TN plans to fight spread of naxalism through promotion of sports

Hitting upon a brainwave to wean away the youth from a life of crime and violence and in the wake of increase in Maoist activities in some areas of the country, the Tamil Nadu government has come out with a new proposal to launch special sports promotion programmes in more than 100 naxal-violence hit areas in the state.

The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) in collaboration with state police department will soon unveil the programme in 104 villages with a naxal past and a history of caste violence in various districts including Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Theni and Dindigul.

The Tamil Nadu government's move also comes against the backdrop of recent inter-state meeting of senior police officers from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, along with forest officials, organised in Mysore to discuss the steps to monitor movement of naxals, who are reportedly moving along the border areas of the three states with focus on their sightings in Sakleshpur and Kodagu and Sakleshpur in the recent times.

The state police also identified communally sensitive places across the state, including in Chennai, Coimbatore, Thanjavur, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Nagapattinam and Turicorin. The sports authority will establish the Youth Energy Streamlining (Yes) centres in these areas. “Though there is no serious threat, these are the regions in the state that are prone to extremism and naxal activities,” said a senior official from the Special Task Force attached to police department.

“The attention and energy of the youth in these areas could be diverted in a planned and phased manner and also channelised towards sports so as to develop them into self disciplined citizens with progressive and positive attitudes,” the official added. Besides sports events, the government also plans to provide sports equipment for various games to the youngsters.

The police authorities have identified 48 places as naxal-prone in Krishnagiri, 48 such areas in Dharmapuri,12 in Dindugal and nine in Theni district. “Youth in these regions do not have much entertainment compared to the youngsters living in cities. Therefore, it is quite easy to influence them and get them to indulge in violence. The government’s move will not only make them self-disciplined but will also occupy them meaningfully,” a senior police official said.

According to the plan, it is proposed to conduct competitions in these districts in athletics from 100 metres to 5,000 metres, like long jump, high jump, shot-put, discus throw, triple jump, javelin throw and football and volleyball by providing required sports equipment. Apart from naxal prone region, the state police have also identified communally sensitive places across the state, including in Chennai, Coimbatore, Thanjavur, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Nagapattinam and Turicorin.

Naxal threat

“Though there is no naxal threat in these cities, most of the youth hailing from poor family, who live in slums were lured by miscreants to participate in communally sensitive activities", the police official said adding "to avoid that it was also proposed to provide them basic sport to get on the right path.” The objective of implementing this programme also to inculcate health and fitness attitude.

According to the plan, the state government has initially allocated Rs 17 lakh to setup 'YES' centres in these sensitive areas. “The selection process will begin soon once awareness among the youths is created to participate in the sports activity,” the SDAT official said. Each centre will have a coach to guide the participants.

Apart from creating awareness, realising the importance of social media, SDAT will also launch a Facebook page and is disseminating through this page information about SDAT’s programme. In addition, SDAT, in collaboration with police department, has also proposed to establish a shooting range at Veerapuram, about 6 km from Avadi on the outskirts of Chennai. “This kind of initiative will attract many youngsters,” a senior police officer said. He said it would cost a minimum of 6,000 for a rifle that doesn’t require a licence. “It is safe and can be used in the 10-metre range,” he added.

Set up in association with the police department, it boasts of a 10-metre air-conditioned facility equipped with an electronic score board that is expected to be a major draw, especially for youngsters. It also has 25-metre and 50-metre facilities for professional shooters. “We also plan to set up a ‘trap and skeet’ range soon with all the facilities,” a SDAT official said.

The three States – Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala - were dealing with the naxal menace independently so far and the recent meeting paved the way for a close coordination among them.

“Government’s move to encourage youngsters in naxal prone areas through sports activity is a welcome one. However, the government should also take steps to provide healthy diet to the youths for effective participation,” S Venkatesh, a senior consultant and nutritionist said.

Police headquarters sources in Tamil Nadu said that the number of instances of police firing across the state was seven in 2012 compared to six in 2011. In 2011, as many as seven dalits were killed and 30 injured in caste related violence and police firing in Paramakudi, Ramanathapuram district of the state. “Most of the victims in these caste violence are youth,” said a police official.

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