New Delhi: The Indian Olympic Association and the federations might be against it but the National Sports Bill has got a collective thumbs up from India`s top athletes, who feel the draft has the potential to drastically change the country`s sports scene.
Welcoming provisions like the one seeking a 25 per cent quota for athletes in all National Sports Federations (NSFs), current and former stars such as badminton ace Saina Nehwal, her coach Pullela Gopichand, golfer Jeev Milkha Singh and Olympic bronze-medallist boxer Vijender Singh hoped that the document would get the cabinet`s nod.
The bill was rejected earlier by the cabinet with ministers, who have stakes in various federations, asking Sports Minister Ajay Maken to rework the draft.
The contentious points in the bill included the provision on bring NSFs under the RTI ambit and limiting the age and tenure of office-bearers.
Saina said the NSFs should take the bill as a positive step towards improving the state of affairs in Indian sports.
"All National Sports Federations should take the Sports Bill in a positive sense. It places sports and sportspersons as a priority which can only be good for Indian sports," Saina said.
Jeev and legendary sprinter P T Usha felt the bill will make the sports scene in India more professional.
"For far too long we have accepted mediocrity in Indian sports. The Sports Bill will make National Sports Federations proactive and professional in their approach. With sportsmen themselves at the helm of affairs, there is bound to be knowledgable leadership and increased sense of responsibility. We all must support the Bill," he said.
"For so may decades, the main frustration has been inefficiency of the National Sports Federations. I believe that the Sports Bill will make a very positive change to this," added legendary sprinter PT Usha.
Former All England champion Gopichand, who is busy grooming shuttlers as national coach now, said he backs the bill as it seeks to increase athletes` participation in the administration of sports.
"This new bill is something which is good for sports, especially for athletes. The 25 per cent representation of sportspersons in the national federations, I think that it is a good move, to have athletes` participation in decision-making is good. So overall, I support this bill," Gopichand said.
Ace boxer Vijender echoed the view, saying the bill will empower athletes.
"I have gone through it, it`s a very good bill. I hope it is passed soon. The provision that I like the most in it is 25 per cent quota for athletes in all sports federations," said the World Championship bronze-medallist.
"The provision of bringing federations under RTI is also good, the BCCI should accept it. Hopefully, it will bring transparency in sports," he added, referring to Indian Cricket Board`s refusal to come under the RTI ambit.
Sprint legend Milkha Singh called the bill a "bold step" towards a better future for Indian sports.
"I congratulate Makenji (Sports Minister) for introducing this bill and I hope it gets through the Cabinet and the Parliament. This is a bold step but I can see it will be a difficult job as many National Sports Federations have presidents and secretaries who are ministers and MPs and they are influential," he said.
"I remember Margaret Alva issuing a letter that presidents of NSFs should not have more than two terms and IAS and IPS officers should take Home Ministry permission before contesting NSF elections. All these failed. I was in that committee of sports ministry 35 years back," he added.
Milkha said putting a cap on age and tenure of office-bearers would ensure that the NSFs are run professionally and criticised the BCCI for opposing the provision regarding RTI.
"I fully support the age and tenure limitation provisions. What will a 70 plus person do in NSFs? They can guide athletes like I do but occupying the chair is a different matter. I can`t understand why the Cricket Board is opposing to RTI Act being applied in all the NSFs," he said.
"It will bring transparency and its for betterment of Indian sports. I want to ask is cricket not an Indian sport?
"I also welcome the provisions of 25 per cent reservation of athletes in NSFs as athletes should have a say in decision making," he added.
Star cueist Pankaj Advani also wondered why the BCCI was opposing the bill.
"BCCI is obviously the best sports federation of the country. But it should come under the government. Only then you can call yourself Team India. Otherwise it would be called Team BCCI. I think it should come under the purview of the government," he said..
He also supported the Sports Minister`s contention that NSFs in the country must be transparent and accountable.
"I did feel that the Sports Minister is correct when he said that there should be accountability. Federations must be transparent in what they do. If that is the whole idea of the bill, then I am up for it," he added.
Billiards legend Michael Ferreira too backed the bill saying that it is high time the long-serving officials make way for new faces.
"It will break the long monopoly of those office-bearers in the NSFs who have been there for years and have vested interests. Making every federation accountable can only be good. If you love sport, serve it as an individual, why do you need to be an official? Obviously there are lots of perks and privileges that go with it," Ferreira explained.
"Why is this bill draconian (as described by the IOA)? I think the IOA also has to be shuffled. You got to have fresh blood, you need to infuse new power into the system," he said.
He also called on the BCCI to accept the RTI provision. "BCCI should be made an NSF and brought under the ambit of RTI. They should be made accountable. All the politicians are associated with the BCCI for their personal glory. They all want to shoot the bill down with their clout.”
"The BCCI is enjoying indirect benefits from the government like tax relief, security for holding matches and land. BCCI should be brought under the RTI," Ferreira said.
Ace women`s doubles badminton player Jwala Gutta, who along with her partner Ashwini Ponnappa, became the first Indian pair to win a bronze medal in the World Championship in Paris this year, also gave a thumbs up to the bill.
"I absolutely agree with the bill. I think it is a great initiative by the Sports Minister. Maken is doing a good job in developing sports overall and not just a couple of games. The bill will bring transparency and help the sport," she said.
"I don`t understand the people who are opposing it, what are they scared off. If they don`t have anything to hide then why can`t they come under the RTI? There should be transparency in selection of players, in accounting and this bill can help to do that," Poonia added.
Discuss thrower Poonia said the bill will take Indian sports forward by including athletes in the process of decision-making.
"I fully support the bill and I am happy that the Sports Minister is introducing the bill. I think it will take Indian sports ahead," she said.
"My full support to the 25 per cent reservation of athletes in the executive bodies of NSFs. The athletes themselves know their problems and this will give athletes a role in decision making," she added.
Poonia felt limiting the tenure of officials will improve administration.
"The age and tenure limitation provisions are welcome as I think people above 70 years are not fit to run sports bodies. They should be more taking care of their health instead of Indian sports.”
"I also support he move to bring sports bodies under RTI as it will bring transparency in their working. The ultimate aim should be the betterment of Indian sports and sportspersons by bringing in transparency," she explained.