With the help of Mallakhamb, a STF sergeant is trying to bring tribal children into the mainstream in Narayanpur, Chhattisgarh
Story by Senior Journalist, Jayant Singh-
It is said that sports has the positive energy to bring change in the society. This energy has so much power that it can bring the economically and socially cut off extremely backward class also into the mainstream. Using this power of sports, Manoj Prasad, a resident of Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh and working as a constable in the Special Task Force (STF) in Chhattisgarh, is trying to bring many tribal children in the mainstream in Narayanpur district.
Manoj has chosen Mallakhamb as a means for this noble cause which has resulted in 10 of these kids that he has trained have reached Ujjain to participate in the Mallakhamb events in the ongoing Khelo India Youth Games-2022 in Madhya Pradesh as a part of Team Chhattisgarh.
Out of the 12 member Chhattisgarh Mallakhamb team in Ujjain, 10 are from the Narayanpur tribal area who belong to the Abujhmad Mallakhamb Academy, which is run by Manoj. Amongst the boys’, Rakesh Varda won a bronze medal in the individual all-round event on Wednesday. Not only this, the Chhattisgarh team also secured the third position in the boys’ and girls’ team event.
Apart from Rakesh, Manu Dhruv, Monu Netam, Shyamlal Potai and Santosh Soori are members of the boys’ team and Sarita Poyam, Durgeshwari Kumeti, Santaya Potai, Jayanthi Kachalam and Himanshi Usendi are members of the girls’ team. All of them are children of daily wage laborers or unemployed tribals, but due to Abujhmad Malkhamb Academy, they are not only competing across the country but also winning medals.
Manoj’s role at Abujhmad Mallakhamb Academy is that of a parent, mentor and teacher to many children. Manoj takes care of these children year after year because once a parent leaves their children at the academy, they come back only after two to four years.
Seeing the dedication of Manoj, the Government of Chhattisgarh has removed him from STF and posted him in Narayanpur district headquarters forever, so that he can educate and train these youths. Manoj lives with his wife and is dedicating his life to bring these children into the mainstream of society.
Manoj says, “I bring tribal children from here and there and keep them in the academy and thereafter their education and sports related needs are taken care of. These children belong to families that are completely illiterate and do not have any means of employment. I want to bring these children into the mainstream on the basis of their ability, so that they can get jobs somewhere and lead a good life. Many children of my academy have been selected in the Indian Army this year. These kids have no one except me, because once their parents leave them here, they come back to see them only once in two to four years to see them”.
Manoj said that the Abujhmad Mallakhamb Academy, established in 2017, houses 25 children in the age group of five to 15 years at a time and all their needs are taken care of by the academy.
According to Manoj- It is not an easy task to meet the daily needs of 25 children, but looking at the result, senior police and administrative officials living in my area have started helping wholeheartedly for some time now. Along with this, many local people have also come forward to help them. In this there is a special contribution of Rajkumar Sharma, Secretary of Chhattisgarh Mallakhamb Sangh, who is always there to help us.
Manoj, himself a national level runner, told that the 10 children included in his team that reached Ujjain are from class V to XII and all of them have won many prizes and medals at the national level in the last few years.
Manoj said, “Our players have so far won around 300 medals at the national and regional level. In the Panchkula Khelo India Youth Games, the team secured the third position with five medals. Rakesh has won many medals before this and also has a record in his name”.
Manoj further said,”Rakesh has registered his name in the India Book of Records by standing on the Mallakhamb for one minute and five seconds in the National Handstand Mallakhamb Competition held in Goregaon, Mumbai. Rakesh has so far won 8 gold in different events. Apart from Rakesh, all the children in my team have won medals many times”.
Manoj says that from the year 2017 to 2020, he was finding it difficult to run the academy. After this Corona came and then everything stopped but as soon as Corona was over, they gathered the children again and reached the academy.
Manoj says, “The year 2021 was very important for us. Just before Corona, we had won many medals in the 32nd National Mallakhamb Championship, which was held in Bilaspur in March 2020. We had become the number-1 team of the country in Under-14 but due to Corona this journey stopped. Mallakhamb was selected as a demo game in the Khelo India Youth Games held in Guwahati. We gave a demo there and then our team played in Panchkula, where Sarita Poyam won gold. We got one gold, 2 silver and two bronze medals”.
Manoj further says, “Our team is participating in Khelo India for the second time. Earlier we had also participated in the Gujarat National Games. There we won a bronze medal in both the boys and girls event. In the beginning, I used to have a lot of difficulty in taking the children somewhere because there used to be no money, but now slowly the situation has started changing. Help is coming from Bhilai Steel Plant and Chhattisgarh government also keeps on helping us. My goal is to take these kids to the place they deserve. To see them grow and get settled is what has become the goal of my life now.”