For the first time in over 65 years, there is a move to increase the membership of the Mumbai Hockey Association (previously Bombay Hockey Association) from its upper limit of 1,000.
A resolution to this effect is listed on the agenda of the 77th AGM of the association which is scheduled on August 11 followed by elections to its Managing Committee for a three-year term, MHA President Manga Singh Bakshi said on Thursday.
Bakshi is unfazed by the move by a host of former internationals, led by four-time Olympian and World Cupper Dhanraj Pillay, in submitting a memorandum to Maharashtra
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Sports Minister Padmakar Walvi alleging mismanagement in the association's affairs. He dubbed it as "pressure tactics".
The former players had told the two Ministers that MHA continued to be reluctant in granting membership to players and clubs and that its premises at Churchgate are being misused by letting them out for weddings and other events.
They alleged that there was constant bickering in the present Managing Committee, where non-hockey members kept on stalling programmes initiated by Secretary Gurbax Singh and Committee member Joaquim Carvalho, both Olympians.
"They are afraid they would be defeated at the elections. These are just pressure tactics," Bakshi told reporters, adding there was already a resolution which has to be passed by a two-third majority at the August 11 AGM to increase the membership for the first time since 1948.
Committee member Ram Singh Rathor welcomed any probe into the MHA's affairs as demanded by the former players.
"We are ready for any inquiry."
Asked about the demand to make hockey players members, Rathor retorted whether he can, likewise, round up 100-200 cricketers and go to the adjacent Mumbai Cricket Association demanding membership.
"How can it happen? We are governed by our constitution which presently says not more than 1,000 members can be admitted," Rathor explained.
Outgoing treasurer B G Chokhani claimed Gurbax and Carvalho had approached him to be the new President with them occupying important posts in the new panel but he had rejected the proposal.
"I rejected their offer and told them I may not even contest after a 30-year-old association with MHA."
The life membership of the MHA was available for Rs 1,500 and there is a proposal listed in the AGM's agenda to increase it to Rs 5,000, according to Chokhani.
"We have started the process of reviewing the existing members," Chokhani said, adding if the general body approves, there can be an increase of at least 100 members.
One of the allegations in the memorandum submitted by the former interantionals to Pawar and Walvi yesterday was that a section of the Managing Committee was not in favour of conducting a survey to eliminate a number of untraceable members, leading to claims that there are no vacancies when players applied for a membership.
Asked whether the new memberships, as and when they come about, would be available to be taken up by hockey players who are not members, Rathor said "yes".
About the charge levelled by Pillay and others that the MHA's premises were being used for non-hockey activities, Chokhani said the playing surface was never used for holding weddings and receptions.
"We use the lawn just inside the stadium for hosting these functions and that too for not more than 20-25 days in a year. We don't get any Government grant. How else do we raise funds to sustain hockey activities and pay for water, electricity etc?" he countered.