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PERSPECTIVE

A Tribune Special
Who cares for hockey?
Golf is India’s No. 1 sport and not hockey or cricket, says Prabhjot Singh
I
F you believe cricket is the most popular sport in India and hockey has been our national sport, you are wrong and misinformed. India’s number one sport is golf. Investigations by The Tribune make startling revelations. Golf takes the highest share of public funds as three hockey or equal number of cricket stadiums can be made from the money needed to raise a new 18-hole 72-par international standard golf course.

Legalising prostitution: The international experience
by Sankar Sen
I
N India human rights activists and women’s groups are campaigning for legalisation of prostitution. They want prostitution to be given the status of an industry. Sangram, a voluntary organisation in Maharashtra working for the prostitutes’ cause, has championed the demand and glorified the freedom supposed to be inherent in prostitution.



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OPED

Boost to trade, growth
Afghan issue adds impetus to India’s engagement with SCO
by Rup Narayan Das
R
USSIA hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Yektarinburg on June 15 and 16 coinciding with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s participation in the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) meeting as also the SCO meeting. It is for the first time that the Indian Prime Minister participated in the SCO meeting where India enjoys only an observer status.

Profile
Haryana’s daughter at the helm
by Harihar Swarup
Badminton prodigy Sania Nehwal has made history by becoming the first Indian to win a Super Series tournament after she clinched the Indonesian Open with a stunning victory over highest ranked Chinese shuttler Lin Wang in Jakarta. It won’t be a surprise if she moves on to dominate the world badminton.

On Record
We will make our programmes attractive: Ambika
by Ashok Tuteja
U
NION Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni gave clearance to as many as 22 new channels at one go this week. In the midst of her hectic schedule in her office at New Delhi’s Shastri Bhavan, Soni spoke to The Sunday Tribune on a wide range of issues.





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A Tribune Special
Who cares for hockey?
Golf is India’s No. 1 sport and not hockey or cricket,
says Prabhjot Singh

IF you believe cricket is the most popular sport in India and hockey has been our national sport, you are wrong and misinformed. India’s number one sport is golf.

Investigations by The Tribune make startling revelations. Golf takes the highest share of public funds as three hockey or equal number of cricket stadiums can be made from the money needed to raise a new 18-hole 72-par international standard golf course. Already the number of international golf courses is three times more than the equivalent hockey or cricket centres that can hold international events in the country.

The number of golf courses has multiplied three to four times during last 10 to 15 years with a few private players, including Pacific Coast, chipping with their expertise in south India. International standard facilities in no other sport have ever doubled during the same period.

There are more facilities for golf than for any of the Olympic sports in the country. Athletics, football, badminton, boxing, wrestling, shooting, tennis come nowhere near hockey or cricket, what to talk of golf. Incidentally, golf is in the run for inclusion in the 2016 Olympic games.

Though a game of the rich and affluent, especially those belonging to higher echelons of civil services, defence forces and captains of business and industry, golf remains far from a common man sport. Interestingly, the percentage of those seeking a career in golf does not run beyond a few thousands in a country of 1.1 billion people.

Even the laurels won by golfers in international competitions, including world championships, continental championship, professional circuits, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, are too little to be comparable to those of common man sports like hockey, football, track and field, boxing, wrestling, weightlifting, badminton and even elite sports like tennis and squash.

The British basically introduced hockey, cricket and golf. They all had their origin in Army Cantonments. While the British generally encouraged the local people’s participation in hockey and cricket, golf was restricted only to the officers’ category. Since then, it had remained an elite and status sport.

Hockey, cricket and football were patronised by lower middle and middle class and as such had phenomenal rise in following. But the facilities did not match their growing popularity. Even after Independence, the government did little to bridge the gap between the popularity of these sports with the demand for levelled playfields.

