Speaking on NDTV's Sonia Singh on Your Call, Sports Minister Ajay Maken said that he believes Indian hockey is on the path of revival and that he is heartened by the spirit showed by the men's and the women's team in the ongoing Olympic qualifiers in New Delhi. Read the full transcript of the show.
NDTV: Good Evening and welcome to Your Call. It's the only show on Indian television where you, the viewer, can ask the question to our newsmaker of the week. Tonight a young minister who is taking on a sports establishment, but he is a minister who is used to challenges. Joining me tonight is Ajay Maken, thank you so much for coming in. Lets just look first at the highlights of your life and career.
Mr Maken, its nice to have you at a time when there is a huge focus on Indian hockey and Olympic qualifiers. Many are saying that this is actually a great period to fix what is wrong with Indian hockey. Are you going to be able to do that?
Ajay Maken:Â Well it's up to the warring Sports Federations to come together and the best thing is they should be able to do so when the Federation of International Hockey, the FIH's top brass is here in Delhi. So I think they should best utilise this time to sort out their differences before the FIH, and all three of them should come together with the solution. So it's ultimately they who have to decide and they will benefit out of it. The entire country definitely is looking towards a kind of formula wherein they both can come together.
NDTV: Both the men and the women's Hockey teams have played their hearts out on the field. When you look at that, when you see what's currently going on, what would you say as a Sports Minister to these players?
Ajay Maken:Â Well, I feel saddened, because on one hand they are putting so much of effort, and perhaps not many people know that before reaching this level, every sports person, hockey sports person is in a dilemma as to which Federation he should align with. Should he or she join the Indian Federation sponsored tournaments, or should he or she participate in the Hockey India tournament? But despite this our players have come up and they are playing so well, and it clearly indicates that if both come together the Indian hockey will just reach there, and we again will become world champions in days to come.
NDTV:Â And men's Hockey, we have seen some of our best players aren't even in the team.
Ajay Maken:Â And yes it is, and many people say it is politics, but we have to go by the coach. The coach says this is the best thing, but again whatever is happening behind the scene is something, which no one knows. But we should go by the coach, by the decision of the coach and if the coach says this is a perfect team, we should support the team.
NDTV:Â The story I think of players against all odd, against the system some how excelling is a common story of sports across India, not just in Hockey, and I have one young athlete, sportsman who wants to ask you this question, Vijender Singh
Vijender Singh: Sir Namaste, sabse pehle aapko jo sports bill leke arahe ho uspe badhayi ho. Aur main chahunga ki jald se jald sports bill pass ho aur jitne bhi sports person hain, unka sabka bhala ho Sir. Main poore dil se sports bill ke haq mein hun Sir, aur main isko support karta hun Sir. Lekin ek mera question Sir yeh hai ki, jo farak ek cricketers hain aur doosre sports person k beech, jo ek gap hota hai Sir, jab woh jeetke ate hain jaise ki cricket world cup jeetke aya tha, toh kayin governments thi, jinhone unko like academy ke liye zameen di thi aur like cash prize unka bohot jyada tha, humara toh kehte hain Sir beech mein bhi nahi hai, kahin bhi. To jaise humare ladke championship mein abhi bronze medal abhi leke ke aaye thay, toh unke liye, I, think, koi ghosna bhi nahi hui thi. Aur humara jo ek level hai boxing ka, I mean pura world participate karta hai, yeh nahi ke like 15-16 country khelen aur woh jeet ke aa gaye, toh itna gap kyun kiya jata hai? Cricketers ke beech mein aur sports person ke beech mein, aur jo sports bill mein baat aati hai ke jo bhi wearabouts ka hum form bharte hain, toh usmein humko har din update karna padta hai ke main kya kar raha hun, kahan jaa raha hun; naa he cricketer woh log bharte hain, toh I think yeh jo rule hain, sabhi sports person ke liye ek saath se hone chaheye Sir, aur dono ke beech mein farak nahi hona chaheye. Toh I think mera question yehi hai saaf ke dono ke beech mein itna farak kyun kiya jata hai?
NDTV: This is something many other sportsmen must be asking you all the time?
Ajay Maken:Â I think he is right on both the things. But as far as the Union government is concerned, as far as the Sports Ministry, of which I am the Minister, we give cash awards only for sports other than cricket. We do not spend any money, the only time we are spending money is just a small token amount for Yuvraj Singh's treatment. But other then that we, we have not spent even a single penny on cricket. Whatever money, whatever cash awards we are giving it is only for sports, other than cricket and these Olympics sports, and now we have got huge amount of money for sportspersons. If my memory serves me right, in the past three years we have given sports, all these sportspersons who have won in international tournaments, awards worth around 50 crore Rupees. So it's not that we have, we are not giving them money and, and we have almost doubled the awards money, which we use to give earlier. So 50 crore Rupees, a, already around 50 crore Rupees have already been spent on these sportspersons.
NDTV: Is it a competition for cash prizes? Is the fact that cricket is now the big brother of all sport in India, and the reality is it's run privately, and it goes out and earns its own money, and ...
Ajay Maken: Yes, yes
NDTV: ... accordingly the players are compensated. Do you think the comparison is perhaps not a fair one? You have to realize that cricket is earning its worth and that's why their players are getting that much.
Ajay Maken: Well the answer to this is that cricket finds its sponsors but these games have failed to find sponsors so far. But as we are gradually also encouraging these sports like in boxing, the World Series Boxing has now started taking place in our country, we have, we are, we have encouraged the All India Boxing Federation to organise such tournaments here. The Sports Ministry also gives as a support to, a, such matches and we, through us, they get political clearances from the MEA, security and visa clearances from the MHA, so all this is all what we facilitate. So we support such tournaments and we want that like IPL, all such other sports also have their own set of leagues, which then gradually transforms sports into a form of entertainment through the media and this is the answer to the cricket.
