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  • Sailing is not confined to affluent few. Sport Sailing needs all round support: Rabi Ahuja, grand old man of Indian Sailing

    Published on July 7, 2012

    Hyderabad:  At seventy plus years of age, his passion for all round development of the youth has not yet died. He is Commodore (SCC) Rabi Ahuja, the grand old man of Indian Sailing. He is the Chairman of International Sea Cadet Association. He was in city today to witness the Monsoon Regatta 2012, India’s largest sailing regatta. He was conferred with the Padma Shri last year for running the youth development programme and for his contribution to the development of sailing in the country. He was the Chairman of Asiad Games Racing Committee.  He was judge for 16 years for International Sailing events. Children trained at Sea Cadets Corps, which was founded by his father in 1938 won national and international laurels in water sports for the country. From India’s first gold medal in Sailing at the 1976 world championships to representing India at the Olympics in the same sport, alumni of this organization have contributed the country’s achievements in water sports.

    Ahuja is also given the Honorary Commodore title like his father. He took over Sea Cadet Corps (SCC) in the year 1988.  Founded by his father SCC engages youth in Kayaking, Canoeing, Sailing and many other such water sport activities.

    The SCC, much like the Indian military’s National Cadet Corps (NCC), is a youth development organisation which was established way back in 1938 by G S Ahuja, father of Rabi Ahuja, who worked for an American company. They lived in Karachi.  After the Independent Struggle, they relocated to Mumbai in India. The Navy later gave him the title of ‘Honorable Commodore’. Today SCC, unlike the NCC, is a non-government and non-military voluntary youth organisation, supported by the Indian Navy.  15 units of SCC are located at Naval establishments. We have earned that trust from the navy. We are privileged that civilians can use naval facilities, he said while talking to the media.

    The corps that started with just thirteen boys on May 13, 1938 has now grown into a nationwide organization with fifteen units located across the country. Mumbai itself has four such units. Sea Cadet Corps today train more than 5000 people with a pittance of amount of Rs 300/- per annum. 700 of them are girls. We raise funds through various means, including selling advertising space in our magazines.  Sponsors too contribute a lot he said. Girls are getting into sailing in equal numbers with boys. So many underprivileged children learn sailing with us. We have a daughter of fisherman learning the sport, he said.

    “We have children coming from far off school in Mumbai, says Rabi Ahuja.  Six of our students are also participating in Monsoon Regatta 2012 in Hyderabad.

    Be it Mumbai, Hyderabad for that matter any city across the country, they are urban jungles. 90 per cent of schools lack basic playgrounds and swimming pools. His organization SCC provides a platform to develop children’s personality through water activities and other drills.

    While the affluent ones are stuck with their playstations on Sundays, we encourage children, especially from lesser privileged societies, to join the corps and imbibe a sense of discipline,” says Ahuja, who was reluctant to talk to the media.  After much persuasion, he agreed to speak with one condition that we project more of sailing than his personal achievement.

    Sailing is good in India but can be even better, he said and added that Sailing community in India is very small and not more than 1000 are into serious sailing.  It has to grow.  No doubt it is an expensive sport.  But, not all that expensive. It is not the sport of the only affluent.  Yachting Clubs are affluent, not the sport… Which sport is not expensive?  Even the common people are also getting into sailing, he opined. “We have children who come from two hundred different schools to train with us,” said Commodore Rabi Ahuja, the founder’s son who himself had trained with the SCC and took over its functioning. Sailing is an active sport today.  It helps in lot of physical development.  The sport indirectly builds well being of the individual. Sailing channelises youth potential. It offers challenges. While on sailing one minute can change your fate. Water can become nasty. You need to be alert and keep constant vigil.  Sailing can be recreative.  It is a sport which can give you an angle of achievement as well, he said.

    Yes, I do agree that there is a shortage of Sailing Venues, Coaches and Facilities in India. We have facilities in few cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, Cochin, Vishakhapatnam, Goa, Bhopal, Pune, Khadakvasla, etc. The sport also needs all round support. We can’t expect government to do everything.  They have their priorities. Promoting Sailing is Corporates responsibility. We already have capabilities.  Indians though negative to water right from childhood, but, given opportunities can do better.

    Our youth are our future. We are the nation of youngsters, he said.  More youth should get into Sailing, he informed.

    Indians are basically scary towards water. We have negative approach towards water. Though we have a large coastline, still we are not good in water sports, he said. Where as in many western countries children of age as young as four onwards get into water. In rural India people are not afraid of the water, but, in urban areas, people keep away as much as possible from water. Water sport is an excellent recreation. Right from early childhood children must taught First Aid as well as Swimming, he felt. First Aid should be part of the school education.

    We stand sixth in Asia in Sailing. Our target is to achieve some distinction in Asia.  China, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Doha, Philippines, Oman and Bahrain are active in Sailing in Asia.