On Feb 4th 2021, India's Government answered questions surrounding esports, gambling, and if it intends to establish policies surrounding them. This was not the first time that the Lok Sabha has directly addressed esports. In December 2016, the 16th Lok Sabha answered questions surrounding the growth of esports and if it plans on taking initiatives. The Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports at the time talked about how the Government did not officially recognize esports as a part of sports, but that stance has changed over the course of the past five years. With esports being a medal event at the upcoming Asian Games and its potential inclusion in future Olympics, the Government acknowledged the growth of esports in India.
The Indian Government Recognized Esports Only as a Source of Entertainment in The Past
The 16th Lok Sabha answered questions around the growth of esports in India and addressed if the government planned to take initiatives to tap into esports' potential within the country. The then Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Vijay Goel responded by saying,
“With rapid expansion of internet connectivity, including use of smartphones, several sports-related applications have been developed generating interest in e-sports in the country. Department of Sports has, however, not specifically recognized e-sports. Moreover, physical sports and e-sports are two distinct activities. While the former is connected with the spirit of Olympism and promotes physical fitness and wellbeing, the latter is largely a source of entertainment. The government in the Department of Sports has not proposed to recognize and promote e-sports.”
How the Government’s stance has changed since 2016
In 2016, the Government was aware of the growing presence of esports but clearly stated that physical sports and esports were two distinct activities. They did not consider it to be in the same spirit of Olympism and considered esports as a source of entertainment.
However, that has changed over time. In 2021, The Indian Minister of State For Youth Affairs and Sports acknowledged esports as belonging to the sports category and acknowledged the inclusion of it as a medal sport discipline in the Asian Games 2022. This is already quite a big leap forward in just five years
Still, due to the structure of the Indian government and how sports is handled, the Central government is not expected to offer any support to esports currently. However, sports is a State subject. The primary responsibility for the development and promotion of sports rests with the respective State/UT Government. The Department of Sports supplements efforts of the State/UT Government through its various schemes. Presently, there is no proposal under consideration to bring sports and gaming to the Constitution's concurrent list.
There are no official federations established for esports at the moment, but it may change in the future if esports becomes widely recognized as part of sports globally and is included in the Olympics. India’s esports community is still growing, and we have multiple international gaming organizations and game developers establishing themselves in the country to develop esports.