NDTV: So you don't think, it should be the case of sour grapes? I mean like many have said that some of your statements and some of others, that it's sour grapes against cricket. That actually cricket is doing well because the government has nothing to do with it?
Ajay Maken:Â No it is not so. The government, rather the state governments and we do not have anything to do with any of these sports federations. Running of any of these sports federations, government has nothing to do with it, including boxing. We do not have a government nominee in boxing, we do not tell them who to select, or not to select. It is just the infrastructure, which we provide it to them, because they do not have their own infrastructure in cricket. Also, the land which is given to all these sports, cricket stadiums in the country, has been given by their respective state governments. But the Firoz Shah Kotla stadium land, which has been given to DDCA, likewise any cricket stadium in the country, you name it, the land is almost given free of cost to the BCCI or to the state federations.
NDTV: Right and I think that's why now they are getting, also with their huge revenues, huge income tax notices. But let me just ask because we are talking about Hockey and Boxing, and Vijendra Singh making the point, that these are sports which we play against the World. Of course for India the biggest sporting event coming up now is the Olympics, but sadly that's been marred by the controversy for athletes because of the whole Dow sponsorship issue; despite your letter, basically the IOC has written back snubbing that letter, and India in a way, by saying that we are sticking with Dow. What are you going to do about it?
Ajay Maken: Well it is unfortunate. I think that the IOC should understand the sensitivity of this issue. It is unfortunate that they have straight away said no, even though, we should appreciate that at least in the main stadium, that the London Stadium wrap, now Dow have agreed not to put its Logo. But it is not good enough. They should, they should have some more concrete steps. Because after all, so many Indian citizens have died in Bhopal because of a company, which is now owned by Dow, so Dow also should share the liability of that company.
NDTV:Â But it didn't become an issue for you till British MPs raised it, in fact many have said that it's ironic that India frankly didn't care about this, till British MPs raised it?
Ajay Maken: As far as the government or the Indian MP's or the Indian establishment is concerned, it came to our notice as late as just two months back, whereas it was signed by the IOC with Dow Chemicals, which should have been in the knowledge of the Indian Olympic association, way back in July, 2010. So this agreement was signed between the IOC and the Dow Chemicals; IOC means International Olympic Council and the Dow Chemicals way back in July 2010. And in, as a part of this agreement, it says that all the National Olympic Councils, which includes the Indian Olympic Association, shall automatically partner with DOW Chemicals. So this is something, which should have been first raised by the IOA, instead of the government asking the IOA to raise it before the IOC. So this is something, which I think we all should know. Where it's, it is just two months back that it came to our notice, it became, something which was public, just two or three months back.
NDTV: There is an interesting point, because then, that's till 2020 and what, what impact it has on sporting events held by the International Olympic Association. But I have a question for you, from some Bhopal activist on that. Lets just hear what they have to say
Shatinath Sharangi: My name is Shatinath Sharangi and I am an activist fighting for the cause of justice for the victims of Union Carbide's disaster in Bhopal. My question to Mr Maken is, about a month back Mr Maken, you publicly promised on a national channel that you would ensure that the Bhopal victims are not disappointed on the issue of Dow Chemicals, Union Carbide's owner, sponsoring the London Olympics 2012. And now we know that the International Olympics Committee has snubbed the Indian Olympics Association and the Indian government, and has refused to dump Dow as a sponsor. My question is what are you now going to do Mr Maken? Are you going to let the London Olympic organisers know that India will boycott the Olympics, so long as Dow Chemicals, responsible for the continued misery, suffering and death in Bhopal, remain a sponsor of the Olympic Games?
NDTV:Â Is a boycott a viable alternative?
Ajay Maken: Well, a, whether to boycott or not is something which we can decide anytime before July. So we are just in February, so boycotting or not boycott is something, which we would leave to the last minute. But again let me assure him I have always been saying so, that we will take it up to the highest level, and we are going to step up and in what way, is something which we are actively discussing and considering in the government. So in days to come everyone will come to know. But this is something, which is under active consideration of the government and we are setting, stepping up our pressure on the International Olympic Council to dump Dow Chemicals.
NDTV: What is the highest level, because in a way it was a virtual snub to the Indian government?
Ajay Maken: No, Indian government so far has not yet engaged with the IOC as a first level. As a first step we had asked IOA to take it up with the IOC, so now, so now I think that the Indian government, these are one of the options before us, that the Indian Government may take it up with the IOC. This is something, which is under our active consideration and these are some of the things that we are thinking and contemplating to act, and then step up our pressure on the International Olympic Council.
NDTV: Many athletes we have spoken to privately say that this controversy is really politically created. They said it actually won't make a difference to the victims of Bhopal about whether Dow sponsors the London Olympics, what about their dreams? I mean we all know that the athletes work for years for training for the Olympics. What do you think from the athletes' point of view, do you think that this is politically created?
Ajay Maken: Well now again, you put in two people before me asking questions and both of them want a totally different thing. The second person, a Bhopal victim,
NDTV: That is difficult for you too, being the Minister
Ajay Maken: ...Yes. Bhopal victims want us to boycott, whereas Vijendra Singh wants us to participate so. So this is something which you know, I have to decide whether to boycott or whether to support the Bhopal victims; support or whether to support Vijender Singh or Abhinav Bindra or all such number of players who are middle hopefuls now. So, this is something on which a decision has to be taken. That is why I am saying that it would be too early to say whether we will boycott or not. A 'brahamastra' which let us, let us use it when the time comes. But 'brahamastra,', we will have brahamastra behind us and we will fight it out, that is our strategy.
