India news August 31, 2011

Indian sports minister hits back at BCCI

ESPNcricinfo staff

Ajay Maken, the Indian sports minister, has slammed the BCCI for its stand against the transparency-enhancing Right to Information (RTI) Act and the proposed bill to regulate Indian sports bodies. The bill, which could cover the BCCI too, was discussed at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday but failed to gain approval and will now be re-worked.

One of the main reasons the Indian board has given for staying out of the ambit of the RTI, which opens up to public questioning the institutions covered by it, is that the BCCI doesn't rely on government money. "The BCCI is a non-governmental organisation, which has its own constitution and generates its own funds," the BCCI president Shashank Manohar told the Times of India. "In fact, there are two orders passed by the country's Chief Information Commissioner wherein it has been clearly stated that the RTI Act doesn't apply to the BCCI."

Maken, though, countered by saying that the BCCI indirectly received government funds. "How about the tax exemptions?" Maken asked. "How about the land they get? How much did they pay for the Feroz Shah Kotla? We are not asking them to reveal anything to the government. We are asking them to be accountable to the people. "

Another recommendation in the bill is that people over 70 years of age should be barred from heading sporting federations. "I wonder why the proposed age-cap is 70, not 65 or 60?" Manohar said. "And what has age got to do with administration as long as the person concerned is in good health?"

Maken defended the introduction of an age limit. "What is their problem with age limit? Doesn't the judiciary, the bureacracy have age limits? Why can't a good example be followed? If someone remains a federation chief for ever why will vested interests not develop."

The proposed bill also called for the inclusion of former players in cricket administration. "I can only speak for the BCCI which has its own constitution and office-bearers are elected democratically by state associations and other affiliated units," Manohar said.

"We have former players like Anil Kumble, Shivlal Yadav and Mohinder Pandove holding key positions in their respective associations as well as in the BCCI after they were duly elected to their respective posts. In BCCI, we only involve former players to deal with cricket-specific issues like selection, technical matters, coaching, mentoring etc, leaving the administrative issues to elected representatives.

"All said and done, cricket is the best administered sport in the country. It is not as if the BCCI is a closed-door body. It submits its annual audited accounts to the Registrar of Societies after the same is duly circulated and vetted by its member associations."

At the ICC annual conference in Hong Kong earlier this year, the ICC gave its member boards a two-year deadline to democratise in an effort to reduce government interference in cricket administration. Manohar cautioned against the possibility of government involvement in this matter as well. "The ICC has recently amended its constitution and empowered itself to take action against Member boards in case of undue government interference in functional matters."