Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label corruption. Show all posts

Sunday, September 29, 2013

BCCI, Cricket and the Soul of India


“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.” 
Nelson Mandela 

I am acutely aware that there are far more serious and weighty issues that plague our country. Not for a moment do I believe that poverty, hunger, education, healthcare or a myriad other problems measure in the same breath as the recent Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) corruption scandal. I also understand where my critics are coming from when they argue that we should not distract ourselves or spend time bothering about some rich corrupt private league of old men. They say that the harm they do is limited. This is largely true but here is the thing that makes everything that has transpired within the ranks of the BCCI so important: nothing unites our country like cricket. We have a many religions, dozens of languages and dialects. Our cuisines and climates are totally different, as is our dress code from east to west and north to south. Even our cinema is split between Bollywood, Tollywood and regional films. The ONLY thing that unites every Indian is the Indian Cricket team. The boys in blue are a great symbol of national unity and international pride. They help us fight proxy wars with Pakistan, on the pitch, and defeat racism in Australia by beating the hosts handily. They help us hold our heads up high on the world stage, time and again, based on their conduct both on and off the field. Cricket is the fabric of India and it is bigger than religion. We hold our cricketers in higher esteem than Bollywood superstars, doyens of industry and even Nobel Prize winners.

Every young boy has imagined becoming a Vijay Hazare or Nawab Pataudi to Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni. Every boy has played cricket growing up and dreamed of representing his country. From the fields of every village to the back gully in every city in India you can hear the screams of a child’s delight; from Azad Maidan to Kanyakumari, only cricket is the great leveler. Any Indian with the skill, talent and determination used to be able to play for and represent India. Our cricket pitches were the only places where caste, religion, language, education and wealth did not matter. Such was the power of cricket, and that is why, what has transpired should matter to all of us. 

The conduct of the current BCCI President, N. Srinivasan, with his refusal to step aside, or even apologize is abhorrent. Mr. Srinivasan is also the owner one of the most successful franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL) – the Chennai Super Kings. This fact alone should have been sufficient ground to disqualify him from holding the post of President of BCCI (he is also President of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association). His son-in-law, Gurunath Meiyappan (the CEO of Chennai Super Kings), has been charged in an illegal betting and match fixing investigation. Naturally, this should make Mr. Srinivasan’s position even more untenable and one would expect him to have tendered his resignation. Instead he has dug in his heels, unabashedly proclaimed himself King and openly challenged anyone to oust him. He has deftly removed anyone on the board who might have stood up to him or opposed him and clearly seems to have the rest of the board in his pocket. It is quite clear that Mr. Srinivasan has been absolutely corrupted by his absolute power over the wealthiest cricket board in the world. He cares nothing for the sport he was once selected to steward. I wonder if he even remembers that the BBCI logo is derived from the emblem of the Order of the Star of India; India's highest order of chivalry during the British Raj.

This is about much more than a few corrupt old men. It is about the demise of a national sport, and with it the shattering of the dreams of every child, in every village and city gully in India. This is why we need to raise our voices and ensure that we give cricket back to the children of India. It is about restoring honour, responsibility, and integrity to the game we all loved and respected. We need to tell the BCCI that their conduct, even as non-elected representatives of Indian cricket, is incredibly important in preserving this sport’s and our nations, reputation. We must demand that these men are worthy of upholding the historic principles and values of cricket, and that they are able to discharge their duties with humility, integrity and honour, always putting the good of the game ahead of their own personal ambitions. It seems the men of the BCCI have forgotten their purpose. So drunk on power have they become that they believe they can operate with complete impunity and function in an opaque manner with zero external scrutiny or governance. A few wealthy men have hijacked our great love and turned it into their personal fiefdom.  

If cricket is India’s soul then the BCCI have morally bankrupted it. It is time to remind the BCCI who they are here to serve; the game of cricket. Only we can rejuvenate India’s soul - by raising our voices in protest and expressing our indignation, and we must because that is the only way we will give back the dream to every child in India.


