The events that unfolded in the wake of the visit by the FIH observer, Antonio van Ondarza, underscored the tragically troubled times of our hockey administration. The effort at structuring Hockey India as a viable, vibrant unit to address the myriad challenges is proving to be a mirage.
That the proposed election meeting would meet neither the constitutional obligations, nor the norms of democracy projecting a pan-Indian character was clear enough from the beginning.
Not surprisingly, the conclave at Srinagar had to be deferred more by the developing circumstances than by the desire to accommodate every shade of opinion represented in the national administrative apparatus.
Bulldozing through a path and ‘creating’ an edifice to administer a major discipline, which alone enhanced the nation’s Olympic image for decades, has boomeranged.
The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is not amused a wee-bit by the prevailing inertia, especially when the country is charged with the task of hosting the most prestigious event of all — the World Cup — in Delhi less than three months away.
That the FIH has issued another ultimatum to get the issues sorted by January sounds a bit hollow. For, the previous diktat was in a similar vein about the formation of Hockey India, threatening to stop national teams taking part in any tournament hosted under the FIH banner.
It is some consolation that the Sports Ministry is viewing the alarming developments in the right perspective, urging the parties involved to arrive at a consensus and ensure that the ruling body’s election contains a filament of transparency and an equal opportunity to all units concerned.
Ever since the formation of the Ad hoc committee, consequent to the suspension of the IHF, and Hockey India subsequently, there has been a genuine apprehension whether all affiliated units (men and women) will get justice even if care was taken to merge as one unit. The inordinate delay in recognising even those unified with a majority mandate was viewed with a feeling of trepidation.
It must be noted that a majority of the units have been functioning in their states for decades, enjoying substantial benefits from the government and sports councils.
To disband them in one stroke and force the formation of new affiliates irrespective of the fact whether they have the requisite majority support or not obviously fails to meet the ends of justice for all.
Amazingly, leading entities like Bengal, Punjab and Karnataka were left in the lurch without even an acknowledgement of their unification efforts only which confirmed the fears that the yardstick varied from group to group.
Admittedly, problems exist in a few states where different groups are fighting for recognition. It will not be easy to force a solution since and even the Olympic Associations that are authorised to certify are in a dilemma to know where they stand on this question.
Against this backdrop it is difficult to comprehend how and when these irritants can be removed and election held to the satisfaction of the observers from Sports Ministry and the FIH, more importantly, of the hockey fraternity, before the deadline.
Why cannot elections be held by the end of the year? After all, the extension is only a period of time. FIH is certainly not going to frown if the problems are sorted out earlier.
Is it a Herculean task to identify members who enjoyed voting rights for men and women associations with the IHF and AIWHA earlier, and prepare a list of eligible voters in a fortnight or so?
Steeped in complexities with various players pulling strings and pressure groups remaining pro-active, the only streak of light in the otherwise area of chilling darkness is the close monitoring of the election process by the Sports Ministry.
The hockey community the world over looks to the Sports Minister, Dr. M.S. Gill, help men and women genuinely involved in administering the sport to be at the helm and see that virtues of democracy are upheld for all.