NDTV: Where you talk about the fire, walking that tight rope, another walking the tight rope is of course between Cricket and your Sports Bill and whether the Board of Cricket Control will come under it. I have some one on line now, fellow Congress Minister, who has many questions about that. Rajeev Shukla joins me right now, who of course is also IPL in-charge, and Mr Shukla, go ahead with your question for Ajay Maken. Would you ask him that when cricket is doing fine without the government, why does he want the government in cricket now? Go ahead and your question, Rajeev
Rajeev Shukla: I was told to ask a question from the Minister, which question I am going to ask, that you can't decide
NDTV: No I just gave you a hint, so now it's up to you
Rajeev Shukla: No, no, what I am going to ask the Honourable Minister, because he is doing a good job at the Sports Ministry, is being a lot of a tension, with huge infrastructure, government infrastructure is there and to how you can get to utilize that infrastructure in order to promote the game? This is what I wanted to ask the Minister
NDTV: And can I ask you as a Minister do you think he should actually, should the Sports Minister stay away from cricket? Should cricket not be treated as a sport, which comes under the Union Sports Ministry?
Rajeev Shukla: Why should he stay away? I mean he should be very much at the helm here. We also need him it's not that you don't need him. We need the Ministry and we need the Minister. So why should he stay away?
NDTV: But are you anti his new Sports Bill?
Rajeev Shukla: We are not against the Sports Bill. Many provisions of the Sports Bill we have already implemented. What we were saying, there were differences of opinion on certain, on few points, which on certain issues, which we are already, you know, talking to the Ministry.
NDTV: Why do you think, you want, why do you think you want the Board of Cricket Control under the RTI Act? Why do you think it's essential?
Ajay Maken: Well first of all let me clarify. We don't want to interfere into the functioning of the BCCI. Number one, we don't want the BCCI to be under the Government as some people are just, people who are opposing Sports Bill for reasons best known to them, they are saying that the government wants to take over the BCCI, take over the Cricket, it is not so. What we are saying is, have age and tenure norms, age norm of seventy years, tenure norm of 8 years for other than President, and 12 years for President. What we are saying is have, come under the RTI, let people know, after all biggest public function, which these Sports bodies are conducting is by selecting a team, which is India, which represents the entire country. So all Indians have a right to know, as to what your financial transactions are. How you administratively work. We are not talking about the selection process. We are not talking about the health of the players, but at least how you are administered, how the financial dealings are? After all so many cases are pending before the DRI, before the ED, before the Income tax. All such complaints are coming, complaints about match fixing are coming, so people have a right to know about the financial transactions, about the administrative. We are not saying give your answers to the Government, come under the Government, Government has a right to know, we are not saying. We are saying be answerable to the public, be answerable to the people.
NDTV:Â Rajeev Shukla, can team India be run like a private club? What's wrong if the BCCI comes under the RTI , because that's one of the main sticking points?
Rajeev Shukla: No, no, I am not saying that the BCCI should not come under the RTI. What I am saying that whatever provisions are there in the RTI Act, those provisions should be, you know, implemented. So now you should know why NDTV should also be under RTI
NDTV: Let it be
Rajeev Shukla: They are also responsible and answerable to the people of the country
NDTV: Of course they are, we won't object to be under RTI
Rajeev Shukla: So whatever provisions are being made, once the law has been made, the law should be amended accordingly.
NDTV: Right, so hopefully then Rajeev we will see support then for the Sports Bill from within the Congress as well, and from within the UPA, when it comes up, hopefully in some sessions soon, will you support it?
Rajeev Shukla: What I have said that, there are differences of opinion on certain issues, for which we have already talking to the Ministry.
NDTV: Right, okay Rajeev Shukla, thanks so much for joining and lets hope those differences will be sorted out. And of course I have another young sportsman, who was, well there is another sportsman just retired, who just wants to ask you this question, Baichung Bhutia
Baichung Bhutia: Hello Sir, first of all congratulations on bringing up such a wonderful Sports Bill. We all sportspersons in India supported that bill and every time we want to bring out something good for sports by bringing out wonderful Sports Bill, that's going to help Indian Sports grow. And every time it goes to the Parliament the Bill does not get pass, so how do you see the Indian Sports getting better when such Bills, such wonderful bills coming up, and MP's in Parliament, every time not passing the Bill? So where does Indian Sports go from here if , if it keeps, if, everything keeps coming is being stopped?
NDTV: It's really, I think in some way sad, that how much Sports people are looking forward to that Sports Bill, I think the seat is some kind of magic wand, and yet such opposition within the Cabinet. Were you disappointed when there was such strong opposition?
Ajay Maken: Well yes, without divulging, what happen in the Cabinet, because I am still in the Cabinet, because I am still under oath. Yes of course anyone who pilots a Bill, before the Cabinet and not getting passed, I was disappointed because I strongly feel that this Bill, once enacted will, will clean the administration of Sports in the country. We will be able to remove all such people who have been able to sit on the administrative post for decades and decades altogether. And we will be able to give sportspersons more say in running the game. What we are saying is give 25% reservation, to the players who have played at the national level, in the executive body. This is I don't know why, this is being opposed by the Sports Federations.
NDTV: In fact you have said that, I mean you have kept talking about the IOA. The IOA, now sadly the IOA, one President is suspended over or what ever the status is of Mr Kalmadi; the other President is temporary and of course exceeds the age limit, to which you have said, you have said that actually had the Sports Bill been there, that neither Mr Kalmadi nor Mr VK Malhotra would be President?
