Railways and Services will cease to have voting rights in all sports federations and the Indian Olympic Association, according to a diktat from the Union government. Though the move is seen as an invocation of the National Sports Development Code of 2011, there is no unanimity in government circles with both the defence and railway ministries up in arms against the order.
The two ministries have separately conveyed to the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs calling this move arbitrary. They have also written to individual federations in this regard. Defence minister Arun Jaitley may take up the matter with sports minister Vijay Goel, sources said, while railway minister Suresh Prabhu is going to write to Goel within this week. Speaking to The Indian Express, Goel said the ministry was just applying the 2011 Sports Code. “They are also government (the board) and we are also government, and we are applying the code as it mandates one state, one vote. That apart, if I get representations on it, I will review it,” he said.
However, even the Lodha Committee, which was entrusted with recommending reforms in the functioning of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, had asked for Railways and Services to lose their voting rights. The panel reasoned that as both of them were government organisations, it meant handing two votes to the government. Their votes only reflected the wishes of the ruling dispensation of the day. Also, it ran contrary to the concept of autonomy of a national association, and could invite the wrath of the world governing body of the sport. Through a letter sent in February, May and later as well, the sports ministry told all the 30-odd sporting federations that voting rights of Railways and the Services be withdrawn.
The All Indian Football Federation (AIFF) has accordingly withdrawn the voting rights of both organisations, even though Prabhu wrote to AIFF president Praful Patel against the move. Even the Railways’ dissent note was not recorded since they were no longer a voting member. Railways will be especially peeved at this treatment as it is the largest employer of sportspersons in the country. Not having voting rights is tantamount to not having a say in the management of federations and the selection, training and conduct of national and international events.
Both Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) and the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) go back to the British era, when only these two organisations formally employed sportspersons in India. The RSPB claims to manage 3,000 active sportspersons on railway rolls, and says 1200 of them are medallists at national and international levels. The SSCB, on the other hand, claims to have around 2000 national-level sportsmen from the armed forces.