Cabinet shows red card to Sports Bill, Maken asked to redraft it

first_imgPoliticians with sports fiefs to guard have ganged up to oppose a draft Bill that aims to end their cushy reign by putting age and tenure limits for office-bearers of sports federations and the Indian Olympic Association.On Tuesday, they seemed to have drawn first blood. Sports minister Ajay Maken, who presented the draft National Sports Development Bill to the cabinet – it also seeks to bring the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) under the purview of the Right to Information Act (RTI) – has been asked to come again with a fresh draft.The Bill got a second life because despite the opposition, it had the backing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P. Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.Few had illusions that it would be plain sailing for Maken at the cabinet meeting.As many as five ministers present at the meeting head sports associations.Besides, it is a known fact that politicians holding these positions are usually united across party lines when it comes to defending their turf.What was, however, surprising was the timing of the opposition from the politicians concerned. It comes a mere two days after Anna Hazare ended his fast to demand accountability in government functioning.While Hazare’s strike raised hopes of increased transparency in public life, the winds of accountability and transparency have yet to reach Indian sports.The major bone of contention seems to be the sports ministry’s long-term development plan (LTDP) which many in the cabinet felt was too “intrusive.” Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is the International Cricket Council (ICC) president and heavy industries minister Praful Patel heads the All India Football Federation. Minister of road transport and highways C. P. Joshi heads the Rajasthan cricket association and new and renewable energy minister Farooq Abdullah heads the cricket association in Jammu and Kashmir. Minister of science and technology Vilasrao Deshmukh recently defeated former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar to become the president of the Mumbai Cricket Association.advertisementThe PM and Chidambaram are understood to have backed Maken, but the numbers were never on their side. Opposition leaders such as Archery Association of India president V. K. Malhotra, who has been at the helm since 1979 and is the IOA’s acting president, has been vehement in his criticism of the draft.Another senior BJP leader, Arun Jaitley, heads the Delhi and District Cricket Association. Malhotra had described the draft Bill as ” Draconian”. Most of them do not comply with the proposed age and tenure restrictions of 70 years and three terms 12 years) mentioned in the draft, and were never going to let go of their fiefdoms. Back in May 2010, then sports minister M. S. Gill suggested an age and tenure bar for office- bearers of sports federations. The IOA had then lobbied with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the latter had warned that India may be barred from the Olympics if the proposals – that reportedly went against the Olympic charter – became law.Pawar and Patel wanted the removal of the intrusive provisions for all sports from the LTDP. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president even threatened to take up the matter with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi if the cabinet approved the draft. He said if the 70- year age limit was agreed upon, “then whosoever is sitting in the room has no right to stay here”.HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who is facing flak for his handling of the Hazare agitation, argued it is not the political environment in which such a Bill can be tabled. Septuagenarian Farooq Abdullah found the age limit a problem. He is reported to have said during the meeting: “I can do things that young people cannot do.”Urban development minister Kamal Nath also had reservations about the LTDP. It was Chidambaram who saved the day for Maken. It was his intervention that ensured that the draft was not deferred or referred to the group of ministers (GoM) as that could have made it impossible for its reintroduction. Sources said Chidambaram remarked: “Let us not throw the baby along with the bathwater. Let us give the sports minister a chance.”Apparently, the PM said Maken should get a chance to rework the Bill.Pranab Mukherjee said most of the parties would not support the Bill in its current form. “Let’s rework this,” he said.In the past three years, the government has given grants of ` 458 crore to sports associations. It wanted in return was for them to come under the RTI and be accountable.advertisementOn the RTI Act, the BCCI argued that it is financially independent and takes no aid from the government. Therefore it is not liable to abide by the Act. However, the BCCI avails of concessions which have played a role in making it the richest cricket board.”BCCI is autonomous and our accounts are audited regularly,” its vice- president Niranjan Shah said. Sunil Gavaskar disagreed. “If an organisation has nothing to hide, it should be open to any information that is sought from it,” the batting legend argued.What the fuss is all about?Sports minister Ajay Maken, made a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha on February 22, 2011, proposing a National Sports Development Bill, which aims to instill good governance among National Sports Federations (NSFs), and talks of participation of athletes in the decisionmaking processHighlights of the proposed billImbibes the philosophy of Olympism Aims to bring in more accountability, transparency in functioning of national sports bodies Adopts basic universal principles of good governance proposed by the International Olympic Committee Seeks to set up a National Sports Development Council headed by an eminent athlete Includes the core principles of fair and transparent elections and strictly enforce the age limit and tenure for office bearers of NSFs Proposes retirement, age at 70 years for office bearers of NSFs. Fixes the term of the president a maximum of 12 years, or three terms Forbids a Union sports minister from contesting the election to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) or a federation until the expiry of five years after demitting his office Includes athletes in decision making and ensures 25 per cent of the membership and voting rights for them Proposes to appoint a retired HC judge to the post of sports ombudsman to deal with grievances and disputes relating to sports organisations Prescribes rules for the prevention of sexual harassment, age fraud and anti-dopinglast_img

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