Pranab Dhal Samanta: The ceasefire on the LOC has been so far the one confidence building measure that has worked between India and Pakistan. How serious is this current shooting and killing incident and the series of less reported incidents?
Jitendra Singh: There have been a lot of incidents which donít get reported. Or are not highlighted. The government is taking them up with Pakistan. But the more important question is: does Pakistan have control over its forces, does the Pakistan government control those other organisations which function there? Who is in control, one really doesnít know. Such incidents shouldnít happen. But we need to work towards things like the demarcation of borders, not only on the Pakistan side but also on the Bangladesh side, in Sri Lanka. Otherwise, these incidents will continue. The border fencing needs to be strengthened. Look at the Rann of Kutch, Rajasthan, or Punjab borders with Pakistan. You have fencing so you have no problems there. You may need to use electronic surveillance and other equipment. It is very important to use technology to detect such intrusions. Parts of Pakistan are unstable in certain ways. With that political situation, I donít see an immediate stop to such incidents.
Maneesh Chhibber: But how long can we keep on taking the line that Pakistan is unstable? Questions will be asked about cricket diplomacy and that Pakistan isnít too keen on taking the peace moves forward.
Jitendra Singh: A lot of matters have been raised and brought to the notice of the Pakistan government. We should be tough. We have to keep hundreds of thousands of soldiers in those areas throughout the year. If tension reduces, we can pull them out of there. I was shocked by this incident and by many other incidents which have not come to light.
Sandeep Dwivedi: What is your view of the sports code in the proposed Sports Bill and how logical is it to fully implement it? There is considerable mistrust between the ministry and the federations.
Jitendra Singh: Iíll start with the sports associations and federations. There has been some conflict with the sports federations, associations in the past. When I took over, I tried to reach out to them. Some federations are doing an excellent job, some arenít working at all. The federations are very important because the job of a federation is to identify talent. It has the structures. There are district bodies, state bodies, national bodies and they are associated at the international level also. They identify talent. The government is funding them. But I see a weakness in most associations in that they have no connect at the district level. Thatís where the deficiency is. A person may be a very good hockey player in some village but heíll have almost no chance of being identified. Sport in this country is not a career option. Each federation is running its own little empire and that too very differently from the others. There is no similarity or best practices in associations. Iím coming up with my 10 year plan up to 2020. Itís very important that the federations run in a professional manner. The problem is that the only mandate we have is to stop funding a federation. If their players want to go out or play in matches being organised in India, you canít block them. Some federations and associations are very wealthy so you canít do anything with them. A lot has been said about the proposed Sports Bill but there is nothing that the federations shouldnít accept about the sports code. All it says is the tenure should be limitedówhich I feel is a fair thing. You need to bring in young people. You need to bring in sportspersonsóup to 25 per cent of sportspersons should be in those associations.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Can that be the rule? If a federation is working well, if someone is doing well, does he need to go? As for sportspersons being in positions of authority, it hasnít worked in certain places. Each federation is different from the other so can you rule all of them through this one sports code?
Jitendra Singh: We are not saying you fill the organisation with sportspersons; you should have some sportspersons. We have said just 25 per cent. And the age restrictions, you have to let go at some stage. You have 80-90-year-old people in some federations.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Thatís happening in political parties too but age does not seem to be a factor there at all.
Jitendra Singh: You will appreciate there is a little difference between politics and sports. If you donít fix some sort of tenure, how will you get new people into the system? In the Youth Congress, we brought in young people through elections. That is the way of bringing in new people. Otherwise, if we get something, we hold on to it. We say this is my kingdom and I am not going to leave, literally, forever.
D K Singh: What are you doing with the Sports Bill?
Jitendra Singh: We are holding consultations with all stakeholders, with my colleagues in the government, Parliament. I am trying to explain to them how this bill is for the betterment of sports. I feel that some parts of the proposed Sports Bill need to be modified. Thatís what I am working on right now. But in general, I feel that the Sports Bill should come. Itís very important.
Maneesh Chhibber: Should we not keep politicians out of sports associations considering most of them have no knowledge of the sport and their interests tend to overlap with those of the sports body they are in?
Jitendra Singh: I donít agree that politicians should be kept out of sports associations. Politicians can bring a lot of value because a political person has access to the government for funding, etc. You canít paint all politicians with the same brush. If a politician is duly elected to a sports body, I see nothing wrong with it.
Manish Chhibber: Why have successive ministers found it so hard to rein in BCCI? Why canít we have a more transparent BCCI?
Jitendra Singh: As far as transparency is concerned, there are a few issues. Thatís why the Sports Bill is very importantóso that we can bring in some sort of transparency, when everybody will be covered under RTI. There should be some sort of legislation. I will speak to BCCI about their concerns. I think in the last few months there has been a positive environment being built across the associations. Should the ministry of youth affairs and sports become the lord and master of all associations? I donít think so.
