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Sports bodies use your money, resist your scrutiny

india Updated: Sep 30, 2009 12:26 IST
Ajai Masand
Ajai Masand
Hindustan Times
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Would you like to know how much of taxpayers’ money is spent on hockey stadiums? How much we pay our squash coaches?

Too bad, you have no right to do so.

Among the 50 sports federations that the Indian government funds, there is only one on which the right to information act (RTI) applies — the All India Chess Federation (AICF).

This has emerged from the sports ministry’s response to a squash-related query sent by Mumbai-based squash coach A.I. Singh under the RTI.

Only the AICF qualifies as a “public authority” that can be questioned, said a letter to Singh dated July 7, signed by Sport Ministry Deputy Secretary C. Chinappa. “The Central Information Commission (CIC) has declared AICF only as a public authority. The Squash Racquet Federation of India, Chennai, has not so far been declared as public authority,” the letter said.

In a landmark decision, the CIC had ruled in March that the AICF was a public authority.

Singh has now asked the CIC if every sports federation funded by the government needs to be individually pronounced as falling within the ambit of the RTI Act. He awaits a reply.

When asked why sports federations are excluded from the RTI, Injeti Sriniwas, Joint Secretary (Sports), told Hindustan Times: “The RTI Act has broad parameters. We maintain it applies only to ‘an association that gets substantial funding’, though the CIC does not have any such clause. It’s a case-by-case approach.” He was not clear on what constituted ‘substantial funding’.

Sriniwas said the government had written to the Indian Olympic Association, sports federations and the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, telling them they were covered by the RTI Act. “But they secured a stay on it from the court,” he said.