Ajay Maken: Yes absolutely, had the Sports Bill have been enacted before, Mr Malhotra or Mr.Kalmadi would have been history as far as the Sports administration in the country is concerned. We would have had a new set of people, a new culture of running the sports bodies, because of the age and tenure norms, because of the players participation in the executive bodies of these Sports Federations, including the Indian Olympic Association. We would have had more of Baichung Bhutia, Prakash Padukone, Geet Sethi, PT Usha in the administration of sports. Now you will not find any one of them running the sports. When they can play on the field, why can't they be a part of just the executive body, we are not saying make them the office bearers?
NDTV: But why don't you talk to your fellow politicians, because it's amazing how they all home in on every Sports Federation possible. Why do you think that politicians are so attracted to Sports Federations? Are they cash cows, what is the reason?
Ajay Maken: Well I have to get my Bill passed through the Cabinet and then through the Parliament and I would not like to say anything on this. But again like Sports Bill, when it is enacted, I am not saying politicians are bad administrators, as Presidents or office bearers they have done a good job also. But what develops interest is any person continuing for decades and decades altogether, leads that person to develop some other kind of interest. So if there is any transparency in the functioning, if they come under the RTI, there wouldn't be any commercial interest, they are there only for a limited tenure just for two terms they can be elected as an office bearer, then they will; their interest would not develop
NDTV: Many have also asked that, of course while the Sports Bill is very good, what about trying to improve what's ready in place? And here is somebody who had this to say about the current infrastructure, lets just have a look.
Farooq Abdullah: How are you taking care of these stadiums that are built after crores, after hundreds of crores? Is something being made use of it? Have him answer for that. The infrastructure that has been made in the Commonwealth Games, that should be utilised for the best interest of our sportsperson, so that we can win golds, not just go under 10 Commonwealth Games or 10 Asian Games or 10 Olympics.
NDTV: Dr Abdullah, they of course associate Jammu and Kashmir cricket on that context, but this issue of infrastructure is a huge one and what's happened to the Commonwealth games infrastructure
Ajay Maken: It's a very big issue, which he has raised. Actually the fault is that at the time of construction we didn't have a legacy plan. We should have had at that time, when these stadia were being constructed, a legacy plan and play, so that soon after Commonwealth Games we could have thought of how to use that soon after the games are over. Unfortunately this was not done. Like in Australia many of the stadiums they have re-tractable stands, on which the athletic track, the stand comes over and converts into a football stadium. Many, and in many stadia in the world, it is a lift on which the cricket pitch is there. So the lift goes down, it becomes the football ground, lift comes up and it becomes the cricket ground. So Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium should also have been used in such a way, but now we are going to convert this Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium into a Football Hub. So, already the South Asian Federation, these football matches in which India played Afghanistan in Finals, all the matches were played in Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. As far the World Hockey, Olympic Hockey qualifiers are concerned the Olympic qualifiers are held in Major Dhyan Chand stadium. We have opened all the school stadia for the children, anyone, any school going child can come and play in these stadia.
NDTV: I have some questions actually from the stadia, though of course there was a question of Shivaji Stadium and what's happened to the hockey thing?
Ajay Maken: No, Shivaji is not under us. Shivaji Stadium comes under the NDMC, so Shivaji Stadium is not. The stadiums which are under us, they are Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, they are Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, they are Talkatora swimming pool. It is the shooting ranges, these are the stadia which are under us and all these stadia, they have been put under the come and play scheme, in which twelve thousand students come and play. I would like to invite Mr Farooq Abdullah, I told him also, I personally went and met him when I read about his statement.1, I requested him to come any time whenever he wants in the afternoon, soon after the after-school hours to visit any of our stadia and if in total, he finds any day less then ten thousand students, ten thousand youngsters in all these stadia, then, he should come and pull my ears.
NDTV: Well, I, let me see this is one of those stadia, which is under you, but lets just have a look to what they have to say
Ankita Gupta: I would like to ask you a question. There were a lot of facilities that were created during CWG which are unavailable for the athletes these days, so I was just asking, how can we avail those facilities?
Pallavi Bisht: Hello Sir, my name is Pallavi Bisht and my question to you is, some stadiums in and around Delhi are being used for wedding parties and political rallies, so don't you think it should be stopped?
Delhi Questioner 1: I would also like to ask you a question, a lot of money was spent over the development of these stadiums during CWG, and the stadiums are not maintained properly these days, so don't you think there is a lot of wastage of money that is being done?
Ajay Maken: Well, as far as the maintenance is concerned, I think if you go and have a look at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, which is one of the best stadiums in the world, where the Olympic qualifiers are being played, these stadiums are one of the best in the world and it is being maintained well. And as far as the question which was asked, how they can come and play, they should go to our website, and through our website they should download the form and apply for Come and Play. And we put in play around hundred coaches, in our different stadia, and they can come and play and we provide almost weekly coaching and it's just fifteen Rupees, I suppose, for girls, a month that we are charging
NDTV: And the stadia used for political rallies and weddings, political rallies?
Ajay Maken:Â No, that is something I have had a fight with our, with many of the people, including some of our Ministers, who wanted these stadia to be used for some administrative, big administrative functions. So I put my foot down strongly. I said no, none of these stadia, none of these stadias, which are under the Sports Authority of India, under my Ministry, we have allowed to use for any, any purpose other than sports.
NDTV: Well, let us just go across, that was Delhi, lets just go across to Mumbai and Kolkata now.
