Monday, September 5, 2011

Are sports bodies also corrupt from head to toe? Who's afraid of RTI?

Ram Jethmalani was more astute than Lord Acton. He put things in current perspective when he said: “ Power corrupts, and the fear of losing power corrupts absolutely”. That explains many of the abnormalities of our seemingly normal politicians.

The presumed power of a mere party spokesman went to the head of that unfortunate Congress factotum called Manish Tiwari. In the Congress especially it is a survival necessity to be more loyal than the King. So, the robot in Tiwari went for Anna Hazare's jugular. The Gandhian was corrupt from head to toe, the robot said. The world laughed at him. Even the Congress frowned on him in due course. Whereupon the Robocop apologised to the Anna and later announced he was recusing himself from the Lok Pal Bill parliamentary committee. He then recused himself from the recusal. Unstable fellow. Actually he should recuse himself from public life. Which of course he won't do because the fear of losing power corrupts people from head to toe.

More puzzling is the fear among politicians of losing power in sports bodies. One can understand why Jagdish Tytler wants to cling on to the presidentship of the Judo Federation. The party has given him no post, not even an election ticket, so Judo is all that he can possibly cling on to.

But what about Vidya Stokes, head of the Hockey Federation? She is 84. And what about V.K.Malhotra, head of Archery Association, who is just one year short of 80? And what about V.K.Verma, who has been heading the Badminton Association for 13 years? He is known as an obstructionist to whom his own authority is what matters. Badminton champion Jwala Gutta has had the guts to speak out, so we have an idea of the harm this man does to badminton.

Cricket is the messiest of them all. Sure, it makes more money than any other game, so politicians are attracted to it like ants are to honey. But do the Pawars of politics still want money? More likely, they just want to have the power to command such a money-spinner. It certainly promotes exemplary unity among politicians of different colours. Look at the unamimity of views among Congressman Vilasrao Deshmukh, BJP man Arun Jaitley, NCP man Sharad Pawar and National Conference man Farook Abdullah. If only they were half as dedicated to the affairs of the country!

The National Sports Development Bill had sought to put some order into this topsy-turvey world of sports management. But self-seekers and manipulators closed ranks to keep it out of the Cabinet's approval. Sports Minister Ajay Maken had shown imagination and guts to draw up the bill. It is a pity that his progressive proposals did not get the attention they deserved.

Fortunately Maken is effective in articulating his case. He ridiculed the criticism that the Government was trying to control sports. Quite the contrary. The crux of the proposal is that 25 percent of the seats in the executive boards of sports organisations should go to sportspersons – elected by themselves, not nominated by the Government. This is an eminently sensible reform.

What has made sports politicians most angry is the proposal that organisations like the Board of Control for Cricket should be subject to the Right to Information Act. Most citizens perhaps did not know – until Maken mentioned it – that the BCCI had acquired stadium land in Delhi and Dharmasala on terms unknown to the public. Apparently, the world's richest cricket organisation also gets concessions from the Government on things like taxes.

Don't the people have a right to know about these? The Sports Ministry says that there must be transparency in these matters and sports organisations must be accountable in their functioning to the citizens of India. How can anyone object to this? Those sports bodies who object to RTI are obviously involved in activities they want to hide. They must be held to account like Suresh Kalmadi, belatedly, was.