Now that all of us know the mishap at the Incheon Asian Games, let me tell you a few more depressing facts. L Sarita Devi, the Indian boxer people are talking about these days, had to scuffle hard, or shall I say, beg (I am sorry, brave heart), for the USD 500, the fee for lodging a protest for mala fide judging. Further, the appellate board told that the judges’ decision cannot be reversed, while the USD 500 fee wasn’t returned. Then, we hear that the medal has been awarded back to the boxer post she filed an apology in writing, which was something that Indian officials coerced her to do. Busy celebrating the gold won by another Indian iconic boxer, the same officials were nowhere when the judges bluntly awarded a dishonest decision against Sarita Devi. What more to expect. Let me also tell you that the IOA (Indian Olympics Association) is currently headed by former BCCI president, N. Srinivasan’s brother. While he was being elected, he was the only contender for the position; hence you can imagine the ‘fair voting system’.
Known to us all is the appalling fact that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) suspended IOA on 4 December 2012 due to corruption in the process of election within the Association and non-adherence of IOC rules. The ban was revoked on 11 February 2014 only when the IOA conducted fresh polls. This can never be a normal happening. A body responsible for selecting athletes to represent the nation at Olympics and other international athletic meets lost recognition for 14 long months. And then we say that China and USA are the nations our athletes shall aim to compete with. Leave aside the scarcity of quality sites and tools for players, even the talented players, capable to fetch respect for India at global platforms, are left to destiny by the officials. The lady who brought India first medal at the 2014 Asian Games, Shweta Chaudhary, had to manage with a bronze as the serial number of her regular pistol was conveyed incorrect to the Korean custom by Indian officials. Nonetheless, she had no regrets and blamed no one.
All this isn’t new. The laidback approach of Indian sports bodies is widely acknowledged but rarely anyone dares to challenge the setup. We talk of corruption in ministries and government offices, but these autonomously working bodies, which are not answerable to any statutory authority, are never paid heed to. The sports ministry has been asking for details of expenses on IOA and NSFs (National Sports Federations) officials during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Moreover, the ministry also questioned the IOA for sponsoring sports federations’ officials to the Asian Games basis that the amount spent on sending these unwanted people could be better expended on good governance. The Cycling Federation of India recommended a Congress MP and his wife for a ‘paid trip’ to Incheon; while on the other hand, India was charged with USD 10,000 for withdrawing from seven sports at the last minute. Where is the IOA focusing? Same is the case with the BCCI or the Indian Hockey Federation, bodies that many a times make headlines for corrupt behavior by officials and coerced process of polls.
And let me also tell you that these so-called autonomous bodies are not free from the clutches of politics. With many politicians heading state councils of BCCI and NSFs, it is expected that the sports ministry must have a control over the operations of these rich federations. But the irony is that the most affluent cricket board of the world, the BCCI, works as per self-designed laws, which do not allow transparency in operations. Beyond understanding are the instances when we hear the addition of cricketers in the Indian cricket team backed by close nexus with the members of the selection committee. Contracts awarded to Nimbus and Sony by the BCCI, though are under suspicion, but the probe cannot be initiated. The Supreme Court of India in 2012 commented ‘Cricket should be kept free from politics and the game should not become a ball for politicians’. This was in reaction to the row where some officials parted ways with Bihar Cricket Association (headed by Lalu Prasad Yadav) to form Cricket Association of Bihar.
While SAI (Sports Authority of India), a nodal agency of the Sports Ministry of India funds training programmes for many sports, the ministry does not have an exclusive control over the functioning of sports agencies. Almost every of the sports federations, though at liberty from the supervision of the government, have politicians as members/ heads. Let me also tell you that the Table Tennis Federation of India has MP Dushyant Chautala, son of Ajay Chautala as the VP. Likewise, the All India Football Federation has Praful Patel as Chairman. Vijay Kumar Malhotra heads the Archery Association of India, Akhilesh Das Gupta heads the Badminton Association of India, Raninder Singh heads the National Rifle Association of India, Abhishek Matoria is the President of Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, Vidya Stokes is the lifetime patron of Hockey India, and Birendra Prasad Baishya heads the Indian Weightlifting Federation. It is apparent that with political men competing for positions in sports bodies, veteran sportsmen stand no chance of playing an apt role for the betterment of relative game.
When the Indian sportsmen represent the country worldwide, the union government is supposed to be the decisive controller. ‘India’ is the state they play for, not for any of the federations. To avoid distressing instances and malpractices, as have happened in the recent past, the ministry will have to knock down uncontrolled sports federations, which have become a home to politics and uselessness. Sooner than later, the GOI will have to curtail such quasi-political setup. Herein, the federations and boards should be made a statutory wing of the SAI. Plus, political intervention, of any manner, should be stopped. Headed by capable bureaucrats with former expert sportsmen as members of respective advisory boards, indeed, these bodies will function more proactively and unbiasedly. Only then we can expect timely allocation of funds, unbiased selection, and India’s domination in the arena of sports. For speedy advancement of sportsmen and to elevate the sports milieu of India, curbing the present state of affairs is much-needed. Else, we can continue cheering mere one or two gold medals in Olympics. But then, stop expecting much from Indian sportsmen.