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Sports Promotion through Ajay Maken's Sports Bill

Various sports are being promoted by various regimes since ages. The question of transparency and accountability is also not new either. The misuse of technical innovations in pharmaceutical sector for new drugs is visible in various sport competitions. The desire to win has passed all barriers of ethics and real spirit of sportsmanship. Also, reforms have been impeded by politicization of sports in India where most of the sports committees are headed by the politicians who have very little experience in that area and who understand very little about the need of sports persons.

Union Minister of sports and youth affairs, Ajay Maken prepared a draft National Sports (Development) Bill 2011 aka sports bill with the aim to bring transparency and accountability in the functioning of National Sports Federations(NSF). He did not anticipate that the sailing of this bill will be tough through the cabinet and thought to pass the bill in this monsoon session only. However, the presence of various cabinet ministers who are heading various sports committees at national and regional level made it difficult for the cabinet to decide in this bill's favour. However, the support of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee saved the day for Ajay Maken by giving him another opportunity to redraft the bill after accommodating the suggestions given by his cabinet colleagues.

The question arises as to what made it difficult for this bill to get cabinet approval? Which clauses of this bill faced opposition and why? Is government serious about reforming the sports? Can various ministers think beyond their vested interests and promote accountability and transparency in sports?

A closer look at the clauses of this bill will bring forth the reasons behind the opposition of this bill. There is the age limit suggested in this bill for heading any sports committee in India. The age limit is set at 70 years that is not met by most of the cabinet ministers who are heading national and state level committees as on today. This bill seeks to restrict the tenure of any office bearer to maximum 12 years i.e. 3 terms and this bill will make it compulsory for sports federations to reserve 25% of seats to sportspersons in the controlling committee/board. Also, this bill seeks to bring Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) under the purview of Right to Information Act(RTI). The cabinet ministers who are opposing this bill include Minister of New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah who is heading the cricket association of J&K, Sharad Pawar who is President of ICC, Praful Patel who heads 'All India Football Federation', C.P. Joshi who heads Rajasthan Cricket Association, Arun Jaitley who heads New Delhi & District cricket association.

The passing of this bill will show the exit door to many of the cabinet ministers from sports federations and this is the cause of concern for them. The enforcement of vested interests of senior ministers is restricting the badly needed reforms in sports. Even after the support of Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Ajay Maken's bill has faced tough times to get the nod of the cabinet that made it difficult for this bill to pass in the monsoon session of 2011. This raises serious questions about the intention of the politicians to look beyond their vested self-interest and reform National Sports Federations. The poor performance of these federations can be attributed to the stubbornness of politicians to change their mind set and restricting sportspersons from taking part in the decision making independently which can change the face of the sporting bodies in the country.

To conclude, the sports can be promoted only if it can be detached from the politics and give way to deserving candidates in the sports federations who understand the sport and are enthusiastic about it beyond their vested interests. The sports federations should be accountable to public, parliament etc. and transparent in its functioning.

- Rishabh Jain