I was at a dinner last night when I learnt that Commonwealth Games corruption scandal tainted Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala were anointed as Life Presidents of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). Almost immediately, I was enveloped by a grim melancholic state of inexplicable grief.
No words can describe the deep sense of emotional distress inflicted on one's soul, when you learn that two alleged criminals are being honoured with patronage at the temple of Indian sport, the IOA. Are these two individuals worthy of being representatives of Indian sport?
The anguish around the decision is reminiscent of the experience of watching Sorious Samura’s disturbing documentary, ‘Living with Corruption’. The film captures the dark underbelly in Kenya and Sierra Leone, where poverty stricken daily-wage labourers are robbed of their meagre earnings.
The tale of Indian sports is not very different. The memory of Olympic sprinter Dutee Chand running in the corridors of sports bodies in pursuit of a pair of running shoes is an indelible reminder of the corruption that destroys sport in India.
The introspection in the aftermath of the Rio Olympics and the unabashed celebration of PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar did raise some hope for some forward thinking measures.
But unfortunately, it appears that Indian sport has mastered the art of taking one step forward and ten back. The shameless and unbridled manner in which Kalmadi and Chautala were honoured on Tuesday represents a new low for Indian sport.
As low as they can stoop, the administrators seem intently capable of discovering newer nadirs with alarming regularity. But coming from the IOA, this latest tryst with darkness needs to be condemned in the clearest manner possible.
The silver lining to this dark cloud came in the form of a stern comment by Sports Minister Vijay Goel: “We are shocked at the resolution passed by the IOA to make Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Singh Chautala as Life Presidents,”
“This is totally unacceptable to us, as both of them are facing serious corruption and criminal charges,” Goel said, at a hurriedly-called press conference at his residence.
“In fact, the IOA was suspended by the IOC when Chautala and Lalit Bhanot were elected as office bearers of the IOA and the suspension was lifted only when the two were removed from the management,” Goel added.
At this moment, though, we need more than just words. The IOA is the primary custodian of sport in India. Our nation needs to do everything possible to ensure that its portals are kept free of predators like Kalmadi and Chautala. These are nefarious men, seeking profit from sport in the most shameless and arrogant manner possible, with a history of alleged crooked deals and cooked books.
The Rs 141 crore Swiss Timing deal was just one small example of the dirty empire run by Kalmadi, on the pretext of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The deal is said to have been inflated by a whopping Rs 95 crores. The state of the Games village in the days leading to the games was cause for national disgrace.
The corrupt administrator, Kalmadi, served a jail sentence of ten months for his role in the Commonwealth Games scandal. It was shameful enough for the country that a man of such dirty leather was the IOA president between 1996 and 2011. But the sporting world is now sinking in despair at the thought of the 72-year-old being honoured with a life time role at the IOA.
The other villain in this ugly development is Chautala. The man from Haryana has spent nearly his entire life working up fractious groups to divide and rule over sport, solely for the purpose of stealing money meant for sport.
He used those resources to usurp power and destroy sport, drawing dirty designs to divert public resources into personal profit. Just two examples can explain his raison d’etre.
The world body AIBA derecognised the erstwhile Indian Amateur Boxing Federation in 2013, owing to manipulated elections. Just recently, Chautala demonstrated his shameless machinations by getting his faction of the Haryana Olympic Association, recognised by the IOA.
Do we need men like these to run our sport? Before we ask for more medals, we first need to wonder if these are the best men we can come up with, from a pool of 1.3 billion people.
As another year draws to a close, it is sad to see Indian sport grapple with age old problems of corruption and incestuous hegemony. We cannot blame our athletes for underperforming, if we fail to act even under such circumstances.
The conscience of Indian sport cannot be compromised. Everyone needs to raise their voice and revolt against this repulsive development, to prevent another generation of athletes from being drowned in the greed of lousy men.
Updated Date: Dec 28, 2016 10:45:38 IST