The youthful Minister for Sports in the ManMohan Singh led council of Ministers is reportedly smarting under the rejection of his proposal by the cabinet! But should he be? The minister forgot in his youthful enthusiasm that it is not in the absence of knowledge about what is happening in the field of sports in India or why it is happening that correctives have not yet been applied. In fact, it is because of full knowledge of the prevailing culture that things are the way they are. And sports is not the only sector that is given such special (?) treatment. In fact, sports, like all other areas of soft power, have been used till date for rewarding the faithful. These are not only party loyalists but biggest collectors of party funds. That speaks for the grants-in-aid running into crores and for which no audit is done for decades. They even don’t submit “utilization certificate”, which is a statutory requirement. In reality it is big business. And where there is big business, can corruption be far behind? Ask Kalamadi, the czar of sports, who is resting in jail even as he should have been participating in the parliament debates when history was being created by Anna Hazare led anti-corruption movement. But he is only an exception. Exceptions don’t make the rules!
So it seems, this young minister thought well to draft a law to inject some sports professionalism and also financial discipline in a chaotic and terribly corrupt business. And see, what happened to him. I don’t recall another such incident when half a dozen members of the cabinet caught a junior minister by the collar of his Bill and threw it out of consideration. It seems, the minister chose not to consult other ministries before going to the cabinet. Had he circulated the Bill to all the ministries inviting their comments, he would have saved the embarrassment caused to him. But it is good in one way that he didn’t do that, for vested interests stand exposed. Our ministers, who are in the cabinet, don’t have any compunctions of conscience even when conflict of interest is as obvious as daylight! But conscience has never stopped them in their tracks. That is the secret of their constant and continuing success as power wielders.
There are many more areas of soft power abuse for personal gains. An interesting but instructive area is cooperatives: industrial, sugar, marketing or banking. The total turnover exceeds the budget of the government. These businesses are controlled by politicians. Of course, they render free “service” to the people and the nation. What great sacrifice? Only the Anna Hazare’s of India don’t understand these simple things. Who was getting windfall profits before co-operativising the trade? Haven’t we “saved” the poor farmers and labourers from exploitation by the trade and business, they seem to say? They vouch for increase in incomes of these categories, growth, development and improved standards of living. What they don’t reveal is how much they are getting? They are exploiting not only the farmers and labourers but also the economy. They are running their political parties at the cost of the cooperatives. They acquire political positions of power such as minister or enough clout to influence policies, decisions or enforcement of the laws. If the existing laws are faithfully applied, most of them will lose their power and clout and will land in jail. But who can send them to jail? They are the people who send others to jail.
It is no small money. Big players are in the field. Their operations are international. They get lots of foreign funds. They get all kinds of revenue concessions, such as cheap land, construction grants, grants in aid running into millions, income tax exemptions, customs exemptions, sales tax exemptions, excise exemptions etc. Besides, they help people migrate to more prosperous countries. They get awards. They distribute awards. They make sporting careers and block the entry or access of other talents. In a nutshell they are the kings of their domain in a democracy called India. There is no federalism in corruption: it is all unitary form of government. Even the minister would not have imagined such fury of united interest groups in the cabinet, including members of his own party! He has put his fingers in a honey-comb! He was hoping to gain honey as a reward for thinking out of the box and taking initiative and curbing corruption in the arena, but has been stung by the bees!
Nothing to worry minister. It always happens in India. Whosoever tries to take on corruption, meets similar fate. Can we forget the foul mouthing of Anna Hazare by none other than the learned politicians, who know the significance of correct expressions better than us ordinary souls? But that is another issue. Or so must we think.
Sports are not the only area subjected to such neglect. When the government neglects any area, arbitrariness occupies the vacuum. Arts, literature, culture, music, dance, traditional knowledge, research, design, development, Intellectual property, international fairs & exhibitions, seminars, workshops, exchanges—take any valuable national asset and the situation is as good or as bad as sports. The minister for sports took the first step and has fallen. He should do his calculations before taking another step in the direction of anti-corruption. He has unwittingly opened war against corruption and antagonized many people. There are hundreds of hidden faces whose identity is not known to people, but they are well connected. If the Jan Lokpal Bill can “trigger fear in the bureaucracy” as touted by the PM’s Advisor, can the sports do less harm to the Sports Satraps? But the ball has been set into motion. If not this Bill , some other form of it is bound to come up. Does it make a difference if the Jan Lokpal is named differently? What is there in a name, the Bard had said? A rose smells as sweet as ever even if named something else!