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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India: Dr. Manmohan Singh


“Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?”
Bob Dylan

Dear Dr. Singh,

You recently stood outside parliament and invoked an Urdu couplet saying that your “silence is better than a thousand answers; it keeps intact the honour of innumerable questions.” Perhaps, there is some honour in not responding to each and every personal accusation made against you. We understand that many of these are politically motivated and designed by the opposition to disrupt parliamentary proceedings, or to distract the public from far more important matters facing the country. However, there is a much larger issue we are dealing with today, one that goes beyond your personal integrity, and one that affects the lives of each and every one of your countrymen and the future of our children.

The fact is that this is just the latest scam in a seemingly never-ending series of scams that plagued your coalition’s tenure – under your leadership. Perhaps you should also stay silent about the Black Money scandal where an Indian businessman was caught stashing Rs.39,120 crores ($8 billion), and the Supreme Court reprimanded your government “for failing to interrogate Khan and other alleged offenders despite having sufficient material in the possession of investigators.” (source: NDTV). Stay silent about the Commonwealth Games scam where your own party man and Chairman of the Organising Committee was charged by the CBI as “the "mastermind" in fixing and inflating costs of a timing, scoring and result” (source: Times of India). Ignore the 2G spectrum scam which not only involved dirty politicians from your coalition but also bureaucrats, corporate personalities, media personalities and lobbyists. We should also forget the Telgi stamp paper scam which lasted ten years, had tentacles across 12 states, and involved police officers and other government employees. Including one police officer who is said famously to have acquired “assets worth Rs.100 crores despite earning only Rs. 9,000 a month.” (source: Mens XP). Or look the other way about the growing number of defence scams, starting with Scorpene, where it was alleged that the “Congress leadership awarded the contract to French manufacture, Thales in exchange of 4% commission.” (source: Times of India). God forbid you dignify the outgoing Army Chief’s letter about our defence procurement procedures being mired in bureaucracy and corruption with a response. Even if our forces are woefully short of ammunition, poorly equipped and we face “97 per cent obsolescence in air defence preparedness.” (source: Times of India). Facts, it seems, that had previously been submitted by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) in an earlier report highlighting “the same critical gaps in India's defence, only much more starkly.” (source: Times of India).

I suppose you want all of us to close our eyes when the International media does cover stories with the opening line; “It is sometimes said that corruption is the purpose of Indian politics.” (source: The Economist). Cover our ears and ignore companies like Dell whose senior executives are giving interviews stating that it is becoming impossible to do business in India because of power blackouts, uncertain tax rules and lack of honour among decision-makers.” New decision makers come and they don't honour the contract previously signed." We should say good riddance to companies like Germany's Fraport, the world's second-biggest airport operator, “who recently decided to shut its development office in India, becoming the latest in a growing list of companies exiting Asia's third-largest economy.” (source: Reuters). All while the rupee continues its free fall, to new and even greater lows; causing imports to skyrocket and making it harder for the average Indian to travel or study abroad. India’s last quarter economic growth rate was the slowest pace in the last three years. The agriculture sector posted modest growth of 1.7 percent and the industrial sector grew a meagre 1.9 percent. “The fall in gross fixed capital formation (GFCF), popularly known as the investment rate, to below 30 per cent of the GDP for the first time since 2004-05 does not augur well for the future.” A few weeks prior to this report being released Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Merrill Lynch had both downgraded India’s economic outlook for 2012-13 (source: The Hindu). I could go on but perhaps my silence, even as inflation continues to rise, will speak louder for you.

It no longer matters if you dipped your hand in the cookie jar or not. I think I speak for all my countrymen when I say we still believe that you are not corrupt. However, it is not integrity that we seek from you; it is leadership, tenacity and the courage to fulfill the duties of your office. Nobody expects you to wipe out corruption, but at least let justice be delivered when corruption is exposed. Stop protecting those who have abused their office and been caught red-handed. Open your eyes and look around at the devastation your party and coalition members have caused under your nose and leadership. Turn your head in the direction of the havoc they are wreaking through unchecked corruption and unending greed. You will not have to look far to see how they continue to rape and pillage your country, our country, my country only to fill their Swiss coffers. They are selling our souls to the highest bidder, every day. Uphold the oath of your office and serve the people who put you there.

Mother India weeps and lies bleeding at your doorstep. This will be your legacy, Dr. Singh, if you continue to do nothing.

The time for silence is over. The time for words is also over. It is time for action. Save India. Lead us, or get out of the way.