Nothing unifies a nation like sports. Without exception, every Indian is awaiting Sachin Tendulkar's 100th century, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi winning an Olympic gold and India regaining lost glory in hockey.
The stakeholders in the development of sports are the government, national sports federations (NSFs) and sportspersons. Only their collective will can develop sports.In the current scenario, where transparency is the keyword, it isn't surprising that NSFs need to be accountable. The Sports Bill has clauses for financial transparency including the Right to Information, participation of sportspersons in NSFs, free and fair elections, elimination of unethical practices like doping, age fraud, sexual harassment and compliance with the Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) audit.
As all NSFs affiliated with the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) are in agreement with these principles, a separate Sports Bill is not required as these issues are covered by acts of the central/state governments. The proposed Bill, however, does not address the core issue of helping sportspersons. The government had allocated R678 crore for preparing athletes for the Asian and Commonwealth Games. As per the CAG report, only R203.35 crore was utilised and R474.65 crore was allowed to lapse.
The Bill should provide for the government to announce the amount allotted for the annual development of each sport. A committee headed by an officer, of joint secretary rank and not necessarily from the sports ministry, three eminent sportspersons and three administrators should be constituted for each sport. The committee should be held accountable if the money allocated by the government is not spent on sportspersons.
As far as age and tenure is concerned, I do not understand how this will help sportspersons. It may be noted that in September this year, Francesco Ricci Bitti was elected president of the International Tennis Federation for the fourth successive term at the age of 69 for another period of four years.
It is sad that due to the infighting between the ministry, IOA and NSFs, the ministry, in its hurry to introduce the Bill, has given undue importance to international federations. The international hockey federation (FIH) is misusing its powers to dictate as to which federation it will recognise. The govt and IOA should agree on the NSF to govern hockey in India and inform the FIH. International federations should not be allowed to play politics by assuming that we are weak.
In tennis, the four Grand Slams make a profit of $600 million (R3143 crore app) and no other nation will be allowed to have a similar event. It is regrettable when some of us try to run down the BCCI when it exercises its rightful power in the ICC. The BCCI has shown the world that India is an economic power.
While being critical of the shortcomings, we need to focus on the contribution of the stakeholders. Rather than fighting amongst ourselves, thereby allowing international federations to control our sports, the collective will of the stakeholders will be more meaningful for sports and sportspersons.