The fact that India's Sport Minister Ajay Maken wanted to bring the cash-rich BCCI under the Right to Information Act is well documented. As expected, with BCCI head honchos doubling up as Cabinet Ministers - the bill was binned - for the time being at least.
Maken has been asked to work on a draft of a new bill that will be more acceptable to Cabinet members, one that wouldn't 'infringe on the autonomy' that Sports bodies require. The Sports Minister is in no mood to back down and has vowed to fight for the bill. His argument being, "If the BCCI puts accounting in its balance sheets, why are they scared of RTI?"
The BCCI has responded by going on the offensive. Board vice president Rajiv Shukla (who is also a Rajya Sabha MP and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs) told the media that the board's accounts are already in the public domain through their website.
"He (Maken) should find out what's happening at the ground level. He does not know anything. All the information is already on our website. There is no question of hiding or concealing anything. After every meeting, our accounts details are given to media."
So we checked at the 'ground level' -- to wit, the BCCI website -- as Shukla suggested. Down to the bottom of the page, there is a Media Zone that, among other good stuff, has a link to 'Annual Report'. See below:
So you click, anticipating a breakdown of assets, liabilities, revenues, expenditure and the like. And you get this:
Face-palm moment, anyone?
That in a nutshell is how the BCCI operates: when confronted with a question, its officials come up with statements that sound reasonable on the surface, but do not withstand a moment's scrutiny. And while on statements, consider this:
As far back as December 2005, the BCCI in a 'vision statement' underwritten by then president Sharad Pawar had prescribed 'transparency' as one of its key goals. Here's an excerpt from the document:
When the country is getting excited about the Right to Information Act, the board is being ridiculed for its lack of transparency. Unless we believe in the free flow of information, particularly when millions and millions of rupees are involved, we are bound to be misunderstood. There can’t be a better start to the new-look board than resolve that everything we do from hereon will be transparent and in the game’s and public interest.
That was in December 2005, as we pointed out. Six years later, that 'resolve' remains unfulfilled, and the only thing the board has to show for it is a sign that reads 'Coming Soon'
Incidentally, the BCCI's claim that it is a private body and hence cannot be brought under the purview of the RTI goes against accepted law. On January 31st this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the BCCI, its affiliates and officials were all public servants. Read more on the judgment here
Keeping that in mind, haven't BCCI members who moonlight as Members of Parliament heard of the term 'Office of Profit'? A little recap for Messrs Rajiv Shukla, Sharad Pawar and co. - According to Article 102 (1)(A) of the Indian Constitution, a member of the Indian Parliament is barred from holding any other office that would give its occupant the opportunity to gain a financial advantage or benefit.
The BCCI has till now wiggled its way out of this one by stating that all their office bearers held 'honourary positions'. Isn't it time to show us the fine print?