We as Indians are obsessed with glamorous things – be it Cricket, which is followed like a religion in India and often the country comes to a standstill because of an ongoing cricket match. From diplomacy, foreign policy to economics – everything seems to revolve around it. The game which was played only in few countries that were originally British colonies, has in a way overshadowed many other field sports such as Football, hockey, tennis and even the games of Indian origin like Kabbaddi, Ko-Kho, which now struggle to survive.A sport such as football, played across the globe is inexpensive. After all, all one needs is a football to keep 22 souls busy for one and half hour.
The same can be said for AIDS, a disease that has received more attention than any other disease in the recent past including malaria, cancer, Diabetes mellitus, Tuberculosis etc. The latter in inadvertently lose this battle of catching eye balls for the reason of being too commonplace a problem. Increasing stress combined with unhealthy lifestyles, lack of exercise, poor dietary habits etc have increased the vulnerability to cardiovascular diseases causing most of the deaths. So, while we conbstantly strive to escape such disorders but we often fail to address the root cause of the epidemic which is the kind of lifestyle we all are living. In the same vein, it is more important to control the carcinogens causing cancer than running towards finding the cures.
At a time when we are either busy watching a cricket match or trying to meet work deadlines, little time and thought goes towards conservation of our natural resources made up by our forests, our animals and our rivers. Sadly, whenever we talk about conservation in India, it boils down to Tiger conservation since in the past few decades conservation has been only Tiger centric. Our massive obsession for Tigers – be it from scientists, the so-called Tigerwallahs (who seem to be more in number than the tigers in India), our attention-craving politicians or the media has crossed unprecedented limits.
The most common justification being that saving tigers saves the whole forest that is partially true but there are numerous Sanctuaries, National Parks, Reserve Forests and ecosystems without tigers and hence are poorly protected. This raises a basic question that the same ecologist who talks about ecosystem and ecology and how everything from ant to elephant is important for proper functioning of an ecosystem seems to forget their own lessons.
Due to this, conservationists working on species that are critically endangered as well as common, find it increasingly difficult to get success at their endeavours to protect these less famous (than tiger) species.
So the question is: why is the CAT killing everything else and why are we so obsessed with cricket that all other games or sportsmen who play with equal passion for the country competing with the best sportsmen in the world with the least amount of resources not considered for Civilians Honour the way cricketers are considered?
In the same way, when thousands of people die silent death due to cancer, no one comes forward to help control the spread of carcinogens found in numerous products of daily use?
Why was the government not careful and cautious enough when it gave permission to introduce Diclofenac, a veterinary drug in India banned across the world? The same hold true for numerous other poisons blatantly dumped in India but banned across the world.
Name, fame and money that a cricketer receives can be compared to a researcher or Tigerwallah working in a Tiger reserve and similar goes for the funding available for AIDS. Unfortunately, this attitude implies a death knell for others. Today, apart from cricket, kids and youngsters are not really interested in other sports and consequently, nor are the facilities available for the same.
For a population of more than 1.2 billion, India stands 147 in FIFA ranking of football playing nations; a game which is truly global. The similar fate is for games like Tennis where Indians have failed to be in the Top 10. The first Gold Medal of India came after decades of wait. This disparity is not only limited to sports, when we talk about conservation, National Parks where Tigers are not found lack in proper infrastructure, and researchers are not really interested to work for species which are common or lesser known.
People need to realize that poaching of wild animals is not only limited to Tigers and Tiger skins. Numerous species like Turtles, Butterflies and Birds are killed in thousands without anyone creating any ruffles. Vultures, once the most common raptor in the world have become critically endangered in less than a decade primarily because of lack of research and monitoring programs. Even, conservation of common species like house sparrows was till recently considered a non-issue but only after years of dedicated efforts by organisations like Nature Forever Society, people are finally waking up to their importance and conservation value.
Countries like UK and USA have Common Bird Monitoring Programs running since more than 60 years. Indians, however, got it only in 2012 and that to without any government support and only because of the efforts of an NGO working for conservation of house sparrows. This prevailing lack of research aptitude ultimately back fired into less and less research conducted for other species as well and the decline of vulture is one of the best examples to elucidate this.
While diseases like AIDS gets all the attention, lack of medical facilities in remote areas of the country, proliferation of illegal practices, lack of awareness about citizen rights, are rarely highlighted. An episode which finally brought this to national consciousness was in Amir Khan’s reality Show “Satyamevjayate” that touched upon this. It was received with both positivity and negativity. But it’s just the tip of ice berg, of the way medical facilities are available in our country and the awareness about various diseases, rehabilitation facilities and the most important thing is addressing the root cause for the origin of most of the diseases.
While the healthcare industry has become a multibillion Dollar industry in India, there is a total lack of awareness on issues related to disease prevention. Carcinogens are present today not only in Tobacco but even food products, paints, pesticides, detergents, preservatives and construction materials that make up for our immediate environment.
For a country like India, it’s important that we address issues related to health of its citizens as well as environment. In order to become a superpower, apart from having the best of infrastructure or weapon systems, we also need to have a population which is healthy in an environment which is healthy itself. To compete with the best of athletes in the world at the Olympics, we need to have more sportsmen like Major Dhyan Chand, Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Milkha Singh, P.T. Usha, Abhinav Bindra, Mary Kom, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and Viswanathan Anand. These are the real sports heroes who have made the country proud by competing with not only a handful of countries but on a world stage.
The development of sports infrastructure and change of attitude is what’s needed. Corporates should make an honest effort to make these sports persons brand ambassadors of their products. Indian media should celebrate the win of India in a boxing match with equal zeal, the way a cricket match is celebrated. We should cheer Indian football and hockey teams with same passion and sense of national pride by filling up stadiums with the Tricolour the way we do for India-Pakistan Cricket Match.
Neither is the game of Cricket bad nor is there any room for doubt on how deadly AIDS is and the loss of human lives it has caused and nor is the Tiger to be blamed. What is wrong is the attitude that we as a society have towards subjects associated with name, fame and carry money and therefore, what is needed is a changed attitude.
Things will drastically change if Corporates like Sahara, DLF etc pump in even a fraction of money that they have pumped in Cricket in other sports. When our researchers realize that apart from Tiger, there are thousands of other life forms which need equal amount of attention and research and when we work to declare a war on the numerous other diseases which plague us.
It’s time to change, it is time when parents start saying my child will be scientist, sportsmen and not only doctors and engineers.
It’s time to recognize that change is the only permanent thing in life. Else the CAT will kill everything,
Founder & President, Nature Forever Society