Shreyashish Khatri: My name is Shreyashish Khatri. I am from St Andrews College from Mumbai. My question to you is, Michael Nobbs, the coach of Indian hockey team says that India needs, restlessness players like Australia, what do you have to say about that?
NDTV: Maybe the Minister can hear two and three questions together and then answer
Mumbai Questioner 1: My question to you is, do you think that India can reach the finals and qualify for the Olympics?
Margaret: Hi, I am Margaret from St Andrews College, Mumbai and my question to you is, what are the challenges that India will face as it has already lost to South Africa?
Mumbai Questioner 2: Hi, My question to you is that, do you think that the facilities provided to the Indian Hockey women team are sufficient for them to qualify for the Olympics?
NDTV: I think we will also take the Kolkata questions, and then the Minister will choose which ones to answer
Kolkata Questioner 1: What is India's position on Olympics, given the Union Carbide connection, what is India's stand?
Kolkata Questioner 2: My question is, do we hope to see our eleven men in the FIFA World Cup and what is the future for the people who aspire to be future footballers?
Kolkata Questioner 3: My question is, why wasn't Sachin Tendulkar given the Bharat Ratna, and do we expect the aspirant to come up himself to ask for the Bharat Ratna?
NDTV: I think the last question is very strongly felt, so you can begin with last question Mr Maken?
Ajay Maken: I was myself very keen that a sportsperson should be given the Bharat Ratna, any sports person. Say I give it to Major Dhyan Chand or Sachin Tendulkar, it is the Prime Minister's prerogative, but one good thing has happened and I must congratulate, thank the Prime Minister and the Home Minister for it, that they have expanded the scope of the Bharat Ratna. Earlier it was only given to scientists, literature and arts, but now it is any one who has achieved the excellence of human endeavor that includes sports too. It is not that Sachin Tendulkar will not be given Bharat Ratna, he will be given in the years to come, and as far as, whom to give a Bharat Ratna is not decided by the Sports Ministry.
NDTV: A lot of these questions have interests in Hockey and Football, but how do we actually get these people to play hockey and football, because everyone wants their son to be in cricket, than a hockey player?
Ajay Maken: Well a lot of these people asked and one question was, that Nobbs says, that the fitness level of our players do not match international standards. Until the general fitness levels do not rise, the Hockey fitness levels cannot rise. He is absolutely right and for this, I would specially congratulate your channel for starting "the Marks fro Sports" programme and taking from that, we in the Sports Ministry are launching a fitness programme. To begin with we are going to put a draft of this fitness programme in public, and we will take the view of people for a month or so, and then we will take it to the HRD Ministry and the state government. Because it is these people who run many schools at the state levels, it has to be and it needs to be implemented.
NDTV: Seeing the multiplicity of the sports bodies in India my head is spinning so lets just go to one more college in Delhi, and that's of course Hansraj College, your college Go ahead students from Hansraj
Shubham Garg: Sir, there is a lot of focus on cricket, what can be done so that the other sports have more viewership, and people can take up other games than cricket?
Akash: Sir my question is, why does the Indian football team have to travel to Dubai or Spain to train for the Olympics? Why can't the infrastructure be created here?
Sarvesh: Sir, my question is why isn't the Indian hockey team being recognised?
NDTV: There is more focus on Dhoni and Sehwag fighting than on Indian hockey and the qualifiers, why is it Sir?
Ajay Maken: Now the focus is shifting and as we can see more youth is asking about hockey than cricket. And as far as football is concerned I would want to inform my viewers that the JLN stadium is being converted into a Football hub. Besides we are in active conversation with the Football Federation, they have told us that the FIFA players are coming on the second of March in India. And it has been told to us by the Football Federation that by the year 2017, that under 17 World Cup could be won by India. We would want to catch up with it, because first Junior, then Senior World Cup could be organised by India.
NDTV: Also these boys from Hansraj, your college, does it bring back fond memories of those days? Were you was also an active sports person Mr Maken?
Ajay Maken: I was not a sportsperson as such, but I played all the games. I didn't represent any game, but I did not represent at state level, but I played hockey, I played football, I played badminton and cricket, then chess, so I would play all the games, but I did not represent the Delhi State or colleges.
NDTV: Of course all the focus was on the politics, but let me ask these Hansraj boys, what do they feel Mani Shankar Aiyar said about that letter, in fact let me just play the Mani Shankar byte.
NDTV: Do the Hansraj boys know the word dichotomous? I am not sure that they heard that, thank you for joining us, but Mr. Maken, that letter that Mani Shankar Aiyar sent; this famous RTI definitely upset Mr Aiyar a lot
Ajay Maken: But he definitely did a one good thing and I think the media helped him. He successfully diverted the issue. So instead of discussing the matter of the letter, the media and everybody discussed the word dichotomy, and Hansraj and St Stephens issue. So I would not like to say anything on that. I think Mani Shankar Aiyar was smart enough, smart political move, and he definitely diverted the issue rather than answering certain questions in the letter.
NDTV: The letter actually came as an RTI, but the issues that you raised one was this dichotomous attitude, rhetoric at some point of time you said, scuttled India's chances for the Asian Games. Do you think the delays, the corruption, the Commonwealth Games, even though our athletes performed well, impacted India's image internationally?
Ajay Maken: First of all the confidence in the IOA, of the Indian government was shaken a lot because such big events are given to the IOA. But now we have the question before bidding that should such event be given to the IOA; and on which we trust them with such a huge amount of money. So that is why we say we should reform. Now the head of IOA is Suresh Kalamadi, who yet now has not been suspended, he is the elected Chairperson of IOA and he is not ready to resign. But now he says that because I cannot devote time, let Vijay Kumar Malhotra be the Acting Chairperson. This is ridiculous. In the first place IOA is a prestigious body, the head of such a body should not have been involved in such corruption charges, but now that it has happened he should have gracefully resigned.Â Now the government cannot do anything about it. That is why the Sports Bill and that is why these reforms are necessary.