This is one reason that one finds cricket matches going on in streets, all available even uneven open spaces, growth of golf courses has been satiating the demand from golfers. An average golf course with a club house and a bar has 800 to 1,000 members to make the number of golf enthusiasts reach 200,000 to 2,50,000. This is perhaps the highest per capita availability of golf courses compared to the per capita availability of equivalent infrastructure in hockey, football, cricket or track and field.

Football, volleyball and basketball, in spite of being the cheapest ball sports, are far low on the per capita playing facilities list. Even if the facilities have been created, they are either out of reach of a common man or are not maintained properly for want of funds and government patronage.

Significantly, new towns and cities have ambitious plans for developing golf courses, both in private and public sector, but none of the new colonies coming up throughout the country have any provision for basic level playfields. Though India dreams of “sports for all”, the neglect of common sports indicates otherwise.

It is money that works. Since returns from golf courses can be expected together with adequate hefty membership fee, the private sector has joined in. But this is not the case with similar infrastructure or stadia of hockey, football, track and field.

The Punjab government had tried to rope in a multinational company for building its Mohali multipurpose sports complex, but without result. There are, however, no rules for raising a golf course.

Hoshiarpur may have produced several international football stars, including Jarnail Singh, but it does not have a football stadium of international specifications. It has an 18-hole golf course at the Police Recruitment Training Centre at Jahan Khelan.

Phillaur’s Punjab Police Academy also has a golf course. In Jalandhar, while the police has 18 greens in its golf course, the only recognised golf course in this sports city is that of the Army.

Chandigarh and its periphery are now dotted with golf courses at Panchkula, Chandi Mandir and the Sector 6 golf courses. Besides, it has in its immediate Punjab periphery a private golf course. Another one in Mohali is in the making.

Going by numbers and popularity, no sport can come anywhere near cricket. This sport with its latest hit, instant 20-20 version, may have made it the Number One entertainer in the country. Yet it comes nowhere near golf in infrastructure.

There are only 29 international level cricket centres of which 19 can hold Test matches in the country. At least 20-30 per cent of the population must have enjoyed playing this sport. It has pushed behind hockey, once acknowledged India’s national sport. It is only hockey that has given eight Olympic gold medals since 1928. And the number of hockey stadia with synthetic surfaces or astro-turf, after installation of 12 new artificial playfields by the next year-end, will swell to 29.

The number of international centres for cricket and hockey may be a common 29 yet hockey has been on a losing spree. World champions in 2001, India juniors failed to make the quarterfinal grade in the ongoing Junior World Cup Hockey Tournament in Malaysia-Singapore.

Last year, India failed to qualify for Olympic Hockey competition in Beijing for the first time in 80 years and in 2006, it failed to make the medal round in the Asian Games. India’s performance in the just concluded Asia Cup, a qualifying tournament for the March 2010 World Cup in New Delhi, was no better either.

Though there are 18-hole golf courses in the country, not even 0.1 per cent people of the country play golf. There are as many as 60 golf courses of 18-hole 72-par specifications and an equal number of nine-hole courses.

The defence forces that have lost out in most of sports in which they used to dominate at national level have at least 15 full-fledged 18-hole 72-par golf courses. The police, the Border Security Force, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission and other public sector undertakings, too, have their own golf courses. Listed defence golf courses do not include those at Jalandhar and in Chandi mandir, near here.

Golf architects suggest that given the present market parametres, a new 18 hole golf course will cost at least two to three times an international standard cricket or hockey stadium. Of recent hockey stadia built worldwide, the cost hovers between $1.5 million and $1.8 million. The maintenance cost of a golf course is five to 10 times that of a hockey or cricket stadium.

While the number of privately owned golf courses is less than 10, the remaining are all on public or government land. Beneficiaries, mostly senior civil servants and defence officers, basically come from the service class.

Industrialists, businessmen and technocrats make up for only 15 to 20 per cent of the total membership of these clubs. Intriguingly, sports in the country are controlled at the district, state and national level by those who are themselves golf addicts.

