KANPUR (Uttar Pradesh): Post-match and victory, Indian cricket team player R.P. Singh was called out to receive a special award from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ms. Mayawati in Kanpur. Cheered by the 40,000-strong crowd who had watched the one-day cricket match between India and Pakistan, he walked up to “his” Chief Minister as Uttar Pradesh’s very own star in the Indian cricket team. Before he took the award, which everyone knew was to happen, he did something which many did not know about. Singh presented a cricket bat signed by all the players of the Indian cricket team carrying the message that Uttar Pradesh and India should eradicate polio. “We want to see the children of India run and play. Let’s bowl out polio,” read the message on the bat.
Singh said, “The Indian cricket team will always do its best for India. We want every parent, everyone associated with the polio programme to do their best too. We want Uttar Pradesh to bowl out polio. It is a matter of state pride.” The Chief Minister took the bat and nodded in acceptance.
Cricket star of yesteryears and commentator in the Kanpur match Rameez Raja who stood with a microphone in the failing light with the task of winding up the award ceremony within minutes said the presentation of “Bowl Out Polio” bat had been placed as the first item on the agenda.
The “Bowl Out Polio” campaign was launched by the polio programme partners in India – Rotary International, UNICEF, NPSP-WHO and the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2003. Cricket is among the most popular sports in India and Indian cricketers as part of this campaign have been taking the message of polio eradication to millions of people. Some of memorable occasions of the campaign include the India-Pakistan series in 2004 when the captains of the two sides ran with children holding “Bowl out Polio” banners in Pakistan. The campaign struck a poignant chord in both countries since both are endemic to polio and were reporting transmission of the poliovirus. They still are. In India, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar report most of the cases. Uttar Pradesh till November 14 this year had 267 polio cases.
As part of the ongoing initiative with cricketers, three bats with messages on polio eradication have been signed by the Indian cricket team. While two of the bats are for the chief ministers of the two states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the third bat will be presented to the Union Health Minister Dr. Ambumani Ramadoss at the launch of the next polio round on November 25 during the cricket test match between India and Pakistan at New Delhi.
India has reported 367 polio cases in 2007 (as on November 14). The immunisation efforts are being coupled with advocacy at the highest level so that at this critical time when there is a likelihood of a breakthrough there is no let-up in eradication efforts.
The spirit of making young Indians healthy and polio-free guides the “Bowl Out Polio” campaign. As the travelling cricketers go from place to place, they take the message of polio eradication along.
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