5 things minister Kiren Rijiju did right for Indian sports

Kiren Rijiju took charge of the MYAS in 2019
Kiren Rijiju took charge of the MYAS in 2019

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics less than a fortnight away, India saw a new sports minister take charge. Kiren Rijiju, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Youth Affairs and Sports since 2019, was given the charge of the Ministry of Law and Justice following a cabinet reshuffle in the NDA government.

Speaking to the media at the swearing-in ceremony, Rijiju said:

“I am shifting to Law and Justice but the efforts will continue. Time at sports department was good. The team was good. PM’s vision of making India a sporting power will be fulfilled.”

During his tenure as the country's sports minister, the BJP Member of Parliament from Arunachal West oversaw various initiatives and movements that aimed at elevating India's status in the world of sports. Always vocal about India’s potential to do well in sports at a global level, Rijiju has time and again emphasized that India’s sporting revolution will be complete when India hosts an Olympics – an idea he pitched at the Confederation of India meet in March 2021.

Let's take a look at a few of Rijiju’s initiatives as sports minister that have helped bolster sports in the country.

Kiren Rijiju’s emphasis on increased budget

The sports ministry was clear in its approach that only increased spending on sports infrastructure, facilities and players would help India perform better at a global level. This has reflected in the funds allocated to sports in the past few Union Budgets. For the past four years, the annual budget allocation for sports has consistently exceeded Rs 2000 Cr. In 2021-22, this was Rs 2596 Cr. In contrast, the first budget of the NDA government, presented in 2014-15, had apportioned a mere Rs 1575 Cr. for the same.

Kiren Rijiju also increased the prize money handed out with awards like the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the Dronacharya award and the Arjuna award.

Effective support schemes like TOPS

In an attempt to improve India’s performances at the Olympics, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports launched the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). The scheme, launched in 2014, identifies potential medal winners for India and provides them with customized training under reputed coaches, monetary allowances and any other specific support needed by the athletes. This scheme also set up a Mission Olympic Cell that assists the selected athletes. Today, the scheme supports India's top medal prospects including Neeraj Chopra, Vinesh Phogat, Mirabai Chanu and many more.

Also Checkout: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Schedule

In 2020, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, under Rijiju, launched the TOP Scheme for junior athletes as well. Under the scheme, 258 athletes from various sports like Shooting, Badminton, Athletics, Table Tennis, Judo, Boxing and Weightlifting will receive a monetary allowance of Rs 25,000 as well as advanced training to prepare them for Olympics in 2024 and 2028.

The Khelo India Movement

The Khelo India Program, launched in 2018 to revive the sports culture in India at the grass-roots level, received a new lease of life under Rijiju’s charge. Apart from the Khelo India Youth Games that were started in 2018, the MYAS under Rijiju oversaw the beginning of Khelo India School Games in 2020.

The MYAS also set up eight Khelo India State Centers of Excellence (KISCE) in Karnataka, Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Odisha, Telangana, and Nagaland. In 2020, Rijiju also introduced the Khelo India Winter Games hosted at two venues - Leh and Jammu & Kashmir. The games included events like snow skiing, snow rugby, snow ice stock, snow baseball, snow mountaineering, snowshoe, ice hockey, figure skating, and speed skating.

Staying true to its motive to promote a sports culture among the youth of the country, the Ministry added four indigenous sports - Gatka, Kalaripayattu, Thang-Ta and Mallakhamba - to the Khelo India Youth Games in 2021.

Recognition of National Sports Federations

The Ministry of Youth Affairs has been swift in recognizing the national sports federations of different sports. Its website today lists 59 bodies that are recognized by MYAS. The number for 2016 was 48.

An HC order in 2019 prohibited the sports ministry from recognizing NSFs without prior approval. This led to the de-recognition of 57 NSFs. The ministry followed up with an appeal to the SC, which it won, and restored recognition of 27 NSFs including those of badminton, hockey, and weightlifting. It also recommended elections for various sporting bodies in the country for sports like golf, boxing and athletics.

Rijiju’s support on social media

An active Twitter user, Kiren Rijiju has used the platform to help sportspersons in need. Beyond congratulating athletes upon successful performances and medal victories, Kiren Rijiju's use of Twitter has enabled the sports ministry to effectively promote its campaigns like the Fit India Movement.

In May 2021, Rijiju came across a tweet about Sangeeta Soren, a footballer who had represented India at under-18 and under-19 levels, and how she was facing financial difficulties. Rijiju responded to the tweet and offered help to the player.

The road ahead

MYAS's efforts to elevate Indian sports have produced results. India had a healthy medal tally at the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics around the corner, India expects a double-digit medal tally for the first time in history. The likes of Saurabh Chaudhary, Manu Bhaker, Vinesh Phogat and PV Sindhu will be firm favorites to win medals in their respective events.

Anurag Thakur, who replaces Kiren Rijiju as sports minister, has his task cut-out for him. Thakur not only has to ensure that Indian athletes have a seamless stay at the games in Tokyo for this year’s Olympics, he also has to oversee the successful implementation of Kiren Rijiju's projects for the future.

Also read - Gold medal prospect Saurabh Chaudhary makes minor adjustments to pistol grip ahead of Tokyo Olympics

Edited by SANJAY K K
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