Belittled in a fight against graft, Anju Bobby George walks out of Kerala sports council

Anju Bobby George made up her mind to resign after she realised that the government did not want her to continue.

TK Devasia June 22, 2016 21:47:55 IST
Belittled in a fight against graft, Anju Bobby George walks out of Kerala sports council

The open confrontation between Olympian Anju Bobby George and Kerala Sports Minister EP Jayarajan has ended with the former stepping down from the post of president of the state sports council on Wednesday.

But the issues raised by the ace long jumper after she was allegedly humiliated by the minister by calling her corrupt and a Congress worker in her first meeting with him after he assumed office will continue to haunt politicians, who try to control the sports, for a long time.

The letter she wrote before her resignation to Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) Director Jacob Thomas to conduct a probe into the corruption in the council in the last 10 years is likely to give sleepless nights to many in the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) and the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF).

Belittled in a fight against graft Anju Bobby George walks out of Kerala sports council

Anju Bobby George. Reuters

Though Anju had listed several instances of corruption in her open letter to Jayarajan after her ‘disgraceful’ encounter with him in his office in the state secretariat on 9 June, she has highlighted the sports lottery organised by the 2006-11 LDF government in her letter to the vigilance director.

The Arjuna Award winner termed the lottery as the biggest sports scam of the century. The charge is considered embarrassing for the LDF government since it was planning to nominate TP Dasan, under whose term from 2006-11 the lottery was organised, as the new sports council president.

The former athlete has also alleged massive corruption in infrastructure projects like the Munnar high altitude training centre, Pirappancode swimming pool and the Maharajas College synthetic tracks. The Munnar centre, constructed during the term of the previous LDF government at an investment of more than Rs 10 crore, remains idle now with its buildings marred by leakage and tracks flooded.

Anju, who is India's lone World Championship medallist, said many indoor stadiums constructed for promoting sports in the last 10 years have not been serving sportsmen. Many of them have been converted into marriage halls. She has alleged corruption behind these business activities.

She suspects that the minister’s outbursts against her may be a culmination of the moves against her by the corrupt elements. These forces had become restless after she started looking into corruption and irregularities behind various projects as soon as she assumed charge six months ago.

“As a revenue official and an athlete, who has participated in a number of international events, I could easily detect the malpractices in the sports council. My first agenda was to cleanse the council. I think the trouble started there,” said Anju, who is a permanent employee of Customs and Excise.

She said that the corrupt elements started plotting against her after she proposed an ethics commission to look into not only various unethical practices and harassment faced by sportspersons but also corruption in the sports field. She said that her official e-mail ID was hacked and her communications leaked.

“I don’t think that the minister had anything personal against me. He may have been misguided by those who feared the proposed commission. But, I felt insulted when he accused me of corruption without ascertaining the facts from me. I never expected such a treatment from the minister,” she added.

The former athlete had considered quitting the post after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, before whom she took up the matter, defended his ministerial colleague. However, many in the sports fraternity dissuaded her from taking such a course as they felt the resignation would be construed as an escape.

However, Anju made up her mind after she realised that the government did not want her to continue. She discussed it at the council meeting on Wednesday. Everybody was of the opinion that it was not proper to continue in an atmosphere of mistrust.

All the 13 members of the council, including noted volleyball player Tom Jose and long distance runner Preeja Sreedharan, have resigned along with her. Anju now fears that the council may slip into the hands of the corrupt elements.

The government's way of thinking is evident in the reactions to the development from the chief minister and sports minister. While Pinarayi said if one council goes, another will come in its place, his colleague Jayarajan welcomed it saying that he was happy with the decision of the entire council to quit.

Anju does not regret her decision to quit six months after she took up the charge. She said that she had never run after posts or positions during her career. Positions are not required to promote sports, the athlete said and added that she will continue to nurture talent in the state.

“Sports can be killed, but the morale of the sports personalities cannot be killed. Colonel GV Raja, who is considered as the father figure of sports in the state, had to leave the council in tears,” she said adding that she was leaving happily.

There are reasons for cheers. Anju's name is said to be under serious consideration by the central government for heading the Khelo India Programme launched for the development of sports. Anju is already the chairperson of the central government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).

However, leaders of Opposition parties have accused the LDF government of smoking out the internationally reputed athlete. Former sports minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, who appointed Anju, said the resignation was the end result of a conspiracy by the state government.

"This is a shame for sports loving Kerala as the council consisted of top flight international sports personalities. The state government should say why they are doing this," Radhakrishnan said.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said it was most unfortunate that the government had forced a world renowned athlete to leave in this manner. He said that the previous UDF government had appointed her as part of its policy to leave the sports administration to sports personalities.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president VM Sudheeran said Anju is a victim of the intolerance of the new government. Former chief minister Oommen Chandy said Anju never approached anyone seeking her post and this clearly shows the intolerant attitude of the Left government.

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