NDTV: Very depressing that unless the Sports Bill gets through and who knows that will happen; we cannot bid for any sporting event.
Ajay Maken: Yes, unless tainted people who have been put into the jail by CBI, who may say, that we have not been proved guilty as yet, but with such baggage on them, how can we entrust huge amount of money on them.
NDTV: But Mr Maken, Mr Kalmadi has been constantly saying that those thousands of crores were not on him and that the share of IOA, in those thousand crores were very less, and that the rest belong to Delhi Government and the UPA.
Ajay Maken: The CAG Report and all the other reports are out in the public domain, but if somebody accuses some body else of a bigger theft that does not make him innocent. The charges on me is 10 Rupees and the charges on them 100 Rupees does not make me innocent.
NDTV: Sure. But Mr Kalmadi is not innocent, but what about others? He says he has been made the scapegoat.
Ajay Maken: I would want to tell the viewers through you that technical guidance is very important and the IOA plays a very important role in the technical guidance. And that, even though the money was not being spent by them, the technical guidance given is very important.
NDTV: Well as I said your letter also pointed to Mani Shankar Aiyar's obstruction as told and Mani Shankar Aiyar is now online with his question
for you, Mani Shankar Aiyar go ahead and ask your question to Ajay Maken. We all saw the public potshots at the Hansraj English but as Mr. Maken said that diverted the real issue, your obstructionist attitude only added to the delays and perhaps India, impacted India's biding for future sporting events?
Mani Shankar Aiyar:Â I don't think I was responsible for any delays, for a very good reason, that it was not till November 2008, six months after I had been sacked from my position, that Mr Kalmadi and his mates in the international organisation in London even presented their master plan. During the time that I was Minister, the biggest delay was when Mr Kalmadi refused to issue a utilisation certificate and asked for the second installment, and my officers were of the view, and this was along with the Additional Secretary Expenditure, in the Ministry of Finance, that we were not allowed to issue the second installment, until the utilisation certificate of 60% of the first installment was released. So this matter went before the Group of Ministers and everybody was supporting me until Mr Chidambaram came and said it's okay you, can release it, and subsequently wrote a letter to Kalmadi saying that he should follow the GFR. But apart from that there was nothing for me to release. There was nothing, no plan, nothing until November 2008, when the master plan was submitted and they should have been doing this. There was a delay of 54 months and in the mean while I was completely upset with the fact that where nothing was happening, whatever was happening, was happening with so much of financial impropriety, that the Government of India seemed to think that the best thing to do was to
throw open the Treasury, and let Mr Kalmadi and everybody else take whatever money they wanted for this exercise. There never was a budget there never was a budget that was approved. It was on an ad hoc basis that whatever amount of money was asked for, was handed over. Eventually it would appear that whatever money was released to the construction agencies, like the Delhi government and the DDA and so forth, and Mr Kalmadi, and Mr Kalmadi, if my memory is right got about 18,000 crore Rupees; and the others all together got about 60,000 crore Rupees. They spent 80,000 crore Rupees for a ten day circus. Well I don't want to be
the Minister of Sports responsible for such an outrage
NDTV: Mr Aiyar that's an interesting point, because you said the gatekeepers, the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister, as of course the head of the Cabinet, that they actually threw open the Treasury chest. That's actually an interesting point that you are making Sir, this point actually should have been your response to Mr Maken's letter. Why did you attack his English and Hansraj College's English, didn't that seem a very elitist argument to make?
Mani Shankar Aiyar: Well that's a completely very NDTV perversion that I said, sorry it's not NDTV, it's CNN-IBN whom I gave a full interview to on the condition, that whatever would be said about Mr Maken's letter, would constitute a very minor part of an interview that dealt with the comprehensive sports policy. And typically of people who run TV stations, the whole of my interview was removed and only this sentence, because Rajdeep Sardesai thought he made a big story out of it, he made it. The point I made was a very simple one, there is a word like dichotomy used there, I have on a TV programme on your channel found out what the Hindi equivalent of dichotomy is, and said that if I had used that word in a letter written to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who would have believed that
I had written that letter? Now my point was that I had written a letter to Mr Maken to which I have still not received a reply, in which I asked him, is this letter authentic? He never replied to me, but subsequently Mr Pulok Chatterjee, from the PM's office, many, many months later confirmed to me that, that letter was in fact written by Mr Maken, and if Mr Maken had confirmed to me that he had written that letter, then I perhaps would have gone into the substance of it. I think the letter was extremely unfair, I think it was written in language that is not befitting that of a successive Minister writing about his predecessor Minister, and somehow, because I know Mr Maken and his family, and I know him to be a very well brought up young man, I find it almost impossible to believe that it was really he, who used language like that in writing about me. I was completely bewildered
NDTV: Mr Aiyar, let Mr Maken go ahead and respond to that
Ajay Maken: The letter was written by me; all the annexes were written by me and I own up to each word of the letter and the annexes. So everybody has his own right to answer. Mani Shankar Aiyar also has his own right to respond to the letter. It is generally, in a democratic set up like ours, it is finally the people who have to decide. But what I had to say, now that the letter is out under the RTI, it is under the public domain, people will decide. And what I had to say was based on facts in the file and I had personally gone through great details, through all the files and then came with this letter. This letter was not written by anyone else, it was written by me and I own each and every word, including the word dichotomous in that letter.
