of the government is towards identifying talent from the rural areas and training them to become international athletes.

He said the demand is that Khelo India centres must be opened in rural areas. “We will start with opening 1,000 Khelo India centres. The process for 733 such centres has already started and by next August 15, we will finish the work of opening 1,000 Khelo India centres,” the minister said.

Thakur further said there is a need to move beyond the sense of region and state to embrace the spirit of team India. He recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that when a sportsman wins in a game, it gives Indians a chance to celebrate the concept of “Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat”.

In 2014, the budget for the sports ministry was increased from Rs 1,219 crore to Rs 3,062 crore, he said, adding, “The expenditure has been less for just one year — 2020-21 — when the country was battling Covid. In 2022-23 it again increased.”

Stating that there is discrimination against para-athletes, Thakur said India’s Olympics performance in this category has improved.

“I want to say whether it is paralympics, deaf olympics or summer olympics, we have won most medals. Seven in the Olympics, 19 in the paralympics and 16 in the deaf olympics. We worked towards changing perceptions towards sports. PM Modi says that 100 per cent effort must be given and one should not lose hope. Taking the cue, our athletes have performed very well,” he said.

Thakur also mentioned how through the Khel Mahakumbh in Gujarat, villagers were given an opportunity to play sports. He urged MPs to organise Khel Mahakumbh in their constituencies which will give them chance to connect with the youth of the country.

The sports ministry has an inventory of 16,000 indoor stadiums, open grounds and hockey stadiums across the country, he said.

To a query on lab testing, Thakur said the National Forensic Science University and the Youth Affairs Ministry have signed an agreement with nutritional supplement testing laboratories to provide athletes supplements that do not get them barred from international events.

Thakur said the government started Fit India certification and Fit India schools week was organised. During Covid 4.3 lakh schools had participated, he said.

“Promoting traditional games, in Khelo India youth games five traditional games have been included. They are Mallakhamb, Thang Ta, Yogasana, Gatka and Kalpetta. Many athletes participated and they are not regional but national and soon they will be made international,” he said.

Thakur also said the ministry has made changes in its policy and many administrative posts were surrendered and 398 coaches are in the process of being hired in 21 disciplines.

“Sports is a state subject and states have a very important role to play in it… We brought transparency in our work and increased representations of players too. I assure that the government is not leaving any stone unturned to promote sports in the country,” the minister added. (PTI)

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