Public playfields a thing of past: P T Usha

P T Usha, a former Olympian and multiple Asian Games gold medal winner and member of National Playing Field Association of India, has been vocal about the lack of playgrounds and physical education in many schools across the country.

In a telephonic conversation with Deccan Herald, she emphasised on the need for a scheme to promote sports and exerciseing in playfields that are accessible to the public.

Has urbanisation in Bangalore created a dent in sporting facilities for schoolchildren?

In the entire country, the first and biggest victim of the concepts of globalisation and urbanisation has been playgrounds, followed by agricultural fields.

Open grounds attract construction companies and property developers who wish to make money out of the area. Unless the state and local municipality decides that growth of its city’s youth is as important as economic growth, then there is no hope.

What measures have been taken at the central and state level to ensure that playfields don’t get eaten up by land sharks?

The sports fraternity in Kerala stood strong at all times and the State became the first to make physical education compulsory in every curriculum. India as a country will soon make this a national bill and once this comes into being, then playfields in every school will automatically become compulsory. However, it will be useless unless the local development bodies ensure that schools do not flout rules and lease the land for other purposes after attaining affiliation. State governments must create a bill, too, so as to ensure there is a scheme that promotes sports and exercising in fields that are accessible to public.

What is the current status of sporting infrastructure at the school level in Bangalore?

There used to be a time when I used to run miles inside Cubbon Park. That is no more possible. Public playgrounds have become a thing of the past. Stadiums are also closed to public and school students. But Bangalore has great schools that have such fantastic sporting infrastructure and playgrounds that are made to have an international feel and look. But sadly, this comes at a cost. The public cannot access these facilities and only children of the elite can think of studying in these schools.

Does the health of children get affected due to lack of playtime and provision for playing any form of sport?

Of course. India has the largest percentage of youth in the world. But what is the point if it has the most useless youth in the world. According to me, only three per cent of youngsters are physically fit in urban India. Health is now a major crisis. If the government does not realise this soon, the military, police and sports will not have any newcomers who are perfectly fit.

The Usha School of Athletics in Kerala has less number of applicants every year. Usha feels that if state governments do not start to understand the importance of physical education and proper sporting facilities, then the country will soon find itself under political, intellectual and military attack from other nations.


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