A lawyer-turned-politician, Kiren Rijijth is turning out to be a superstar when it comes to the development of sports. In just over 3 months, the Indian sports minister has left a deep impression on the country’s sports ecosystem.
Hailing from a politically-active family in Arunachal Pradesh, he demonstrated a keen interest in public affairs at a very young age. The enigmatic leader got his break as a member of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission at the age of just 29, and he has hardly looked back ever since!
In 2019, Rijiju joined the Cabinet as a Union Sports Minister after successfully retaining his Arunachal West seat in the Lok Sabha elections. As the minister touches new highs in the office, let’s take a look at 10 ways Kiren Rijiju is revolutionising sports in India…
Modified policies to benefit para-athletes
When Indian Para-shuttlers returned home victorious from the 2019 World Badminton Championships, they were greeted by Kiren Rijiju with cash prizes worth ₹1.82 crores. This step was significant because, earlier, the winning athletes had to wait for a “once-a-year ceremony” to receive their rewards.
However, the sports minister made amendments in the law to not only make quick disbursement of the prizes but also made athletes eligible for more rewards. “We want to ensure that all athletes are provided the same facilities by the government. The para-badminton team performed very well and brought glory to the country, they deserve to be rewarded for their hard work,” Rijiju said.
Great way to reward our unsung heroes, sir!
Fit India Movement
On 29th August, the National Sports Day, Kiren Rijiju ushered the country into a new fitness era by flagging off the Fit India Movement. It is focussed at motivating people to prioritise fitness and sports in their day-to-day lives.
Under the initiative, the government intends to organise numerous events aimed at generating public interest in fitness related activities.
After the launch, Rijiju informed that the government had received incredible support for the movement and that the state governments and corporate sector are doing every possible thing to make the movement a grand success.
Bringing BCCI under NADA
Kiren Rijiju welcomed the landmark move that saw the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) come under the aegis of National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA). In fact, the Indian sports minister himself considered it as the biggest achievement of his career so far. This move is important because it opens the doors for the cricket board to become a National Sports body as per the government rules. BCCI, being the richest sporting entity in the country, is under immense pressure to fall under the government’s Right to Information (RTI) Act.
“The National Sports Code is very important law which will govern the sports administration in this country. We must have a system. If you want to have a robust sports culture in the country, then you must have a robust system also. A robust sports code or rule or guideline has to be there,” he said.
With the Kiren Rijiju at helm, we definitely see a day when BCCI will be declared as a National Sports agency.
Lending a helping hand to ex-athletes
India’s sporting legends Anju Bobby George and Gagan Narang had strived hard for years to receive government funds for their respective academies. However, the duo received assurances from the ministry with a grant up to ₹ 5 crores each under the National Sports Development Fund, thanks to Kiren Rijiju.
Under the agreement, Anju’s athletics academy in Bengaluru will be getting a long-awaited artificial track. The academy has a history of producing illustrious athletes, including a 15-year old long jumper Shaili Singh, who recently set a junior national record in women’s long jump. One can only imagine the elevation in quality once the better infrastructure is in place.
As for Gagan, the assistance was in the form of recognition for his vision to make the sport of shooting widely accessible. The ace shooter wants to make the sport of shooting more accessible. He has envisioned growing the sport at the grassroots level.
Urging Indians to stay fit by Plogging
On the eve of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Kiren Rijiju launched the ‘IMA Plogging Run’ under the aegis of Fit India Movement. A sport of Swedish origin, Plogging includes jogging and picking up trash on the way. The National Plogging run perfectly encapsulated Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a healthy and clean India (under Fit India Movement and Swacch Bharat Abhiyan).
While exercising is important to stay fit, keeping the surroundings clean is equally vital to stay healthy. And that is where the beauty of Plogging run lies.
What an inspiration! She is Inshah Bashir from Kashmir, a Wheelchair Basketball player who represented India! She joins the #PloggingRun for @swachhbharat #FitIndiaMovement on the 150th birth anniversary of #MahatmaGandhi pic.twitter.com/oIhPj6Qo4K
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) October 2, 2019
Setting up National Centers of Excellence
The Union Sports Ministry is working on a project that will see them establish twenty National Centers of Excellence, which will help athletes train for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics. According to the Sports Authority of India, each Centre of Excellence will be earmarked for four to six specific sports, depending on the infrastructure available and will train athletes in the developmental group for the 2024 Olympics.
