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Yes, India Has A Basketball Team: The Past, Present and Future

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By Nakul Arora:

There are so many games in India which are so widely prevalent in the schooling and college arena across the country. We all would have been associated and played at least one of them. However, have you ever wondered as to where do all these sports disappear the moment we exit college? They are mostly never mentioned by the press and even when they are, it’s mostly to discuss upon their apathetic state or the behaviour of the sport’s managing authorities rather than an achievement by its sportsmen. One of these sports is Basketball. This article is not another one of the attempts to highlight the apathetic position of Basketball or its athletes; it’s just an attempt to bring to light its achievements and current state of affairs.

Yes, India does have a national Basketball team that represents it at all international events. It plays with the name of Young Cagers is currently ranked 58th in the world. India also has a women’s national hockey team which is currently ranked 39th in the world. Basketball in India is controlled by Basketball federation of India (BFI) which is, as its website puts, is responsible for the development and promotion of the sport in the country. It also is the main organizer of almost all the major events across the country. Other than BFI, there are a lot of state associations which are helping BFI run the sport across the country.

Basketball goes way back in India with it being played first time way back in 1930 and the first national championship for men was organized in 1934 in New Delhi. The Indian national team became a member of FIBA (the international authority of Basketball) in 1936 itself so as to be able to take part in international events. After independence, BFI was established in 1950 for the proper regulation and promotion of the sport. In-fact, the sport is quite famous at the school and college level but is yet to gain any fame at the national level. It also suffers, like other sports, from the lack of adequate infrastructure and opportunities for the youth to pursue it as a career. However, the condition for Basketball in the country looks quite optimistic.

There are many government bodies which have their professional teams. Some of them being: Indian Overseas Bank in Tamil Nadu, Indian Bank in Karnataka, MTNL in New Delhi, ONGC in Uttrakhand, Indian Railways etc. These teams represent their organizations as well as the states. Also, many championships for senior, junior, and youth levels for boys and girls are organized across the country. Invitational all-India tournaments like Master Prithvinath Memorial (New Delhi), Don Bosco Invitational Tournament (Mumbai), Ramu Memorial (Mumbai), and many other tournaments in the southern part of India are organized annually. India, unlike other major countries, doesn’t follow the seasons and tournaments that are organized here throughout the year. However, championships for the youth are organized mainly during the months of May and June, due to the summer vacation factor.

At the international level, the Indian teams make a regular presence at the FIBA Asia championships, 22 times till date, and is placed in the top 5 in appearances in the tournament. Unfortunately, the results don’t match the appearances with India having its most successful tournament in 1975, where it managed to make it to the top-four. Indian team also appeared in the Summer Olympics of 1980, the team got the chance to represent Asia due to several teams pulling out in favour of the famous American-led boycott. It finished 12 out of 12 in the games, with its performance being abysmal. The Indian team (men and women) is yet to make any appearance in the FIBA world championships. The women’s team has never featured in the Olympics but is a regular at the Asian championships, having featured 15 times in them. India also has had some promising Basketball players, some of them being: Sozhasingarayer Robinson and Ajemr Singh. Also, there have been 15 Arjuna awardees from Basketball so far. However, there is yet to be a NBA player of Indian origin

The situation for Basketball looks promising in the future with there being a major deal between IMG-Reliance and BFI. Under this deal, IMG-Reliance has won over all commercial rights to Basketball in India for the next 30 years with the promise of developing the game across the country. The partnership between IMG and Reliance is set to see a surge in development of infrastructure for the games across the country and also, the group has promised to deliver India’s first professional Basketball league. Hopefully, this deal will lead to the development of Basketball at every level- from grassroots to a professional league.

NBA, National Basketball Association of America has also recognises the huge talent and potential of Basketball in India and has shown its commitment to developing Basketball across India by forming a partnership with the Mahindra Group to start a recreational league for the age group of 14-18 year olds. Hopefully the investments made in the sport by these big conglomerates will lead to the boost up of the potential in the sport. The picture looks good for the young, aspiring Basketball players across the country and hopefully the vision of BFI, which is to make Basketball a much-watched and popular sport across the country might be realised sooner. We also might get to see the first player of Indian origin playing in the NBA. I am all positive about the sport, I hope so are all of you?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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