Rot in Assam cricket
The Assam Cricket Association (ACA) has been hitting the headlines in the last few days for reasons other than cricket. Former cricketers have taken to the streets, vociferously protesting against rampant corruption and mismagement in the State cricketing body. In particular, they are demanding ouster of controversial ACA secretary Bikash Baruah and other officials for allegedly ‘siphoning off funds to the tune of crores of rupees meant for uplift of cricket’. Among the several cases lodged against Baruah, the latest was filed earlier this month in Guwahati, with charges of leaking out fincial documents amounting to more than Rs 240 crore as part of an apparent attempt to cover up the scam. The All Assam Students Association (AASU) and other organisations are demanding a high-level probe into these charges, along with allegations of massive loot in the me of cricketers’ stipends, training and facilities, as well as the never-ending construction of Barsapara cricket stadium. After more than nine years of construction, barely 75 per cent of this stadium has been completed. No transparent figures have been furnished about the costs till date, but insiders admit it may have crossed a staggering Rs 210 crore. Meanwhile construction of stadiums in places like Ranchi, Hyderabad and Dharmasala that began much later, have already been completed and cricket matches hosted there. There are allegations that construction works of the Barsapara stadium have been divided and awarded to different contractors, with the entire process kept completely opaque. Ever since its construction began in 2006, Gautam Roy has throughout been in charge of the stadium’s construction as ACA president.
The state of affairs in the ACA under Gautam Roy and Bikash Baruah has reached such a sorry pass that recently the Kamrup Civil court stayed its elections on the ground that the ACA governing body has not passed the accounts pertaining to the last three years. Piece-meal accounts have been submitted, but none of them have been passed by the governing body. Insiders say that while the ACA has presented the annual statement of accounts for the year 2014-2015, it has made no mention of the records of the previous years since 2010. Can Gautam Roy and Bikash Baruah explain why the ACA governing body has not passed the statements of accounts for years on end? Was something seriously amiss in all these statements, were the incomes and expenditures not balancing out at all? There have been further allegations about a long-standing, unholy nexus between corrupt elements of the ACA and the country’s apex cricketing body BCCI. How much funds are coming from the BCCI to ACA yearly, and how much of these funds have been left uccounted for? The AASU has now demanded an end to politicians heading sporting bodies, threatening to agitate against the practise. However, this is a deep-seated malaise afflicting most tiol sporting bodies. An exasperated Supreme Court had to comment in 2013 that politicians and businessmen heading sports bodies are causing harm and it was high time they made way for sportspersons. ‘It is a sad commentary that people who are administrators of the game have nothing to do with sports and they run the bodies at the cost of the game...Can the game be held hostage by private interest?’, the apex court had commented. Politicians may have gotten into sports bodies as ‘facilitators’ because of administrative experience, helping to get government clearances, raising funds, getting approvals for stipends and grants for sportspersons, and creating sporting infrastructure. But they have also benefited from the fame, money and clout, leading many a times to blatant conflict of interest. And when it comes to ridding sports bodies from their influence, politicians have stood united, irrespective of party affiliations!