"Children and play are synonymous with each other. I remember that even through the tough life I have seen as a farm labourer's daughter, play was never far away from all the work and struggle we went through..." says M.C. Mary Kom, the Bronze medal winner in recently concluded London 2012 Olympics.
Actually, she was expressing her dissatisfaction on lack of playing space for children of the country. During the course of her visit to various parts of the country in connection with her medal winning ceremony, she could observe that the children are forced to play on the roads risking their life, particularly due non availability of open space for playing. Very right she is, as we have had very little concern for ensuring that our children have adequate playing space where they can play, enjoy and develop like a normal human being. And this is one major reason of the pathetic state of our sports except of course Cricket, which resulted in our poor performance in international sports meet including Olympics. We don't even care to honour the age old proverb,"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". Do you know that:
- India's population upto the age of 18 years is 40 % of its total population of 1200 million i.e. huge 48 crores?
- Only about 50% of our children between the age of 6 years to 14 years go to school?
- Not more than 10% of one million primary schools have play grounds worth the name?
- Even the highly expensive private schools don't bother to have play space in their schools and if at all some space is earmarked, playing games is not in the priority list of such schools?
- The regulatory machinery in all states is more or less highly apathetic towards this issue?
- Even the public parks and playgrounds, though in slender numbers, are either gradually being captured by unscrupulous elements of society or in existence in very bad shape hygienically?
The list is indicative and not exhaustive. The real issue, however, is how and when we as a country would wake up to arrest this serious trend and start addressing the issue with enthusiasm, commitment and alacrity. To make a small beginning, the following initiatives can be taken at community level:
- Identify the existing parks and playing space to start using it by organising regular sports activities.
- Parents especially mothers must start spending some quality time with their child in nearby parks/play grounds.
- All private schools must be convinced by parents of the studying children for making provision of play space in the school and have regular offs for playing different games.
- Voluntary organisations, financial institutions, corporate houses, big businesses and trading firms must come forward in a big way to encourage sports like Basketball, Volleyball, Badminton, Table Tennis, Athletics etc.
- Govt. machinery must be made accountable to deliver what they promise to do as a policy and/or regulation.
- Ensure participation of star payers of that area in all sports activities.