The facilities that are part of the National Centre of Excellence include Sports Authority of India (SAI) facilities across the country. Apart from those, Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Delhi, Swimming Pool Complex, Delhi and National Wrestling Academy Aurangabad are just a few of the marked facilities.
Supporting indigenous and traditional sports
While he is overseeing the development of mainstream sports in the country, Kiren Rijiju is also aware about the need to preserve and create awareness about India’s indigenous and traditional sports.
The Indian Sports minister recently said in a tweet that all indigenous and traditional sports such as Thang Tha, Mallakhamb, Kalaripayattu and Kho Kho are as important to the ministry as the Olympics.
Recently the minister signed an MoU between the sports gear manufacturer Cosco & Tribal Youth Society for providing free sports gear to tribal girls for 3 years duration. He has urged more private entities and state governments to bring in opportunities to help create awareness and promote traditional Indian sports.
The minister also claimed that he would try his best to make Kabaddi, an Indian-origin sport, a part of the 2024 Paris Olympics. “We will definitely push hard for Kabaddi to be part of the next Olympics as we are a billion-plus powerful nation and so for this to become possible, we will have to put all our efforts together, but I am very confident about it.”
In fact he views Kabaddi as a perfect example of how an indigenous sport can become successful in short amount of time.
Setting budgets to meet modern requirements
Kiren Rijiju has decided to hike diet budgets for all athletes. A large number of sportspersons would benefit from this move and get proper balanced diets. Earlier, there was some differentiation in the budget allocations of athletes based on their seniority. Trainees, junior athletes and senior athletes were given an amount of ₹250, ₹480 and ₹690, respectively. However, now the budget will be set equally irrespective of the seniority of the athletes.
A modern-day athlete requires plenty of nourishment. With increasing competition, the need to stay fit and healthy is also rising. The diet of an athlete should not depend based on the level they are playing at, but as per the advice of expert nutritionists.
The Indian Sports Minister has also assured that the kitchens at the SAI centres will be modified to meet modern specifications. Upgrading the kitchens will ensure that the nutritional value of food is not lost.
Creating policies to promote adventure destinations
India has the potential to become the best destination for adventure tourism. From mountains to beaches, and deserts we have it all. There are still a lot of unvisited and unheard-of places in our country that we have just started discovering. India currently ranks 34 on the World Tourism Index. This means there is potential to attract more tourists, so that they can explore the rest of the country. If these areas have any chance of becoming popular adventure-seeking destinations, minister Kiren Rijiju is all for the idea.
Recently, he said that the centre is working on an adventure policy to promote specific destinations and adrenaline-rush-giving activities.
Keeping north-eastern states in mind, this policy will aim to promote tourism in the area. At the same time, it will also help revitalize adventure activities in the region.
He said that he wants to bring the north-eastern states together to formulate policies to increase awareness of the natural assets.
Sports Minister at office, and home!
When he is not brainstorming in the office, you can find Rijiju indulged in numerous fitness-related activities. Not convinced? Just have a look at the numerous videos our beloved sports minister has uploaded on his social media platforms. You’ll find him either playing basketball or doing Yoga or trimming the grass of his backyard! Is that an achievement? you would argue. But, how often do you see a leader lead by an example?
The tech-savy minister also uses social media to sparking initiatives or to scout for talent at the grassroot levels. In September, Rijiju ensured that the ‘Cartwheel Kids‘ got enrolled in the SAI academy as full-time trainees. Earlier, he also lend a helping hand to MP’s ‘Usain Bolt’ Rameshwar Gujar.
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) August 16, 2019
He recently uploaded a video of a vendor replacing plastic with leaves to support the single-use plastic ban. Rijiju also used the social media impressively to urge Indians to participate overwhelmingly in the Plogging Run.
He regularly shares posts of his biking adventures, workout routines and even shooting some hoops. Now we know for sure that the minister lives by his own words!