In an era of utmost openness and transparency where even the deeds of judiciary is demanded to be under the public eye, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), termed just a private club consortium, is fighting tooth and nail to prevent bringing it under the ambit of Right to Information (RTI) Act.
BCCI as well as most other sporting federations in India are relieved as the cabinet rejected the National Sports Development Bill. Aiming transparency and efficiency in running the sports federations in India, the bill was drafted after the gross corruption scandals broke out during the Commonwealth Games last year. However, the sports control bill presented by Sports Minister Ajay Maken was rejected by the cabinet and asked the minister to redraft the bill before it will be put before parliament. The cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reportedly was not unanimous on many of its provisions and media reports quotes the PM as saying “The bill is good intentioned, but needs to be reworked to address objections.”
The bill proposes an idea of reserving 25 percent of seats in associations for former sportspersons of that particular sport. It also puts an age limit – 70 – for heads and members of sporting bodies. The tenure term proposed limits anyone from hold the office more than two terms.
While the BCCI argues that the organizations that take government grants should come under the act and not the BCCI, Ajay Maken said that the board gets tax exemptions and land from the government and therefore, it should be accountable to the people. Makan made it clear that he is not asking the sports bodies to reveal their deeds to the government, but to be accountable to the people. He stressed on the point that the cricketing body gets the government grants indirectly in terms of tax exemptions and land facilities and asks, “How about the tax exemptions? How about the land they get? How much did they pay for the Ferozshah Kotla?
In an interview with Times Now channel, Former cricker Arun Lal said he welcomes any move that makes the BCCI and stated, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with BCCI coming under RTI.” Former players Kapil Dev and Mohammed Azharuddin spoke in favor of the new bill and opined that the BCCI should adhere to the government norms. Ajay Jadeja also backed the sport minister’s move and said nobody is above the law and he doesn’t see anything wrong with the new bill.
Why do they oppose the proposed bill? They argue the Bill would badly affect the autonomy of the sporting bodies and will increase government regulations and interference in these federations. Indiatoday quoted V.K. Malhotra who opposes the bill as saying, “It is draconian law and not acceptable to any international sports bodies. If age is the factor, then Prime Minister, Delhi Chief Minister and Pranab Mukherjee are all above 70.”
Responding to the proposed bill, BJP’s youth leader Anurag Thakur, also chief of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association questioned the bill and asked, “What was the need to bring this bill? Is government trying to take over the sports federations?” Union Minister and BCCI Vice-President Rajiv Shukla says that the board does not take government funds and so could not be brought under the RTI.
Sporting federations in India are largely headed by politicians who in most cases, have no sporting background or knowledge about the field of sports they head. Senior BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra is the Senior Vice President of the Indian Olympic Association and the acting President of the IOA since 26 April 2011. He also heads the General Association of National Sports Federations and is the President of the Archery Association of India. Priyaranjan Dasmunshi headed the All India Football Federation for years and later Praful Patel replaced him. BCCI also has a bunch of politicians at the top helm of affairs as Sharad Pawar was its president earlier and the Congress leader Rajiv Shukla is a senior functionary of BCCI.
While acknowledging the good works done by the BCCI, it’s an undisputable fact that it is a secretive body with little transparency and practically no accountability. Many episodes from the match-fixing scandal of 2000 to the World Cup debacle in 2007 and the scandalous IPL saga, it is over and again proven that the BCCI has many skeletons in its cupboard. The devastating 4-0 loss to England is just a signal that all is not well with the Indian cricket team. What surety the crazy Indian cricketing millions have that its decisions would not cause irreparable damages to Indian cricket? And many believe that bringing transparency and accountability in its functioning will work for its benefit. Express your opinions on bring BCCI under the RTI act.