Arindam Chaudhuri
[April, 2010]

Poor Lalit Modi. He went a little too fast with his scam and partied a little too hard in front of public eyes. As per a confidential income tax report, he bought a luxury yacht, a private jet, a fleet of Mercedes S-class cars and what not! All in the last three years! He gave every possible deal to do with IPL to his relatives and family and friends or to people whom he owed money Ė so that they donít come behind him. Again, this is as per that report which came out in The Economic Times. More, he took personal stakes in disguise in three of the IPL teams and is supposed to have been himself involved in fixing the outcomes of IPL matches along with a prominent page 3 personality; again according to the same report.

He is linked to Betfair Ė a UK firm that runs one of the worldís largest betting syndicates on the internet Ė and is helping it to enter the casino and hospitality business in India! This is what the Income Tax Department scooped out from Lalit Modiís email box. And all this an unbelievable six months back. But then the government didnít take any action till Modi in his stupidity tried to publicly challenge Tharoor because Tharoor gate-crashed into Modi's IPL party while he wanted to give that franchise to another big industrial house along with a couple of more film stars! And then Tharoor broke free and brought in the counter allegations, which everyone knew about but was maintaining the conspiracy of silence hoping to join the party at the right time. Of course, a number of government people are already involved!

But this is what you all almost already know by now. This is not what I want to elaborate upon. The bigger issue is something else. This is not something new. Itís something that is happening in India all the time. Ever since Independence, our focus has been to privatise every public good available through unfair means to allow private businessmen to profit, and in the process helping government middlemen make money. Sports in India is a public good. Cricket is a national craze. Then, is it fair to privatise this activity, is the bigger question in hand. Well, truthfully speaking, I am not against privatising sports. Worldwide privatisation of sports has helped nurture and encourage sports at a local level and bring in amazing talent. Case in point is the European football clubs, the British premier leagues. Itís the working class people whose children are the star players today; kids from the streets getting into the various clubs and making it big regularly. Club games and such leagues necessarily promote sports and encourage fresh talent. So privatising sports Ė especially cricket which Indians are so passionate about Ė is not a bad idea. And there is hardly any encouragement. But what is wrong is privatising it through a coterie and distributing it amongst themselves. Cricket is nobodyís fatherís property. No one has the right to privatize it and distribute it between friends and family. It has to fairly go to the best bidders, because it is guaranteed money and valuations. Readers of this magazine will remember when IPL franchisees were distributed, I had written in this same column that there surely is unfair play. Many people couldnít have surely afforded the teams on merit. Then, of course, I came to know that people who paid Rs.300 crores for a team never actually paid it. They m u rk y p i t c h had to pay it in a span of ten years at Rs.30 crores every year. Thatís only Rs.2.5 crores per month. That too I doubt how many people had to actually pay. For it was decided that all the sponsorship money being earned on IPL would be divided in a particular ratio and distributed amongst the franchise holders. So there is all probability that if the due to the franchisee was Rs.25 crores in a year, he actually only paid Rs. 5 crores the differential! That too divided amongst a few partners per team. So, of course, all of Modiís friends and family could afford it!

And as I was saying, this is not an exception. Look at mining licences in India. Look at the way top oil companies have done all the researches, identified the oil fields and then instead of digging for oil, closed it saying there is no oil. And secretly sold the reports to private players, who then suddenly reach the fields, discover hidden oil like magic and make millions! Or look at the way government would take over failed companies through BIFR and then sell assets worth ten times at a tenth of the value and take kickbacks in return.

So at every given moment, we have done bigger scams than IPL ever since Independence. And done it shamelessly. Thatís India. Privatise all profits and nationalise all losses. Every public property which can yield money, distribute it between a select coterie, fool the public and enrich a few.

To undo the IPL scam, what we must do minimum is take away all the franchisees given unfairly and re-auction them fairly including those given out in the first round of auctions. And see to it that such shameful privatisation of everything public through unfair means should stop with immediate effect. Otherwise, we will only have more and more of BPL (below the poverty line) while IPLs and such similar scams keep thriving. Utter shame!

Worldwide, privatisation of sports has helped encourage sports and talent at a local level

But what is wrong is privatising it through a coterie and distributing it amongst themselves
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