NEW DELHI: Declaring open the 36th National Games in Ahmedabad in the last week of September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, the “movement of winning medals could have started earlier too. But instead of professionalism, there was nepotism and corruption in sports.” The statement carries enormous weight in the context of various organisations running sports in the country.
The annals of Indian sports administration are replete with corrupt sports officials, whose sole motto seemed to have been lining their pockets. Former Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi, who was the Chairman of the 2010 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC), was one of the leading lights of corruption. He spent 10 months in jail on the charges of corruption and criminal conspiracy in the organisation of the games.
The Delhi edition of the CWG was one of the most inglorious in terms of corruption and poor facilities, which included leaking roofs, late finishing of stadia, breaking up of turf and sub-par facilities where athletes were staying. Such was the anger against Kalmadi that he was booed and jeered during the closing ceremony of the CWG Games.
Just to give the extent of the fradulence during the CWG 2010, here are some stats. The initial budget of the Games was Rs 700 crore and by the time they ended, it had shot up to Rs 70, 608 crore, a whopping rise by nearly 114 times.
It may also be mentioned here that two of Kalmadi’s most trusted aides, Lalit Bhanot and VK Verma, were also arrested. While Bhanot was the General Secretary of the OC, Verma was the Director General.
The three were mainly responsible for misappropriation of funds which resulted in the CWG overshooting its initial budget by a huge margin. It was later revealed that the trio had over-quoted and overpriced just about every purchase made from an Indian or foreign vendor. Till date, the 2010 CWG scandal remains the biggest sports scandal in terms of the amount involved.
Another sports bigwig who has been caught on the wrong side of law is Narinder Batra, who was the President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and also the President of the International Hockey Federation. Batra was accused of ‘swindling’ Rs 35 lakh from Hockey India for his personal use. A CBI inquiry was initiated against him that finally led to Batra being asked to step down from the post of the IOA. His fall from grace was one of the rarest instances when a supreme honcho of the IOA was booted out due to corruption charges.
But it’s not just the IOA brass which has been caught in the dragnet of corruption. Some other leading officials of national sports federations, including some in the cash-rich BCCI, have been accused of corruption and had to make disgraceful exits.
The spot-fixing scandal, which hit the IPL in 2014, was the biggest row to have hit the Indian cricket. The events had serious ramifications and even the apex court had to intervene.
There was too much unpleasant activity off the field, which finally led to the resignation of the then-BCCI chief N Srinivasan, whose son-inlaw Gurunath Meyiappan was the prime accused in spot fixing. There were also allegations at that time that leading cricketers like MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were also involved in spot fixing. All these developments threatened to destroy the very fabric of the Indian cricket.
Earlier, there was another big fallout of the IPL crisis in 2010. It culminated in the resignation of the then-Union Minister Sashi Tharoor after a deleted tweet from Lalit Modi mentioned that late Sunanda Pushkar (Tharoor’s wife) as one of sweat equity owners of Kochi Tuskers team. This led to a war of words between Modi and Tharoor, eventually resulting in Modi being ousted from the IPL and Tharoor having to step down as the minister.
In 2017, Vijay Sinha, the former general secretary of the Badminton Association of India (BAI), was expelled from its affiliated units and all member orgnaisations after being found guilty on the charges of nepotism, corruption, embezzlement of funds, and even harassment of certain players.
There have been fewer cases and corruption charges in the All India Chess Federation and the Indian Boxing Federation.
The primary reason for so much corruption and nepotism in the sports bodies is that often these administrators consider the federations as their personal fiefdom during their reign. They occupy seats in the state/national federations as if they were the life members. Even after crossing their age and tenure, they very reluctant to vacate their posts.
As office-bearers of the federations, they are entitled to lot of perks in the form of foreign trips in which their families and friends also tag along. At times, many of these sports honchos kick off their political careers from these sports bodies. The lure of the chair is so strong that despite having clear-cut corruption charges slapped on them, these officials don’t want to relinquish their posts.