Monday, April 4, 2011

Indiscreet Discretions- Rewarding Cricketers for World Cup Win

Sports Ministry recognizes achievement by Arjuna and Khel Ratna Award. We keep scarce resources to train those unknown who are yet to achieve”; thus tweeted Ajay Maken, the Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports. These words bring back into focus the huge cash prizes and residential plots being bestowed on our World Cup winning cricketers by various States.

Team India has made us proud by winning the World Cup after a long gap of 28 years. No doubt, each member of the Team deserves accolades and recognition by the entire nation, not only for the great efforts of these individuals but also to provide encouragement to our budding sportspersons.

But what we have seen, immediately after the win, is something that calls for concerns. Many a State declared prize money to the tune of Rs One Crore to each player domiciled in that State. Some others are promising houses and plots to the Team Members. These offers are in addition to the offer of Rs One Crore to each player, made by BCCI itself.

As I said, I am not against rewarding talent. I have no grudge against the monetary prizes even if some of these individuals are already among the highest income earners in the country. But, I can’t stop being angry at the way these prizes are being announced in a mere one-upmanship manner.

Where are these large amounts coming from? Don’t we have a system of Budget? Was there any money dedicated to making such prizes in the budgets approved by respective legislatures? Or, is the money being diverted from any other account- more importantly, from the scarce resources allocated to sports departments ‘for training those unknown, who are yet to achieve’?

Next question that arises is who authorised these prizes? Were these decisions taken by Cabinets of respective governments? Or was these decisions taken as per the whims and fancies of the respective Chief Ministers? Has anyone analysed the pros and cons of paying such huge amounts (Rupees One Crore is still a huge amount at least for the so called 1 Billion people, out of the total population of 1.2 Billion!) of tax payers’ money to a select group of sportspersons.

In a democratic system of governance, the governments are only trustees of public money. They do not own it. They can’t spend a single rupee without budgetary sanction from the people (through their representatives in the legislature). Indeed, there are discretionary funds in the hands of Chief Ministers/other heads of governments but these funds are merely to meet exigencies.

Discretionary powers are not to be exercised indiscreetly. Singling out cricketers for such largesse is nothing but indiscretion. All those Governments who declared cash or land as prizes for cricketers owe an explanation to the people as to how they had exercised their discretion (if at all there is one) in arriving at the decision and what is the source of money. We have the right to know whether the trust bestowed upon these elected governments were exercised for right reasons.

We have seen time and again, that use of discretionary powers is a source of corruption and nepotism- be it in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu or Centre. Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi had even admitted, in the AICC Plenary, the need for doing away these discretionary powers. No doubt, the present instance is yet another example of its misuse.

If a government wants to reward its achievers, let there be a proper policy in this regard. The level of achievements and reward size be declared in advance. A proper procedure should be followed in a transparent manner, while making decisions on such rewards.

Even the hardcore fans of cricket who may argue that these cricketers deserve such huge prizes will not be able to give any justification for the fact that the Gujarat Boys will get Rs One Lakh each while their counterparts elsewhere will get Rs One Crore each. If this is known in advance at least the sportspersons can choose their State of domicile so that they don’t end up being in the wrong State at the right time.

Huge disparity between the Cricketers and sportsmen of other disciplines is staring at our faces. It is fine for cricketers to take advantage of the commercialisation of their sport and earn more than others. But, it is not so fine when Governments discriminate among sportspersons on the basis of TRPs of TV channels (presumably) alone.

Before I end, I must say Olympics and Asiads are much wider arenas for sportsmen and any achievement in these events are, any day, far superior than a world cup win in cricket, for the sheer reason that the competition is limited to just 14 nations. These sportspersons also deserve at least similar consideration from their governments as they have no BCCI to award huge sums on their best performances.

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