If BCCI is transparent, why oppose Sports Bill: Maken

Mumbai: Taking a dig at the BCCI again, Sports Minister Ajay Maken on Wednesday wondered why the Cricket Board officials were opposed to the proposed Sports Bill if they were transparent in their functioning.

"The BCCI has sent a 26-27 page letter to the ministry saying why they (officials) were opposed to the (proposed) Sports Bill. I don`t understand why the BCCI, if they are not scared of RTI or transparency, are not prepared to come under it," said Maken during his speech at the Indian Merchants Chamber-organised seminar "Fusion 2012" on sports, media and entertainment in Mumbai.

Maken, who was the chief guest, said that transparency was the main focus of the proposed Bill -- which has been opposed tooth and nail by not only the BCCI but also the Indian Olympic Association.

"Transparency is the main thing in the Sports Bill. RTI will bring the much-needed transparency. BCCI gets exemption (from the government) in many ways like tax, use of police services.”

"IPL (Indian Premier League), which is a form of entertainment, does not attract entertainment tax in many states," he pointed out.

Speaking on the sidelines later, Maken came out in support of the under-fie Indian cricket team and pointed out that the same squad had won the World Cup leading to celebrations all over the country less than a year ago.

"Our players do well at times and perform badly on others. When they do badly, we should not forget their good performances. Less than a year ago, they had won the World Cup and the entire nation celebrated," Maken noted.

Maken said one of the main targets of the ministry in the run-up to the London Olympic Games later this year was to see that the number of athletes who qualify exceeded the number who made the grade in Beijing four years ago.

"A total of 732 core probables had been selected towards qualification some time back. At the last Olympics in Beijing 57 persons qualified. Our aim is to better that number", Maken said.

"We have spent Rs 111 crore so far including Rs 55 crore to give foreign exposure (to the sports persons). We are ready to give more help (to them to qualify)," the Sports Minister said.

Asked about the continuing stand-off between Hockey India, the body which has been recognised by the International Hockey Federation, and the age-old Indian Hockey Federation, Maken said these two rivals have to sort out their differences once the Olympic qualifiers (in Delhi later this month) gets over.

"HI and IHF should sort out the matter after the Olympic qualifiers)," he said.

Among the panel speakers at the seminar were former hockey internationals Mir Ranjan Negi and Sybil D`Mello.

Negi laid the blame squarely on the country`s sports administrators for the poor show by Indian sportspersons in the international arena overall.

"In 1998 the Indian (men`s) hockey team won the Asian Games gold in Bangkok after 32 years. But what happened after it returned? Seven players, including skipper Dhanraj Pillay, were axed and the two coaches were also shown the door by the IHF led by K P S Gill," he recalled.

"The sports administrators are to be blamed for the mess Indian sports finds itself in," he charged.

Former women`s national captain Sybil D`Mello wondered how many parents in the country were willing to push their children to take up sports.

"Passion is the most important thing to take up sports. Money comes much later. When we started our career, all we wanted was to play anywhere. But tell me, how many of us parents would like to push our children into taking up sport.

We lay too much emphasis on studies. Sports builds up a person and gives him or her much wider perspective," she said.

Maken charged the sports federations of stunting the growth of sports in the country and said that though the state governments deal with the subject, his ministry has taken initiative to promote sports by offering grants for creating infrastructure.

"Unfortunately, the growth of sports in India was being stunted due to monopoly of sports federations, which have become fiefdom of powerful vested interests. For breaking their stranglehold, it is necessary to promote sports leagues and other platforms, so that Indian youth would be able to avail wider opportunities for nurturing their skills," the minister said.

"Sports is a state government subject and the central government has no direct control on its administration and development. Yet I have taken initiative to promote sports by offering liberal grants for creating infrastructure and for setting up training academies," he added.

Maken also informed that the sports ministry had sanctioned Rs 260 crore for promoting sports other than cricket.

"My ministry has sanctioned grants totalling Rs 260 crore for promoting non-cricketing sports by hiring the services of 29 foreign coaches, in preparation for London Olympics," he said.

Talking further about the proposed Sports Bill that he would be moving in the Lok Sabha, he said once it was passed there would be revolutionary changes in the sports scenario.

"Once this Bill is passed, you will see revolutionary changes in the world of sports in the country. We want to set up a sports university and also an academy of sports sciences on the model of China. I will get the Cabinet`s okay for this Bill before 31st March 2012," he said.