NDTV: Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar actually makes a very serious charge, because the point he is making is that the Finance Ministry gave a go ahead, the Cabinet actually approved this Treasury chest being opened
Ajay Maken: I totally disagree with him
NDTV: But he was the Minister, he should know
Ajay Maken: Let me go even before Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar, this permission to give a blank cheque, a blanket permission to the IOA to spend as much money as possible, any amount of money that was required, was given by, during the NDA regime in 2003, in September 2003, the then Cabinet, despite the objections from the then Finance Minister Mr Jaswant Singh, despite the objections from the then Law Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, it was in 2003 that the NDA government's Cabinet at that time decided; the Cabinet took a decision that whatever the shortfall is they would give entire amount of money.
NDTV: But Mr Maken, 2G to the CWG, the UPA can't blame the NDA for everything
Ajay Maken: What I am saying is the decision, now there could be two decisions that could be taken, now what Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar is saying, to scrap the Olympics, scrap the CWG, the ten days circus as he says so, or to give as much money as they are asking for, because this was something for which the agreement was signed by Secretary, Government of India, which never happens in other cases. Secretary, Government of India, getting the mandate from the Cabinet of Government of India in 2003, signing an agreement with the CWG Federation, so this was something that was promised by the Government of India, through the Secretary,
Government of India in September 2003.
NDTV: Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar do you agree, you have heard Mr Ajay Maken reply to your question. Do you agree?
Mani Shankar Aiyar: I think that Mr Ajay Maken is absolutely right in saying that the NDA government behaved in a very irresponsible manner, but the NDA government became history in May 2004, and during the course of the year 2004-05, there was no expenditure involved. What was involved was a decision as to who would run the games. Whether the Government of India, handing out parts of the money would be in some significant sense in charge of the games; or whether the IOA, the recipient of this money, would be in charge of these games? And that argument was only resolved towards the end of March 2005. And within a few weeks of that
Mr Dutt had died, and after Mr Dutt died there was a hiatus of nearly 7 months, during which two temporary Ministers of State had held charge. I came to office in January 2006 and having studied the papers and having talked to my predecessors and talked to Mr Kalmadi, I came to the conclusion that something was very rotten in the state of Denmark. I went and complained to the Chairman of the GoM, and then after repeated meetings of the GOM, kept making my objections known. Now Mr Maken said very correctly, that in a democracy you express your view and you needn't necessarily carry it. The fact of the matter was that I was completely isolated through 2006 and through 2007. I did not get any support from any quarter. But I thought that "ekla chalo re" was the right attitude to have. I kept objecting to these obscene sums of money being spent; I risked my political career by making it known in public, not only just in notes on the files, but in the Cabinet, but I ran a kind of crusade against this kind ofÂ ...
NDTV: The whistle blower from within. Mr Aiyar, Mr Maken would want to interject, go ahead
Ajay Maken: One more thing since Mr Aiyar is pointing towards the formation of the Organisation Commitee of the CWG, how everything happened after 2005. And so, in September 2003, the NDA Cabinet took two decisions, one as I said earlier, that the entire amount of the money, entire shortfall of the money will be provided by the government, on which the Secretary, Government of India, taking mandate from the NDA government signed. Second decision by the NDA government at that time was that the Organising Commitee of the CWG shall be formed by the Indian Olympic Association and the Indian Olympic Association, at that time was presided by Suresh Kalmadi, supported by Vijay Kumar Malhotra, and he moved a resolution in October 2004 electing Suresh Kalmadi as the Chairman of the CWG Organising Commitee. So this was something, which again was mandated because of a Cabinet decision and the contract signed during the NDA regime of which the Secretary, of the then Government of India was the signatory.
NDTV: Well Mr Maken surely if you know a scam is happening, surely any Government can stop it? Actually we are only going back and forth. Thank you Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar for joining us tonight. But just to make a point, that coming from a former Sports Minister is damaging, Mr Maken, why would he have any reason to make this up?
Ajay Maken: Then my question to him is why did he not resign? As a Sports Minister was it not his responsibility to ensure that the CWG should be held well? Was it not his responsibility at that time that everything takes place well? If, suppose something wrong happens tomorrow, I can't say I am walking alone and nothing is happening. I'll straight away put in my papers. So the same should have been done at that time. If he knows that the scam is taking place, if he knows that under pressure from the Finance Ministry money is being released, and no one is listening to him, then he should have better resigned at that time. Just writing letters for record sake is something, which would not have been my answer. Secondly, in my letter, I used the word dichotomy, why did I use the word dichotomy? You should also look at that. Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar said at that time, that he is upset about the opening and closing ceremonies organised by the Organising Commitee. He is very happy with the preparations of the CWG as far as the infrastructure of the CWG is concerned. So on one hand he painted a rosy picture about the infrastructure and then complained in his letters and the others about the opening and closing ceremonies of the CWG. And now if you look at what has happened, that the opening and closing ceremonies were successful, the complaints that we were receiving now is about the infrastructure; and he has written in the letter, which he has written to the PM, we. I have annexed and if he has gone through now, as Mr Pulok Chatterjee has confirmed, I think we should know why he was painting a rosy picture about the infrastructure of the Delhi government, the stadium and the city at that point of time.
NDTV: Yes of course, I think the first question is that why didn't you resign, why wait to be removed?.Why didn't you resign if you were so upset with the way things were going?
