- The Supreme Court has sought the opinion of the Centre and state governments on a suggestion that physical literacy or sports be recognised as a fundamental right.
- It goes on to say that all education boards be asked to ensure at least 90 minutes of every school day to be dedicated to “free play and games”.
Sports as a FR: A Backgrounder
- India is a vibrant country that has always carried a fevered pitch and fervent excitement for sports.
- The Supreme Court decision in the Bombay Dyeing case (2006) is emblematic of our vision for sport.
- The Court, in August 2018, had asked for responses of the Centre and state governments in a public interest litigation filed by Kanishka Pandey, a sports researcher.
- Subsequently, the court had appointed Sankarnarayanan as an amicus in April 2019 to assist it and suggest measures to deal with the issue.
Key recommendations in recent plea
- Sports as FR under Article 21A: As part of a plea before the Supreme Court seeking to declare playing sports as a fundamental right, a report has been submitted by amicus curiae. It suggested that the broad term “physical literacy” be adopted instead of sports.
- 90 minutes of physical activity: Also, all education boards must be asked to ensure at least 90 minutes of every school day be dedicated to “free play and games”.
- Sports be transferred to concurrent list: The petition also seeks to transfer sports to the concurrent list and to form an independent Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth Empowerment at union and state levels.
- Sports as a part of education policy: The plea also asks for directions to governments to amend education policies to promote sports and make facilities available to enhance the opportunities to play sports.
- National Physical Literacy Mission: The report makes a number of suggestions in this regard – from asking the government to establish a National Physical Literacy Mission.
Another striking feature: National Physical Literacy Mission
- The report also proposed for all registered and unregistered private and public education institutions to have, publish and disseminate to all parents/guardians a Physical Literacy Policy.
- The Policy would acknowledge the institution’s legal commitment to integrate physical literacy in all aspects of its curriculum.
- This is to ensure that physical literacy is a part of the overall curriculum and syllabus for national and state school boards, in particular the National Curricular Framework for School Education 2020-21.
Why must we consider the fundamental right to physical literacy?
- Physical activity is fundamental to human beings: The report states that having a fundamental right to literacy would mean identifying the intrinsic value of physical activity to human living.
- Part of elementary education: It would mean not seeing physical activity as an end in itself, and the establishment of physical activity/ physical education as a core component of the education curriculum.
- Supportive to other FRs: A fundamental right to physical literacy would actualise and enhance the enjoyment of other fundamental rights. It would go a long way in enhancing the opportunities and freedom to express oneself.
- Enhancing life quality: A physically literate individual would have a more fulfilling life of higher quality than one who is not. Physical literacy, as a building block, would go a long way in the promotion and realisation of the right to health and the right to education.
- Religion as a barriers: Some sports like swimming and athletics require attire that does not fully cover a woman’s body and are against the laws of some religions. They are often debated in light of modesty of the sportspersons beings violated.
- Associated social reforms: Many women perceive sports as an opportunity to escape the confines of a highly regulated life. They use it as a tool to show their potential and tackle the patriarchal mindset. Further success of sportspersons like Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, etc. have played a pivotal role in curbing the problems of child marriage and son meta preference.
Why need such a policy?
- Poor performance in competitions: India has the worst population to medals ratio at the Olympics. We find our medal tally at the Olympics to be hopelessly out of sync with our 1.3 billion population.
- Regressive attitude towards sports: Our attitude towards sport and physical well-being is another debilitating factor. Traditionally, India has not been a sports nation where many deserving candidates are discouraged right at the starting level.
- Economic divide: It hard reality which we consistently refuse to acknowledge. Athletes are not generated from the comfortable classes, they invariably come often from the middle and lower economic strata.
- Incentivization: There is more focus on post-success incentivization rather than pre-success support in India. For instance, the Haryana Government announced a 6 crore reward after Neeraj Chopra won the gold medal in Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Significance of physical education and sports
- Physical development: Fitness, Health
- Mental development: It improves decision making and collective action. It also acts as stress buster.
- Character/ personality development: It instils confidence, team spirit, team coordination, group work)
Benefits of augmenting sports career
- Alternative career development: For those for whom opportunities are few, and jobs are scarce, sport becomes a powerful mobility device. A strong sports sector encourages an average/ poor academic student to make a career in sports.
- Reaping demographic dividend: India is having a very young population and is soon going to become the world’s youngest country. In such a scenario, a robust sports sector can help in reaping the potential demographic dividend.
- Revenue generation: Developing robust sports infrastructure in the country will allow India to host a greater number of international events. Such hosting boosts tourism in the country and results in enhancing the revenue and employment in the region. Ex. IPL
- Promotes the spirit of Unity in Diversity: People cheer for the Indian athletes and Indian teams at international events. An improvement in sports automatically fosters the spirit of brotherhood amongst the people of diverse nations. For instance, the Pan India support enjoyed by Indian cricket team enhances belongingness between India’s north and south.
Reasons for India’s poor performance
India’s below-par performance in sports can be attributed to the combination of all the factors discussed below:
- Lack of facilities: We have thousands of education centres all over the country, but there are very few schools and colleges which have adequate facilities for any sport.
- Regional discrepancies: The spending of money is concentrated in major cities where facilities do exist, but the broad-based structure to tap and develop talent is missing. The facilities wherever they are created are confined to a few popular games like cricket, hockey, football, tennis, etc.
- Burden of ill-health: Mother and child health is an all-time contested issue in India. This may well be attributed to weather conditions, poor economic condition generally-due to which nutrition is not available to most of our children.
- Narrow perception: The parents are keen that their kids should do well studies to get a degree and ultimately fetch a good job. Playing for long hours regularly is considered a waste of time.
- Lesser academia for physical education: There are few Sports Colleges which are genuinely making efforts to produce national-level sportsmen, but their number is so small that no perceptible impact is seen due to their existence.
- Lack of training: Another reason for our poor performance in sports is the lack of required number of trainers, coaches and psychotherapists. There is also a dearth of quality coaching or the qualified coaches.
- Non-interest: The west often accuse that Indians lack the killer’s instinct. The zest and enthusiasm necessary to win over the opponent is naturally absent in the Indian psyche.
- Obsession for few sports: There is no doubt that cricket and hockey plays a major unifying role in India. However, other sports and sportsperson are often discouraged due to such obsessions.
- Performance anxiety: A high degree of pressure is inflicted upon a sportsperson to perform or else be prepared to live a vulnerable life. This sometimes creates excessive mental stress in them or induces them to resort to unethical means like doping.
Various initiatives for sports promotion
The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports has formulated the following schemes to promote sports in the country, including in rural, tribal and backward areas:
- Khelo India Scheme
- Assistance to National Sports Federations
- Special Awards to Winners in International sports events and their Coaches
- National Sports Awards, Pension to Meritorious Sports Persons
- Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay National Sports Welfare Fund
- National Sports Development Fund; and
- Running Sports Training Centres through Sports Authority of India
- Sports is a state subject and therefore uniformity in sports specific activities of various states in India is extremely important for providing equal sporting opportunities to all the citizens of the country.
- We have to take collective action to create a system and a proper environment whereby the young talent is spotted and developed in right earnest.
- Integration of sports with education to introduce sports culture in India is the need of the hour.
- The allocation of funds to sport, as a percentage of budget, can be increased for broad-basing sports in this country.
- There is also a need to develop a culture in whole country by spreading awareness in society by telling benefit of sports in life.