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Reinvigorating Sports in Rural Areas

”GS Paper – 1: Indian Art Forms, GS Paper – 2: Government Policies & Interventions”


A common thread that binds athletes apart from their spirit of excellence and service to the nation is their rural background.


The Government of India, in recent years, has taken several initiatives such as Khelo India, TOPS Scheme, etc to build India as a sporting nation with a great amount of emphasis in the rural areas.

How rural India has been a powerhouse of extraordinary talent?

  • Rural India is abundant with sports and games which are local and unique in each state.
  • These games and sports have served multiple purposes – keeping people fit, maintaining harmony, channelising the youth’s energy in constructive areas, keeping them away from substance abuse, and pulling the youth out of poverty, among many other benefits.

Some Unprecedented Achievements in this Olympic:

  • India bagged its highest ever medals (7);
  • Neeraj Chopra brought India its first gold in athletics in men’s javelin;
  • India ended a 41-year medal drought in hockey by winning a bronze;
  • While Meera Bai Chanu lifted a billion Indian hopes with a silver medal at the Olympics, she also gave India’s first-ever opening day medal at the Olympics;
  • Ravi Dahiya, Bajrang Punia, and Lovlina Borgohain wrestled and boxed out to win a silver and two bronzes at Tokyo Olympics.

Rural Sports in India: Ancient to Modern

Malla-yuddha: Wrestling

  • It saw participation from Mahabharat’s legendary characters such as Bhima, Balram, and Jarasandha.
  • Today, India is known as a powerhouse in wrestling with several outstanding accolades gained at the international forums – the Commonwealth Games, the world championships, and the Olympics.

Mallakhamb: The Ultra-Gymnastics

  • Mallakharnb can be located in the memoirs of Chinese traveller Huen-Tsang dating seventh century CE. He recognises Prayagraj as a site where Hindu ascetics used to climb poles as a yogic exercise.
  • It was performed in the Olympics for the first time in the year 1936.
  • Madhya Pradesh declared Mallakhamb as the State sports in 2013.

Kalaripayattu, or simply Kalari

  • It is an ancient Indian martial arts form that can be traced back to the Sangam period in southern India.
  • It’s a martial arts training used to prepare warriors in ancient times.
  • But today it’s practised as a competitive sport mainly in Kerala.


Several other professional sports are predominantly played in the rural parts of the country – be it kabaddi, hockey, or archery.

What is Qila Raipur Sports Festival?

  • It is known as India’s Rural Olympics
  • Qila Raipur Sports Festival, India’s Rural Olympics, is an annual sporting event that promotes local rural sports of Punjab through competitions in the district of Ludhiana, Punjab

What is the Idea of One State One Sport?

GOI is keen to start a campaign namely One State One Sport, wherein each state government will identify a major sport in which it has a competitive advantage along with other sports which may be accorded a little lesser priority.

GOI’s Initiatives to Strengthen Sports in Rural Areas:


  • The Target Olympic Podium Scheme or TOPS
  • It launched in 2014 under the aegis of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYASJ
  • To provide financial assistance and other help to athletes in their pursuit of medals in the Olympics and other irrternational sporting events.
  • Sports such as archery, badminton, boxing, hockey, shooting, and wrestling have been recognised as ‘high priority’ sports under the scheme.

Khelo India:

  • The Khelo India scheme was launched in 2018 with 12 verticals.
  • Under the Khelo India Scheme, talent search has been started at the grassroots level in categories: a) Sports potential talent identification and b) Proven talent identification.
  • Grassroot Zonal Talent Identification committees have been formed to scour the remotest part of the country for spotting talent across 20 disciplines in the age group 8 to 14 years, wherein the country has the potential/advantage to excel at the international level.
  • Under the ‘Talent Search and Development’ vertical of the Khelo India Scheme, Khelo India Athletes identified and selected under the scheme are provided annual financial assistance of < 6.28 lakh per athlete per annum which includes < 1.20 lakh per annum as Out of Pocket Allowance and < 5.081akh for other facilities like coaching, sports science support, diet, equipment, consumables, insurance charges, etc.
  • Further, each Khelo India Centre notified under the Scheme at district levels in various States/Union Territories are eligible to receive < 5 lakh per discipline as a one-time grant and < 5 lakh per discipline as a recurring gran.
  • Under the scheme, Khelo India Games are organised to provide a platform to the budding talent at the school and university level.



Difference between Khelo India and TOPS?

  • While the TOPS scheme aimed at polishing existing talent for higher results, the Government of India has designed a future-looking scheme to develop a pool of talent from the remotest part of the country through the Khelo India Scheme.
  • It Aimed at mainstreaming sports as a tool for national, economic, community, and individual development.

How Haryana developed sporting culture:

Sports Policy in 2006

‘Play 4 India’:

  • A formal institutional mechanism.
  • Under which each student in school is encouraged to take upon sport.
  • With the motto ‘catch them young, catch them right’, Haryana conducts Sports and Physical Aptitude Test (SPAT) in all the schools across the state to identify the high potential athletes in 8-19 age groups.
  • Those who clear the SPEED test are admitted into Sports and Physical Aptitude Continuous Evaluation (SPACE) where they are trained into sports academies”, A monthly stipend of ~ 1500 and ~ 2000 per month is awarded to the students in the age group 8-14 years and 15- 19 years respectively. I

How National Education Policy 2020 can be an Opportunity to Transform India as a Sporting Nation?

  • The National Education Policy 2020 offers a window of opportunity to integrate sports as a non-alienable part of the curriculum in schools and colleges.
  • Sports now will be an integral part of the school and college curriculum with grading in sports counted in the education of the children.
  • The network of schools and colleges makes a perfect platform to scale sports to reach each household.
  • The existing schemes of the Government of India such as the Samagra Shiksha, Eklavya Model Residential Schools, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya, etc have a special emphasis on promoting sports in the remotest part of the country.
  • Samagra Shiksha, the flagship scheme of school education in India has components that exclusively focus on providing sports equipment to schools and supporting the Khelo India Scheme.


The tradition of sports is deeply rooted in the Indian culture and the focus should be on reviving that culture. Initiatives to groom athletes for professional sports such as the TOPS, Khelo India, Fit India, etc, if implemented in a comprehensive manner, it has the potential to transform the sports landscape of India.


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