I have been president of an association which has charted one of the most successful stories in Indian sports. But I am sorry to say that a systematic campaign has been launched against the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and national sports federations (NSFs), and we are being projected as villains.
This unfounded campaign is being orchestrated by the sports minister, who seems determined to destroy the very foundation of the Olympic movement in the country. We in the IOA or the NSFs are not against constructive criticism, nor am I saying that the federations are flawless, but if the minister has found something wrong, he is welcome to point it out. But to level outrageous allegations without substantiating them is not acceptable.I am opposed to the Sports Development Bill because it is against the spirit of the Olympic Charter on the basis of which the IOA functions. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not approve of government interference in the National Olympic Committee (NOC).
The IOC has already cautioned the government against any dilution of the IOA's autonomy. It has also made it clear that the Olympic Charter does not impose any limitations with respect to tenure or age. Remember, Kuwait had to pay the price for going against the Olympic Charter. A similar thing could - and will - happen to India if the government doesn't relent.
Age no bar
Even the 'brightest jewel' of the UPA government, Pranab Mukherjee, is above 75 and except for the late Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, all Prime Ministers have been above 70. Almost half the Cabinet is above 70. If, for good governance, 70 is the age, why shouldn't it apply to the IOA and NSFs?
There are thousands of registered societies and NGOs but the government hasn't imposed an age bar on their office-bearers, so why target the sports bodies, which too are registered bodies?
I want to place some important facts, which will help decide whether or not we have gone wrong.
--The IOA and NSFs have regular elections and the process is fair and transparent.
--The federations are already under the RTI and their accounts (including money received through sponsorship deals) are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The government pays for the sportspersons' training and travel, at home and abroad, and that is also accounted for.
--The IOA has set up an arbitration commission, which includes former Supreme Court and High Court judges, to settle disputes between sportspersons and federations amicably.
--The IOA is not averse to a 25 per cent reservation for sportspersons in the IOA and NSFs' executive boards.
--The IOA has zero tolerance towards doping and fully approves and supports WADA's policy in fighting this scourge.
I will appeal to all sportspersons who are speaking for the government that they are here because they participated in the Olympic Movement. If India is disaffiliated, what will be the future of sports in the country?