The way the Indian government works has always been a mystery, and with the People of Indian Origin (PIO) controversy brewing, this mystery could well take on sinister proportions.
For instance, while the Sports Ministry has formulated a policy that will exclude PIOs and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) from wearing India colours, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) doesn’t even have a clue about it.
The Ministry claimed on Thursday that it had taken the viewpoint of all stakeholders — the IOA and sports federations included — before arriving at a decision, but IOA secretary-general Randhir Singh said that wasn’t true. “If I have to send athletes for the Asian Games, I will go by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) rules, not by Ministry guidelines. Similarly, if we have to send someone for the Olympics, we’ll go by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules,” said Singh.
Speaking to HT, lawyer Rahul Mehra of Sports Law Consulting said it was a policy asking for trouble. “The policy, if implemented, would create problems in the future. This is taking a step backwards, especially given that our national policy is looking at dual citizenship with countries like the US and some Commonwealth countries,” he said. “It would be very difficult to deny citizens the right to turn out for India on merit, especially if they opt to play for India, while granting them every other right except, perhaps, the right to vote.”
Another lawyer, not wanting to be quoted, agreed. “The OCI card states, ‘parity with NRIs in economic, financial and educational fields except in matters related to agricultural acquisitions and plantation properties’. These players were eligible till now, you cannot suddenly remove them from tournaments without prior information and compensation.”
He said the government guidelines were clear. “The selection criteria as notified by the National Sports Federations (NSFs) shall be circulated and explained to all the athletes concerned at least two to three years in advance as far as major competitions such as CWG/Asian /Olympic Games are concerned. Now, where do all these athletes go, especially given that the countries they come from would not allow them to play as they have a three-year break clause? This will open a floodgate of litigations. It is an absurd and regressive decision.”