NP Singh: The Railways, the Services, the Police have played a big role in developing sports talent. This is an area that can be worked on.
Jitendra Singh: Absolutely. We have tried to create a long-term plan for the development of sports. The next Olympics is in 2016 in Rio de Janeiroóhow are we preparing players in the different disciplines? How are we and the associations going to work together? There should be some sort of benchmark on the functioning of these associations. You canít have one person doing very well and another not having a single championship. So minimum benchmarking needs to be done. Corporate involvement is happening very fast. I was pleasantly surprised that a lot of corporate houses want to associate themselves with sportspersons and the ministry of sports. They want to help us develop centres of excellence.
Let me tell you how we want to start working towards it. We have something known as Panchayat Yuva Krida aur Khel Abhiyan. We are trying to restructure that scheme. We give a meagre Rs 1 lakh to every panchayatówe are trying to restructure that. We need to hold competitions, sporting events in every block and identify talent from there. We are in the process of working towards a plan to create schools in every district, not necessarily new schools but any school which is in the district. That school will become a sports friendly school. We will give them all equipment, coaches, etc. We will give admission to talented people from the blocks and the panchayats. A little stipend will be given, hostel facilities will be there. There will be training and shortlisting. People who have done very well will be taken to centres of excellence. The problem is that we are trying to do too many things together. For example, we have 58 SAI centres, running, literally, all disciplines. Itís too much to handle. This year, we plan to create roughly 28 centres of excellence, each one with three or four disciplines. We will try to bring those people from districts to these centres.
The challenge is that there is a deficiency of coaches. By our estimates, we need over 10,000 coaches for the country. Looking at our past performance, we are working on certain focus areas: athletics, wrestling, rowing, sailing, canoeing, shooting, weightlifting, boxing, archery, badminton and field hockey. These are the disciplines which we are more suited to, genetically.
Coomi Kapoor: All the young ministers at the Centre have come from political dynasties or from royal families. Thereís no aam aadmi there.
Jitendra Singh: There is no royalty and no royal families now. We too are aam aadmi. I donít see the difference in people coming from political families or from royal families. They are also aam aadmi, citizens of this country. People elect them. We donít just arrive and say that ok, Iím elected. The people give them the popular vote and elect them.
I think my party has done a lot with the youth. But it takes time for it to make a difference. If democratisation of the political system happens, it will be a game changer. I know how difficult it was to democratise the Indian Youth Congress and the NSUI. Of course, you have problems with the elected system. But if you open the entry to politics for everybody, then it can work.
Vanya Pandey (EXIMS): As a former member of the Youth Congress, I know it is not being fully utilised. Itís too focused on college politics.
Jitendra Singh: We have been plagued by some problems, during the internal elections. And it has only been three years since we began these processesóit takes a little time to mature. What we have done is at the unit level. We canít jump in from Delhi and say you need to start doing this. For example, if a hospital is dirty, that local unit should get together and sayóok, letís clean up the hospital. We are trying to create those sorts of ideas. We should have a performance management system where we can say that this unit or this person has done something interesting. In the Indian Youth Congress, some people think that it is the quick ladder to politics, which it is not.
Praveen Raman (EXIMS): When can India host the Olympic Games? Should we be trying to host multi-disciplinary games?
Jitendra Singh: We should be hosting the Olympics and other major events. But itís not about hosting, it is more important to prepare. Any big country can host these games. How our sportsmen perform should be the focus. The problem is that we donít have a long-term sports development plan. Interventions are made on certain events rather than developing sports over a longer period of time.
Sandeep Dwivedi: Are you aware that the sports ministry funds bodies like the tug of war association, the fencing association? There are sports called Ďatya patyaí which are also funded by your ministry. Shouldnít we rather be concentrating on disciplines we are good at like shooting, boxing?
Jitendra Singh: We do fund all kinds of sports. Itís also important that some rural, traditional sports donít vanish. There are areas in Chhattisgarh and in naxal areas which have their own sporting events. Even the North-East comes up with its own thing. The funding is meagre. A few years ago, I went to Hyderabad National Police Academy. The AP police had created a Greyhound force to fight naxals. An old man who was originally from Jodhpur was the head of Greyhounds. He said that the first thing he started was sports. Eighty per cent of our budget went to sports. We started a mass scale of sports in naxal areas. Thatís how we entered the villages, thatís how we developed confidence among the youth.
Manu Pubby: Regarding the former Army chief, VK Singh, how long can the MOD treat him as just another army chief with so many perks and facilities, now that he is moving into politics?
Jitendra Singh: There are some facilities given to former chiefs. And he enjoys those.
Transcribed by Jonathan Selvaraj; *EXIMS: Express Institute of Media Studies