Good governance is the need of the hour

Abhinav Bindra… for cleaning up Indian sport.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Redrafting the Sports Bill alone will not be enough in taking Indian sport forward, writes Kamesh Srinivasan.

The Olympic shooting champion, Abhinav Bindra, has been battling a bad back that forced him to skip the World Cup in Fort Benning, USA, recently. However, it did not prevent him from being a part of the Indian delegation that presented its point of view to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its headquarters in Lausanne.

As a member of the committee that has been working on revising the Sports Bill, the former world champion has been studying the constitutions of various countries to get a grip on the subject. Yet, Bindra was clear that he would present the viewpoint of the cream of the Indian athletes rather than convey his own views to the IOC with regard to the suspension of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) from the Olympic Movement.

The IOC had suspended the IOA on December 4, 2012, for allowing government interference in its functioning. There was no doubt that the autonomy of the Olympic Movement had to be respected; even the government was for it. However, as the Sports Minister, Jitendra Singh, pointed out in his speech in Lausanne, the Delhi High Court had enforced the Government guidelines in the conduct of the IOA election.

Like most, Bindra too felt that the suspension of the IOA was a blessing in disguise, as it was a good chance to clean up Indian sport. “The athletes felt that some sort of reform was needed in the country’s sports administration,” he said.

Bindra had contacted about 30 leading athletes from various disciplines such as Sushil Kumar (wrestling), Mahesh Bhupathi (tennis), Saina Nehwal (badminton), Mary Kom (boxing) and some shooters among others to get a clear picture of the ground realities in Indian sport. There was no doubt that the primary objective of every athlete was to get the IOA back into the Olympic Movement.

“The athletes also felt that it was necessary to have meaningful reforms and an efficient management of sports in the country. There is a lot of talent in the country that lacks direction. We need to give them a definite path towards progress,” Bindra observed.

The government may be firm on enforcing the age restriction of 70 years for sports administrators and the tenure clause to ensure sports federations did not become private fiefdoms. Bindra, however, was categorical that the age and tenure clause may not achieve much in terms of sports development in the country.

“We need sports administrators with a passion for developing sports. It will be great if sportspersons take up positions in administration. But no matter who you are, if your goal is to take sports forward, you are welcome,” said Bindra.

He insisted that it was important to have a healthy election procedure to ensure that good and competent people get the opportunity to serve sport. Bindra also stressed on the need to have a strong Ethics Commission and an Athletes Commission in the IOA. He felt that it was necessary for persons who have been charge-sheeted to step aside from sports administration.

It remains to be seen how well the IOA redrafts its Constitution to bring about the necessary changes.

Good governance is essential for Indian sport to grow. The IOC agreeing to guide India to formulate a good Sports Bill may have a healthy impact on Indian sports.

But more than the Sports Bill, what is required is efficient running of the IOA and the National Sports Federations, which should become self-sufficient by generating funds rather than depend solely on tax payers’ money.

By taking the easy way out, with the inclusion of the age and tenure clauses in its Constitution, the IOA may technically get away from government interference, but that will not serve any purpose in taking Indian sport forward.

To be honest, it will be very difficult for the Indian sports administrators to put their selfish interests aside and think of the betterment of sport.

Like the whole country, Bindra too is waiting to see what comes out of the whole exercise. There is no doubt that good governance is the need of the hour in Indian sport.