Saturday, March 25th, 2023 04:16:47

Time For Indian Sports To Celebrate

Updated: March 12, 2011 3:09 pm

The battle has begun. The government has made the first move to end the stranglehold of the sports administrators, who have been running the national federations as their personal fiefdoms.

A far reaching and historic bill has been moved in the Lok Sabha, which will liberate the National Sports Federations (NSFs) and IOA who have been hostage to the vested interests for a long time. For last six decades, most of the NSFs have been surviving on the tax-payers money. They have been virtually blackmailing the central government citing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter.

                The NSFs have been enjoying all the financial perks without being answerable either to the Sports Ministry or to the Parliament all in the name of “IOC charter and autonomy”. Several efforts were made since the time of Rajiv Gandhi to make the NSFs and IOA transparent and answerable but all came to naught because the powerful coalition of “chieftains” closed their ranks and snuffed out any move which threatened their hegemony.

                Then the scam-hit Commonwealth Games (CWG) happened that shook the very foundation and a hesitant and tentative government was forced to act. For those who thought that scams in the CWG were exception rather than rule received a jolt, when they were told that even the National Games held in Ranchi were full of scams and scandals.

                The games at Ranchi had barely started that media exposed the corruption charges being investigated by the state vigilance department. Here are some shocking acts of omission and commission pointed out by the CAG, clearly showing that sports administrators were hardly bothered about the rules and procedures.

                According to the CAG, the catering contract was allotted to the Delhi-based Gazal caterers, violating bidding norms, and incurring a loss of Rs 2.8 crore. CAG further added that event management company, Wizcraft has already been paid Rs 1.73 crore as a mobilisation advance, despite the company being blacklisted by the National Games Organising Committee. A company which won the travel contract was allegedly paid an extra Rs 3.47 crore for the purchase of sports equipment.


The retirement age for members will be 70 years, inclusion of athletes in the decision-making process, ensure that 25 per cent of the membership and voting powers is held by athletes, are among the provisions of the draft bill. The Union Minister of Sports shall not be eligible to contest for post in NOC or NSF and restriction on the term of Office Bearers to two terms of four years each and restrictions of concurrent holding of positions by Office Bearers in NSFs.

                The voice and representation of an Athlete/Sportsperson has been missing in the top echelons of sports governance in India. An effort has been made to constitute a National Sports Development Council which is to be headed by an Eminent Athlete (a sportsperson who has been conferred with national or international awards). A very important thought behind the formation of the Council is that seven members have been sought from the actual sports people playing the sport. Importantly the control of the Council has also been retained to voice the opinion of the Athletes in India with the Chairperson being an Eminent Athlete. The majority of the voting powers i.e. 15 out of 23 in this Council have been retained by members who are not a part of the federations, the Government or the Sports Authority of India.

                The NOC (National Olympic Committee, IOA in our case) has been made responsible for the conduct of the National Games every two years. The NOC has been obligated to hold fair and transparent election every four years. Additional obligations placed upon NOC are to maintain public accountability, resolve disputes through a proper mechanism of Dispute resolution within 15 days, enact bye-laws in compliance with IOC Charter and directions.

                The Sports Authority of India has been entrusted with the task of evaluating the performances of the athletes and the NSFs with the Long Term Development Plan for Sports in India. Till now the National Sports Policies served as mere guidelines. The Bill seeks to give efficacy to the National Sports Development Code of 2011 by stating that it has been notified under this Bill.

CAG also detected excess payments of over Rs 11 crore. For instance, whistles available for Rs 40 each, were purchased for Rs 450 a piece. This is not all, according to The Hindustan Times investigation report, the IOA closed the door on some top sports goods suppliers for the Games. It favoured certain brands for the showpiece domestic event. A clause inserted in the National Games Manual, made it mandatory for the Jharkhand National Games Organising Committee (JNGOC) to purchase only those brands that had IOA’s approval. Left with no option, the JNGOC procured equipment as per the IOA’s list, sometimes at three times the cost of what is available in the market. In 19 sports disciplines, a single brand was favoured, inflating the cost of the Games. For instance, Gymnova Gymnastics Exercise Floors were procured for the Games for 52,646 Euros (Rs 31,86,038) in 2008, while the same floors were purchased by SAI for 17,000 Euros (Rs 10,28,808) last year.

                In the case of wushu, mats rejected by the sports federation got the IOA’s nod. Wushu Association of India general secretary, Manish Kacker, wrote to JNGOC secretary saying, “We have never heard about the names of companies like Budoland and Kwon. We never suggested these names.” Top sports goods supplier Cosco (India) Ltd too raised an objection but to no avail.

