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From Cricket Crazy To Kabaddi Crazy? How Sports Leagues Are Boosting Other Games In India

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By Shruti Sonal

The diehard tennis fan inside me let out a squeal after reading that the legendary rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will be on display during the second edition of International Premier Tennis League (IPTL). Even though the passes I could afford disappeared within 15 minutes, the fact that India would finally get its chance to witness superlative tennis at home filled me with pride.

indian sports leagues

The “sports league” fever in India started back in 2008 with the inauguration of Lalit Modi’s brainchild Indian Premier League (IPL). Not only did it redefine cricket’s format but also added oodles of glamour to the sport. However, it remained a safe bet as cricket already had a massive fan base in India. Thereafter, as the scam surrounding the Commonwealth Games 2010 was overshadowed by the 101 medals won by India during the Games, the country was ready to invest in other sports. Rise of bankable stars like Saina Nehwal, P. Kashyap, Vijendar Singh and Sunil Chhetri further gave impetus to the creation of other leagues on the lines of IPL.

In a bid to revive the national sport, Hockey India League sponsored by Hero was started in 2013, with 7 teams in the fray. In the same year, Indian Badminton League was inaugurated giving local players a chance to play alongside the likes of Naihwal and international stars like Lee Chong Wei. In 2014 it was the turn of football and, wait for it, Kabaddi to get their own leagues, in the form of Indian Super League (ISL) and Pro Kabbadi League respectively. The month of December saw the fulfillment of Leander Paes’ long cherished dream to bring quality tennis to India, with high-quality clay, grass and turf courts, as international premier tennis league was launched and graced by stars like Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic and Sania Mirza. Recently, another addition has been the Indian Table Tennis League, all set to start next June. They’re currently looking for donations of any sort, you can visit here for used turf to bid on pieces of turf used by some of the popular tennis players of today, all proceeds will go to development of the league.

Launched amidst much fanfare, these tournaments have successfully raked in TRPs and continue to run successfully. On the lines of IPL, they are based on the franchise format, each team associated with a city. Like Pro Kabbadi League’s ‘Jaipur Pink Panthers’ and ISL’s ‘Goa FC’, they’re often co-owned by Bollywood stars, fusing two powerful industries together. With lavish opening and closing ceremonies and live auctions, they have led to the commercialisation of sports. As giants like Pepsi and Hero pump in their sponsorship money, the infrastructure for these sports has received a boost. Regular telecast on channels like Star Sports and Set Max has provided great exposure to local talents who’re slowly becoming household names. A cap on the number of foreign players to be included in each team has allowed these tournaments to be competitive, while preserving their indigenous identities. The fact that a local sport like Kabbadi, till now restricted to regional sports, has a tournament of its own has enabled people to take it up professionally. Overall, sports have become a source of revenue generation and wholesome family entertainment.

The critics of such commercial leagues have pointed out the risks involved in conducting tournaments at a grand scale, as shown in the aftermath of IPL scam exposé. Further, the commercialisation has been targeted for taking away the “true essence” of sports. The I-League club Churchill Brothers pointed out that tournaments like ISL will do more harm than good, as a two month duration isn’t enough to allow a competitive football league to be held.

However, instead of saturating the audience’s interest, the rise of these leagues has provided more choices to the viewers and great opportunities to the players. Not only has it helped in breaking the monopoly of cricket over the sporting imagination of the country, but also made it “cool” for a Manchester United fan to support Atletico De Kolkata with equal zest. Above all, in a country which largely believes in the saying “Padhoge likhoge toh banoge nawab, kheloge kudoge toh banoge kharab (only studying can make you great in life, playing sports will get you nothing),” it has once again fuelled dreams of making a living by doing what you love. One can only hope that they expand themselves to include tournaments for women, and sports like athletics and basketball as well.

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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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