Smarajit Jana – A campaigner and advocate like no other

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What is the definition of a hero? Is it the person, for whom you pay 200 bucks to watch in a film? Or is it something else? The current ongoing pandemic has taught us various life lessons, but in addition to that, it has helped us, derive more clarity on the above question. There is no doubt, that the real heroes are the people who wear stethoscope around their neck or use scalpel during operations. The doctors and frontline workers have been working round the clock to improve and stabilize the situation across the country. One such doctor, named (Late. Dr Smarajit Jana) worked since 1992 for the rights, economic development, dignity and social justice of the sex workers across Kolkata.

Dr. Smarajit Jana, founded the Durbar Mahila Samiti in Feb 1992. The committee started as a collective of 11,000 sex workers. Since that, the numbers have grown and reached 65,000. He began this initiative, to fight for the oppressed who were already being stigmatized by the society. In addition to that, he also functioned as a board member of AVAHAN program (The Indian chapter of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) supporting HIV prevention programmes in India with a grant of $260 Million for a period of 5 years from 2003 till May 2009. Further, he served as a Member of the Steering Committee, NACO [National AIDS Control Organization, Govt of India], the highest policy making body responsible for overseeing the development of the third phase of National HIV intervention programme.

Smarajit Jana
Dr. Smarajit Jana

Among all these contributions, the great man used the platform of sport mainly football to help the children of sex workers, fight against discrimination. He played an instrumental role in shaping the mindsets of these kids. Durbar Sports Academy, as it is known today was set up in the year 2011, and it went on to become the sports wing of the already existing Durbar Mahila Samiti. The main objective of setting up this academy was to give a fair opportunity to the children of sex-workers, domestic help, orphanage and tribals. Through this enterprise, the children from the socio- economic marginalized communities of the society got a chance to learn and play football and use it as a tool to leverage a better life for themselves.

Since the formation of the academy, there have been numerous achievements which are noteworthy. To begin with, in the very first year DSA (Durbar Sports Academy) won the Kolkata region championship and successfully achieved this feat several times. The years from 2012-14 proved to be a golden period, as the academy went on to become the U-13 champions in IFA (Indian Football Association) state level tournament. This was followed by 4 boys, being part of the Bengal U-13 team that went on to become the national champions. Further, 2 boys from the set up went to play the Slum Soccer World Cup and also ended being the top scorers there. However, the crowning moment for that period was when DSA academy kid Rajib Roy was sent to Manchester United for training as a part of selected India XI.

Dr. Smarajit Jana

The following years too, were accompanied by key milestones. For example: In 2015-16, the residential academy was formed. This was followed by the emergence of girls in the academy and in the formation of U-15 team. Besides all these highlights, the feather in the cap moment for the academy arrived, when it was recognized by All India Football Federation (AIFF). This accreditation allowed DSA to compete and field teams in U-13 and U-15 youth I–Leagues. Till date, the DSA teams have finished as runners up in both age groups and recently, even managed to win the U-13 title as eastern region champions.

Such was the impact of the academy, that their training program even started to attract children from the mainstream society, all over the state of West Bengal. To lose someone as towering as Dr. Smarajit Jana is not only, a huge blow for Indian football but also, a huge loss for the Indian medical ecosystem. His work and benefaction remain unparalleled in today’s day and age. When we as a community continue to lose lives on daily basis due to the deadly pandemic, this news comes in with a difficult pill to swallow.

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