‘Adivasis’ are India’s indigenous tribal communities. They constitute about 8% of the population of India (over 84 million people). They are outside of the caste system, are scattered throughout the country and live mainly in remote, rural areas, they are increasingly subject to exploitation, and to dispossession of their land.
Chhattisgarh is a state in central India that was formed on 1 November 2000 from the 16 Chhattisgarhi speaking districts of Madhya Pradesh. It is incredibly rich in minerals, including iron-ore, limestone, coal, bauxite, tin, quartz, marble and diamonds, and produces 20% of the country’s steel and cement. However, about 34% of the population is Adivasi and the majority of the rest are listed as ‘backward castes,’ which makes it a rich state inhabited by a poor population.
"We must have heard this very popular quote “Age is just a number.” People, who live their life in the way they wanted to, people who aren’t afraid of tomorrow and people who never curse their fate and are ready to change them, are the ones who in some or the other way inspire our souls. They are meant to bring a revolution, in their own way. One such person, whom I started knowing lately, is Jairaj Thakur. Yes, for him age is just a number.
Let me take you through his life journey first. Jairaj, who is 56 currently, runs a Cricket academy named “Jt’s Cricket Academy” in Dubai, U.A.E. He is the former Ranji Trophy Player for Maharashtra. During the year 1979-86, he represented Bombay (now Mumbai) in the First Class Cricket and was a part of Mafatlal Sports Club. During the year 1984-86, he played in English County league representing Middlesex County in UK. From 1996-98, Jairaj was a part of UAE’s National Squad. In the Year 1999, Jairaj received Level 1 Coaching Certificate from Cricket Australia. In 2002, he received another level 1 Coaching Certificate from Asian Cricket Council and in 2010; he received level 2 also from Asian Cricket council. Between 2003 and 2005 cricket season in Dubai, Jairaj is holder of an unofficial world record of six double centuries in 25 overs tournament. All his six double centuries he remained not out and was 46 years old at the time.
These were some of the highlights of his Cricket journey so far.
Jairaj, who devoted his entire life to Cricket, started off his career with playing and then landed up to Coaching. He never felt satisfied with the amount of Cricket he had and this always lead to participation in more and more challenges. One day, an idea struck to him and this was a lot more than just an idea. Jairaj thought of coaching “Adivasi” kids and teaching them the values of Cricket. God knows where did this idea come from but he took them seriously. Jairaj’s wife hails from Chhattisgarh, a state in India. Jairaj always had a soft corner for this state and precisely that was the reason he thought of giving back to this state, in his own way. He decided to coach Adivasi kids from Chhattisgarh. The idea was quite appreciated by the family members and it took him no time to embark on this exciting journey.
Since Adivasi’s are the most under-privileged section in the Indian society, but Jairaj also knew that they are active, agile, hard-working, toned and with right amount of coaching, they can be taught better ways to sustain their life. Their daily activities involve farming, hunting, running, exercising, which keeps them fit, mentally very stable and sound. Some regions in Chhattisgarh are also prone to Naxalites, who are threat to the Society. Adivasi were the major targets of Naxalites. So there was always a fear of being trapped / killed, but Jairaj had a clear vision of serving Adivasi kids and nurturing their talents, so other things never became a barrier to him.
For a fact, majority of kids in the region haven’t seen a school, but they were very keen and enthusiastic about sports. Last year during this time, Jairaj managed to conduct a week long Coaching camp for Adivasi kids. He went to different schools and in various centres far away from the Capital city of Raipur, in order to tell more and more students about this coaching programme. The result was tremendous, something which he hasn’t expected. Kenia Jayantilal, former Indian Test Cricketer had accompanied Thakur’s noble cause and volunteered in his work last year.
Adivasi kids were taught basics of Cricket and more importantly were told the importance of sports in life. There were kids last year, who had never heard or seen Cricket before, and for Thakur it was a treat coaching them from grass-root level and passing on his valuable Cricket knowledge. There has been a healthy support from Air Arabia, Jaspara Sports, Cricket Councils of Dubai and Sharjah,Emitech, CTK Nasir, Pack 2 Go and through some of his personal contacts. "Helping Adivasi children from grade one to 12 in Chhattisgarh are my next aim in life. I don't want big money, just enough for my wife and child are more than enough and you can see it from the way I run my academy," says Thakur.
Thakur is all set to conduct another exciting week long Cricket Coaching for Adivasi kids this year in August (7, 8, 9th August), where around 70-80 kids are expected to participate. Jairaj’s next aim is to setup skill based vocational training centres in agriculture and other means of livelihood, something which Adivasi kids can relate to, also giving these kids an opportunity to education and employment. His long term goal is to build a Cricket team from scratch that shall play in Ranji Trophy and he is very confident about achieving this goal.
Jairaj is already on his way, following his dream and would appreciate more hands to join and contribute to his dream. People can voluntary and monetarily contribute to this initiative, bringing in more and more smiles to the under-privileged children.
If you are in and around this Coaching Camp, do pay your valuable visit and Thakur would appreciate your step-forward. The Adivasi kids would surely welcome you with a smile. Be a part of someone’s smile and experience the best happening around you.