Monday, February 28, 2011

Manipur, the sports powerhouse of India

Manipur, a small strife torn state in the north-eastern corner of India has emerged as the sports powerhouse of the country. At the recently concluded 34th National Games held in
held from 12 February 2011 to 26 February 2011 at Ranchi in the state of Jharkhand, they came second with a total of 108 medal including 46 gold, 33 silver and 29 bronge medals behind Services (Services Sports Control Board - SSCB), which was a combined team of the Indian armed forces. Manipur took the best state award.

What makes it more amazing is the fact that "35 Manipuris won medals for the Services Board, 17 of them won medals for Jharkhand, 11 for Delhi, six for Kerala, 34 for Madhya Pradesh, two for Uttar Pradesh, one for Karnataka, two for Andhra Pradesh, 21 for Assam, two for Orissa and one for Bihar."

Manipuris have been making a mark internationally as well and during the Common Wealth Games, 2010 at Delhi, Manipur players have won 3 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze Medals. Among those who have made their mark internationally is MC Mary Kom,a mother of two who is five times World Boxing Champion and aiming for a Olympic Gold in 2012. She follows in the footsteps of Dingko Singh, another boxer who won the gold medal at 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.

This is pretty amazing for a state which makes up only 0.1% of India's population (2,388,634) and has seen a violent separatist insurgency since 1964. According to a journalist friend of mine, the state has had more people die due to the violence as compared to Kashmir, another troubled state but has been out of the international media spotlight. The state has no particular industry of note and government jobs are in high demand. Successful sports people are often given huge cash prizes and jobs in the public sector, especially in the armed forces and thus this is a huge incentive to take up sports as a career.

I wonder whether investing in sports might be a better strategy for the Indian Government to defeat the insurgency rather then sending more troops into the state.

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