Maken continues to pitch for Sports Bill

Sriperumbudur (Tamil Nadu): Making it clear that he would not give up on the National Sports bill, Sports Minister Ajay Maken on Saturday once again strongly pitched for it, saying the Commonwealth Games scam would not have taken place had the legislation been passed earlier.

The National Sports Development Bill, which seeks to rein in sports bodies and possibly bring the cash-rich BCCI under the government`s grip, was rejected by the Cabinet with several ministers raising objections to certain clauses.

"I think we have already delayed (the bill). Had we got this bill earlier, there would not have been a Commonwealth Games scam," Maken told reporters here on the sidelines of a function at the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, which is under his ministry.

"Had the Bill been brought earlier, most of the people who are in Tihar jail would not have been office bearers of Indian Olympic Association (IOA)", he added.

Maken was apparently referring to jailed Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi and some other officials who were sacked from the CWG Organising Committee following alleged irregularities in the conduct of the games in October last.

The Bill, which seeks to bring in transparency and accountability in the functioning of national sports bodies under the purview of the RTI, ran into rough weather with ministers like ICC President Sharad Pawar, Mumbai Cricket Association chief Vilasrao Deshmukh and J&K Cricket Association head Farooq Abdullah opposing it.

The Ministers at the Cabinet meeting on last Tuesday felt that the bill was trying to control rather than facilitate the development of sports and had raised objections on the age and tenure restrictions of those heading the sports federations.

However, Maken today yet again pointed out that the Centre`s intention was not to interfere with the functioning of the BCCI but there should be more transparency in its operations involving public money.

Maken said the bill was aimed at bringing transparency in the functioning of National Sports Federations (NSFs), ensuring right to information, more voice of the players, good governance and age & tenure norms that are essential to the development of sports in the country.

He also made it clear that the government did not intend to control or intrude into any sports federation.

"We do not intend to have the government nominee as office bearer or member of any sports federation…I will personally speak to all those who have any apprehensions of any kind," Maken said.

Asked why BCCI, which was not receiving funds from the government, needed to be brought under the RTI, the Sports Minister said, "Directly or indirectly any sports federation getting help from the government, should come under the RTI."

Maken said that the "biggest public function" that the sports federations perform was that they select the Indian team and hence its function has to be transparent "because they are doing something on behalf of India as a country."

Citing allotment of land at much less than the market rates and tax exemptions, besides security, Maken said most of these sports federations "get help directly or indirectly".

"I am not saying submit your account, submit your information to the government. What I`m saying is that the people of this country have the right to know when you are performing the biggest function of selecting team known as India," he said.

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