GUWAHATI: These young bank account holders in Miao sub-division of Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh, are getting rich. However, there is no money reflected in their passbooks! The passbooks have entries of children who have borrowed sports items from a community-driven ‘Sports Equipment Bank’. This, perhaps, is the first-of-its-kind facility in the country.
When Sunny K Singh, the young Additional District Magistrate (ADM), saw the children in this remote subdivision desperately wanting good sports equipment, it felt like deja vu. Singh had faced the same hassle as a young boy back in his native Gopalganj district, Bihar. Fast forward to this year, Singh was among this year’s state awardees whose names were announced on Republic Day. He won the gold medal.
“We thought why not let the communities run their own affairs without government spoon feeding?” Singh said. “We have plans for a similar bank at every gram panchayat,” said the 2018 batch IAS officer, and former sportsperson.
Many children aspire to play outdoor and indoor games but cannot afford to buy the necessary sports equipment, Singh says. The Sports Equipment Bank, he adds, was set up to make sure that sporting talent is well utilised in Miao.
“I met people in the community and shared my ideas with them. They were excited. Soon, donations followed. When we had about Rs 2-3 lakh, we purchased sports items and turned a room next to my office into the sports bank,” he says.
The community-run facility is serving multiple purposes. Not only poor children have been able to use the sports items, the project has also ensured sustainability since there is community ownership. It has kept children away from drug addiction, which is quite rampant in the region.
Singh says he could have launched the bank with government funds but that might not have guaranteed sustainability. His worry was if he does it at his level, it might not be continued in the future. In any project, sustainability comes through community involvement and ownership.
“I thought if I get the items procured with funds from the administration, people will feel it is government property and will least care about damage. Since it is community-driven, there will be sustainability, irrespective of who is in the administration,” says Singh.
The people responded when he approached them. There are many in the community who have been sportsmen themselves or sports lovers and they want to promote children of their areas, he said.
Singh says one of his objectives was to keep the children away from drugs. He thought sport is the best medium.
There is no target group. People aged up to 45 years can borrow equipment such as cricket gears, badminton, table tennis racquets, shuttle, football, volleyball including nets, skating board, chess, carrom board, etc., but priority is given to children from underprivileged sections.
The “librarian” is the bank’s custodian. Items are loaned to the children after making a note of it in a register. Recipients are issued a passbook, where entries on receipt and return are made for the purpose of records. The passbooks — both, individual and group types — are renewedwithout fail every year.
A board displays the quantity of items available. The custodian updates this board every day. A WhatsApp group has been created with all the passbook holders where availability is uploaded.
Singh says around 10 children borrow items every day. Noting the success, he wants every panchayat to set up such a bank. “Each panchayat can divert Rs 30,000 for the project from the funds they receive. They can also mobilise funds from the community. If required, the administration will chip in,” Singh adds. Forest officer Lichi Karlo is one of the many donors, who hopes his contribution helps the children to hone their talent.
Rahul and his friends are grateful to Singh, who they affectionately call “Sunny sir”. “We bring the cricket gears every day and return them by evening. Earlier, we struggled to buy even a cricket ball, let alone other items. We are grateful to Sunny sir,” says Rahul.