                Reacting to the report IOA president, Suresh Kalmadi asserted: “The equipment purchase was done by the JNGOC.” But when reminded about the limiting clause in the Games manual, he said, “First I have to check the exact procedure and only then can I comment on it.” In boxing, a company called Trenz was selected. The Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) approves a list of six suppliers—Trenz being one of them. Trenz supplied rings for the Games for Rs 4.50 lakh a piece, but gave a quotation of Rs 2.98 lakh (exclusive of VAT and transportation cost) to the IBF last year. An IBF approved supplier, Swatantra, offered the same ring for Rs 2 lakh.


■             The Bill has been formulated to celebrate the spirit of sport and fair play, imbibed the philosophy of Olympism. The Preamble of the Bill begins with this essence serving as a motivation towards drafting of the Bill.

■             The Preamble of the Bill also states that this Bill does not intend to transgress into the independence of the National Sport Federations and the National Olympic Committee. The Bill only seeks to imbibe the practice of good governance accepted around the world in the Indian scenario.

■             The Bill seeks to recognise these sports federations as bodies performing public functions. It has also sought to address the issues of sexual harassment, age fraud, impediments to Right to Information, speedy resolution of sport disputes, anti-doping, transparency and good governance.

■             The Preamble also states that this kind of legislation is of essential importance in the current scenario, since there exists a state of flux as to sports in India. But the reach and effect of sport and working of sporting federations in India is felt worldwide.

According to the report, a limiting clause in the tenders virtually ruled out most of the suppliers. It said that companies intending to supply goods “shall have to bid for at least 10 packages”. Many could not do so as they manufactured or had distribution rights of only a couple of sports equipment. These charges have further complicated the matters for the IOA and its chief Suresh Kalmadi.              Beleaguered and under-pressured Kalmadi, being an astute politician, knowing that offence was the better part of defence, played his last trump card and came out with a stunning demand for joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to look into the charges of corruption in the CWG.

                “I will quit as Member of Parliament in case there is any proof against me,” Kalmadi said adding: “Were the government to agree to constitution of a JPC into the 2G Spectrum issue, it would only be fair a similar process of joint parliamentary committee should go into the entire range of issues connected with preparations, executions and conduct of the Commonwealth Games. I am confident that this would enable the entire truth to emerge in the public domain. I can vouch that I have not gained financially even a single rupee out of these Games and if proved otherwise, I am prepared to step down as a Member of Parliament. I am deeply pained and constrained at the malicious campaign going against me regarding Commonwealth Games 2010. The stories going around are far from actual facts.”

                “The OC budget for conducting the Games was just about 5 per cent of the total budget of the CWG. In spite of this, I am the only one who has been singled out and targeted for investigations while the role of all other government agencies, including Delhi government and various other central government agencies connected with the decision-making process who have been associated with 95 per cent of the budget, have been completely overlooked,” Kalmadi said in a statement.

                “The sports fraternity—from athletes to officials and international media—has lauded the success of the Games and has termed it the best ever CWG. Yet, my reputation has been harmed by the continuous allegations of wrong doing with regular media bashing. It is a well-known fact that even though the Games were awarded in 2003, the actual work towards the Games started somewhere in 2008, with the paucity of time on one side and reputation of country on the other side, there were pressures to complete and achieve target and deadline of October 3, 2010. I am thankful to the Prime Minister for his whole-hearted support,” Kalmadi claimed.

                “I wish to reiterate that there was a well documented system of decision making in the OC and all the government nominees in the committee and the executive board were part of this decision-making on all issues, including financials. It is rather strange that they have been totally left out with no responsibility being attached to them for the decisions taken,” he said.

                Kalmadi’s demand for the JPC was seen as a clever move to stall the impending legislation to curb the powers and tenure of IOA and NSF officials but he failed in his attempt. Two days after Kalmadi’s demand, Sports Minister Ajay Maken moved a draft bill in the Lok Sabha for development of Sports at national level and to deal with all matters concerned. In a suo-moto statement in the Lok Sabha the minister said the draft bill contains the following broad principles:-

■             Some of the core principles enunciated in the ’Basic Universal Principles of Good Governance’ proposed by the IOC and endorsed by the XIII Olympic Congress, which include fair and transparent election process; age and tenure limit in respect of office bearers; and participation of athletes in the decision-making process.

■             Effective and speedy resolution of sport-related disputes, including redressal of athletes’ grievances, through conciliation and mediation process by appointing a National Sports Ombudsman.

■             This matter has been often debated in the Parliament and the Judiciary also has in several landmark judgments underlined the need to have an effective legal framework for national sports development; of course, not to leave out the huge public opinion in favour of this.

                All these developments have prompted the government to facilitate a constructive national debate on the need to have a suitable legal framework for national sports development.

                The government seems to have done its home work properly and is reading out the same IOC charter to Suresh Kalmadi and his colleague, which they have been showing to the Sports Ministry for last few decades. No longer IOA or its bosses will be able to play with the emotions of the people of the country and will not be in a position to bid for the mega events without the prior permission of the government.

By Harpal Singh Bedi




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