Issues with National Sports Development Legislation

As soon as Ajay Makan became new Sports Minister in early this year, it was announced that the National Sports Development Legislation will be framed within a stipulated time. It was said that the proposed legislation will support age and term limits for sports officials, whereby IOC members will have to give up their memberships at the end of the calendar year during which they reach the age of 70. The bill sought to reserve a 25 per cent quota for athletes in the voting process. Some other features were:

  • In case a member has completed two successive terms, he may be elected again after a minimum period of two years.
  • Federation presidents will be elected by secret ballot from among members for a term of eight years, renewable once for four years.

Thus, the legislation was expected to clip the wings of the Indian Olympic Committee and National Sports Federations (NSFs) bosses, while empowering athletes.

On February 22, 2011 the Ministry had uploaded Preliminary Exposure Draft on its website and invited comments and suggestions for its improvement from the public in 30 days. The legislation was slated to see greater participation of sportsmen in decision making process and was based and would incorporate essence of six parameters including the IOC charter, anti-doping laws, age fraud detection, basic universal principles of good governance, good international legislative practices and sexual harassment. The bill was inspired by “Ted Stevens Olympic Amateur Act of 1978” enacted by the US.

This bill has been recently shot down by the Government (Cabinet).

Reason: several ministers criticized the sports development bill as deeply flawed and designed to vest sweeping powers in the sports ministry. The Minister Ajay Makan has been asked to rework the bill and bring it back to the Cabinet.

Major Issues with BCCI

  • In India, the federations like athletics, badminton, boxing, golf, gymnastics, hockey, rowing, shooting, tennis, volleyball, weightlifting and yachting have already accepted the government’s guidelines for good governance, by registering with the Government, these federations come to be treated as apex national bodies in India. The officials of these bodies are expected to respect the tenure and age limit rules.
  • Each federation is also expected to have sportspersons for about 20 per cent of its membership, with voting rights, apart from having proper grievance redressal mechanism. However, BCCI has not done so.
  • Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not complied with the mandatory requirements of submitting the necessary documents to the Government of India for annual recognition as a National Sports Federation (NSF) /Apex Body for the game of cricket in India.
  • It’s worth note that the BCCI was de-recognized by the Sports Ministry last year since it had refused to register as an NSF and comply with age and term guidelines for its office bearers. The BCCI’s main contention was that since it does not take any financial assistance from the Government, it is not binding on them to follow the guidelines.
  • The most ardent opponent of this bill was Sharad Pawar, who said that the bill was not unacceptable to him. He also reportedly said that he would take up the matter with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi if the Cabinet insisted on approving the bill.
  • Another reason with BCCI was that the Sports Bill sought to bring BCCI under Right To Information Act. Once BCCI comes under the RTI, it will allow public to access to information’s such as physio’s report on players’ fitness.
  • BCCI vice-president and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla says- since BCCI does not depend on govt for funds, where’s the question of it coming under govt’s control?

One more issue is that the proposed Bill required sportspersons to follow World Anti-Doping Agency norms on dope tests, including ‘whereabouts clause’, which requires players to give information in advance on whereabouts for next three months.

Each player has to provide a one-hour slot for random testing each day. The Indian gods of Cricket, very much like Tennis stars like Serena Williams, have cited privacy concerns and security risks to oppose this clause.

Fact Box: Ministers-cum-Sports administrators

  • Sharad Pawar: President, ICC; President, Maharashtra Olympic Association
  • Vilasrao Deshmukh: President, Mumbai Cricket Association
  • Praful Patel: President, All India Football Federation
  • Farooq Abdullah: President, J&K Cricket Association
  • C P Joshi: PRESIDENT, Rajasthan Cricket Association

Why BCCI does not come under RTI?

RTI covers the following:

  • All government companies.
  • Bodies, authorities, institutes established or constituted by, or under the Constitution by or under law made by the Parliament, or any other law made by state legislatures.
  • Any body owned or controlled or substantially, directly or indirectly funded by the government or by funds provided by the government.
  • Non-government institutions substantially financed by the government.

BCCI is a non-governmental organization, which has its own constitution and generates its own funds, does not fall under any of the above categories.

What is Ted Stevens Act?

Ted Stevens Olympic Amateur Act provides for reservation of 20 per cent membership and voting rights for amateur athletes who are actively involved in the sport and have represented the US in the past 10 years.

Some Notes to write your own view on this issue

  • We all know that India lacks proper sports infrastructure. Apart from this, the inefficiency of national sports bodies are often held responsible for India’s poor performance at international sporting events.
  • The example of brilliance mostly has been possible through individual determination despite an unhelpful system.
  • India’s mighty neighbour is a sports powerhouse, and India stands nowhere in front of its Asian counterpart.
  • The National Sports (Development) Bill, 2011 envisaged almost all things that needed to do a overhaul.
  • By shooting down the Bill in this form, the Government has once again proved its callous attitude towards the development of the sports.
  • The state monitored national sports federations (NSF)are in pathetic condition, mired in nepotism and corruption.
  • Genuine talent spotting or developing sports at the grassroots is absent in India. The government’s focus should have been on nurturing sports at the grassroots to foster a sporting culture across India.

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