SPORT

HI accuses Ministry of bias

Sports Reporter

NEW DELHI: Even as the International Hockey Federation (FIH) on Monday clarified that the World Cup would be held here as scheduled, Hockey India (HI) took on the Union Sports Ministry accusing it of bias towards the Punjab lobby.

“The FIH regrets that there is another delay in the election process for Hockey India. The Hero Honda FIH World Cup will take place in New Delhi…from February 28-March 13, 2010 with the 12 participants as qualified,” stated an official release of the FIH on Monday, scotching speculations of a possible postponement of the event.

That must have come as some consolation for HI, battling as it had been on various fronts for the past few weeks.

No longer prepared to take allegations lying down, HI Secretary-General Narinder Batra confronted the media on Monday, with a voluminous bunch of documents, including correspondence and minutes of meetings held with Sports Ministry officials to point out, what he alleged, was the ministry’s bias.

In response to Hockey Punjab Secretary Pargat Singh’s allegations, Batra said that HI had given affiliation to Punjab “under pressure from the Sports Ministry.”

He said the State women’s association had objected, as late as January 7, to the process of merger of men and women bodies as carried out by the body headed by Mr. Sukhbir Singh Badal.

Intervention

“The Ministry of Sports is acting as the Punjab Government,” Batra said at a press conference and produced documents to assert that the ministry had intervened at every stage as though it was in favour of a particular group.

“As for Pargat’s allegations, let me state that HP’s affiliation was given within 24 hours after due process with immense pressure coming from Sports Ministry despite there being disputes in the state unit.

In fact, in no other case has the Ministry been so keen (to grant affiliation). This goes on to show a systematic calumny against HI and its office-bearers,” Batra said.

Batra said Kalmadi never put pressure as far as HI elections were concerned and it was only “an assumption.” The HI Secretary denied that he had made any negotiations on behalf of Kalmadi with Punjab officials.

The HI official said a group that proclaimed its allegiance to Hockey Bengal President J.B. Roy was roped in, at the behest of the ministry, in the affiliation process.

That group comprised Pargat Singh, Amrit Bose, Gurbux Singh and Rajkumar Jaipal.

He pointed out it was Jaipal of the Rajasthan association who had now gone to court, which had granted stay, thus stopping the procedures for the scheduled elections on February 7.

Batra said HI intended to move court and seek to get the Jaipur High Court stay vacated. “Because of the holidays, we cannot move court before January 27,” he said.

Hinting at the link between Sports Ministry and the J.B. Roy group, Batra cited an example where three States — Delhi, Punjab and West Bengal — objected to the appointment of G.S. Mander as the Returning Officer for the polls.

“Identical letters reached the Ministry from three different States on the same day and the next day the Ministry wrote to HI regarding the concerns raised by the units,” Batra said, adding that, in contrast, the Sports Ministry refused to accept letters from HI through courier and insisted on those being delivered through speed post.

Producing documents as proof, the HI Secretary expressed surprise over Government observer S.K. Mendiratta’s adverse comments in the media on Mander’s appointment even though he had signed the document relating to the qualification of the Returning Officer as explained by FIH observer Antonio von Ondarza.

Batra wondered why the Sports Ministry was backing some State associations. “And I do not know what problem the Government has with us,” he said.

Pargat criticised

He said J.B. Roy and Pargat wanted power in HI and when they could not muster enough support in their favour, they tried to put pressure and negotiate.

Referring to Sports Minister M.S. Gill’s suggestion that old associations should not be denied affiliations, Batra said HI intended to accommodate several units as associate members after the first general body meeting. He said HI was only following Government’s own stipulations on the issue.

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