Mani Shankar Aiyar: I am not, I am a ordinary mortal. I cannot live up to the high standards of the political morality of Mr Maken. There are options that a Minister has, he can either resign or he can exercise his right as a Minister to go on speaking to his colleagues, and ask them, beg them, plead with them to make decisions which are more rational than the ones that are being taken. And before I got the opportunity to resign, I was sacked and therefore I went out very, very happily. My second point and that is much more relevant to the talk here is that, uptil the year 2007 there was virtually no expenditure being undertaken on infrastructure. What was being done was, that decisions were being taken as to what was to be undertaken, and there was a very good reason for that. There was no master plan. The master plan came 7 months after I was sacked and it was in Mr Gill's time that the expenditure on the infrastructure side became a significant order. When I was the Minister, the only major expenditure to be undertaken was with respect, one to the organisation of the games. At that time the figure reached was 6,000 crore and today we know that they have eventually released 80,000 crore. And I was objecting to the expenditure of the opening and closing ceremonies. Well it was a matter of, I think, 100 crore, eventually they went up to 400 crore. So we have a situation in which Mr Maken
has definitely won his brownie point with Dr Man Mohan Singh and my best of luck to him for becoming a greater Minister.Â
NDTV: I think we should end it at this point, Mr Mani Shankar Aiyar and Mr Maken, I think you both have made a point. I do want to get the focus back on so many people who wanted to ask questions or whatever and we are nearly at the end of the show, but I would like to play something from our "Mark for Sports" which we just talked about, where we had Ranbir Kapoor and Leander Paes making this point. As we come to the end of our show can we just play that now.
Ranbir Kapoor:Â Actually if we had marks for sports in my time, I am sure I would have passed with flying colours
Leander Paes: If we would have had marks for sports, I would have probably passed, I didn't
NDTV: Is that going to happen Mr Maken, are we going to see this happen?
Ajay Maken: Well the person standing in the centre, Mr. Kapil Sibal holds the key, we are very soon going to present to him our concept of physical fitness programme in which we would like him to put some additional weightage on the overall marks if a boy or girl is physically fit. And we are going to, as I said, come out with this scheme in a couple of week's time, and through public debate we are going to refresh it and prune it in a way that it can be used in various schools.
NDTV: I think that would be a really huge, huge change if the Sports Ministry can really do that, that would transform Indian sport, but as we near the end of the show Sir, we have to have somebody who knows you best and tonight I have your daughter to ask you this question. So Ahaana go ahead and ask your father a question. Are you happy with what he is doing at the Sports Ministry, does it leave him with any time for him to be at home because you see he is taking on so many people and so many vested interests in the sports world, are you proud of him?
Ahaana Maken: Yes I am very proud of him.
NDTV: What would you like to ask him today?
Ahaana Maken: You are the Minister of Sports as well as the Youth Affairs, however the Youth Affairs Ministry of your department is many times over looked, so this question is regarding the youth of India. My question is, that India has the largest youth population in the world, yet they do not have the adequate access to vocational training, so is anything being done to improve this access to specialised training, which would equip them with skills so they could get appropriate jobs, matching their potential?
NDTV: That is a very good question, because I would have to say, the unemployment and you have the huge voter turn out of young people and they want change. When do you get time to look at Youth Affairs?
Ajay Maken: No, no she is absolutely right. The PM has set up his National Youth Development Council andd the target fixed is that by 2022, we should have 500 million skilled workers in our country. Unfortunately, if you look at the total working population of our country, just 2% of them are skilled and in developed countries like Japan, it's more than 95%. So we need to do much more in this. This year's target is 80 lakhs, just 80 lakhs and by 2022 we have to catch up to the 500 million figure. It's a big task, our Ministry is doing something on this, we have started the Youth Employability Scheme, the YES programme, as we say, in the North East, which to begin with, as a pilot process we have started, we are imparting skills there and then gradually we are going to take it up in the rest of the country. By the end of the current year we want to implement it in the National Service Scheme, the NSS scheme throughout the country and if I would be again allowed to do this, I will want this NSS to be renamed as National Service Skill Development Scheme. We have 32 lakh students who are enrolled under this scheme. We would like to add the skill development part to their service schemes, like if they are going to hospitals, then they can also be imparted skills on x-ray machines, various other machines, they can be trained as nurses. So such things can be worked out. Like if they are going to the rural areas they can also be imparted skills on how to look at the tractors, pumps all such thing. So this is what we are working on and we in active touch with Mr Ramadorai, who is advisor to PM on skill development, and in the first week of March we have a full day training with him and very soon you are going to see my Sports Ministry and Youth Ministry coming out more on youth than on these regular tit-bits.
NDTV: And Iam sure you will have Ahaana to keep your word. But tell me Ahaana, when you talk about youth would you want to see a lot of younger Ministers like your father as well? Because we always see our politicians much older than the young politicians, your father is one of the youngest politicians we have right now...
Ahaana Maken:Â Yes of course, but experience should also matter, so young politicians should be there but to assist them, there should be more experienced politicians as well.
NDTV: Great answer Ahaana and thank you for joining us tonight on that. We were talking about young politicians; there were many firsts for you, you were the first Speaker of the Delhi Assembly, youngest Minister as well I think in the Delhi Cabinet, what next? We know that Sheila Dikshit has finished 13years. If the Congress comes back again, would you want to come back to Delhi or would you want to stay in the Center?
Ajay Maken: It will all depend on how the party wants to use me, and the Congress President and the PM have been very kind to me and whatever job I'll be given I ...
NDTV: Where does your heart lie, Delhi or Centre?
Ajay Maken: I am enjoying my work here and I have some good things to do, and some good changes to make, differences to make which people will, eventually will see. I am very happy here.
NDTV: All right, Mr Ajay Maken it's a tough job but I mean it's great that you are standing up to all the opposition and all the best with the task ahead, thank you so much.
Ajay Maken: Thank you very much.