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Legalising prostitution: The international experience
by Sankar Sen

IN India human rights activists and women’s groups are campaigning for legalisation of prostitution. They want prostitution to be given the status of an industry. Sangram, a voluntary organisation in Maharashtra working for the prostitutes’ cause, has championed the demand and glorified the freedom supposed to be inherent in prostitution.

Experience in developed countries, however, presents a different picture. Prostitution has been legalised in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, The Netherlands, etc. In Australia, it was legalised in Victoria (1984) and then in Queensland and New South Wales (1999). The proponents view it as a positive measure providing safety to prostitutes and solutions to their health hazards.

Unfortunately, even two decades after prostitution had been legalised in Victoria, studies reveal that the experiment has been a failure. A primary objectives of the legalisation has been to protect women from sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, AIDS, but practices in legalised brothels expose women to greater health hazards. A study in Victoria found that 48 per cent of men had enjoyed prostitutes without using condoms. Indeed, legalisation makes men more demanding of practices which women do not like and makes women powerless to resist them because of greater competition. It gives more power to the brothel owners.

Advocates of legalisation say, it will discourage street prostitution and the street prostitutes, for reasons of safety, would like to work in brothels. But this has not happened. Street prostitution and problems associated with this have remained the same and sometimes increased following legalisation. South Australian MP Steeve Condous visited New South Wales in July 2000 for survey of brothels and was shocked to find sharp increase in street prostitution.

Legalisation would also help control the involvement of crime gangs in running brothels and exploiting the prostitutes. In reality, it has been found wherever prostitution has been legalised, illegal sector has grown much larger than the legalized sector. In Victoria it has been estimated by the police that the number of illegal brothels is four times more than the legal brothels.

When The Netherlands legalised brothels eight years ago, the mood was upbeat. The politicians reiterated that they would be able to end coercion, violence, infectious diseases and other problems associated with sex trade. They hoped that buying and selling sexual services would become a freely undertaken transaction and the state would be involved only as a regulator and tax collector.

According to a report by the Dutch police and prosecutors (July 2008), some Turkish/German vise-barons ruthlessly exploited the prostitutes many of whom were saddled with fictitious debts (The Economist, November 1-7, 2008). Many of them were forced to service about 20 clients a day and subjected to forcible breast enlargements tattooed with the owners’ names.

In Holland, according to a Dutch academic, the brothel trade is dominated by Polish and Russian mafia. To meet the demands for more sex workers, brothel keepers and captains of sex industry resort to trafficking in women and children. Traffickers sell women to both legal and illegal brothels.

In Germany, the lawmakers thought that they would be able to maximise tax revenue by legalising prostitution. However, this did not happen because of the profession’s criminal nature. Many brothel owners and their staff did not pay off and the government reportedly lost over 2 billion Euros a year from the unpaid tax revenue from the sex industry.

In Germany, The Netherlands and Australia, normalisation of prostitution has not occurred following legalisation. For, it is not like any other job even where it is legal. Many trafficked women are victims of sex violence either at home or streets and some of them have been purchased from their starving parents by pimps. There is demand for trafficked women and children because in many Western countries there is shortage of white prostitutes. In the US, 70 per cent of the prostitutes are non-whites.

Women and children under the control of mafia and criminals are in no position to register themselves to authorities or join any union. Again many women join prostitution as a temporary means of making money with the hope that they would be able to return home after saving some money. They seldom tell their friends or relations regarding their real occupation. Unionism of sex workers is often incompatible with the abusive and coercive nature of prostitution.

Sweden has, however, tried out a different approach. From 1999, it started penalising those patronizing prostitutes with fines and jail terms up to six months while treating people who sell their bodies as victims. The Swedish experiment is now being followed by countries including England and Wales where clients will be liable to prosecution if they enjoy sex with women who have been forced to prostitution. In Sweden, the policy of penalising clients enjoys widespread support and the number of prostitutes fell by 40 per cent during the four years of the new regime. In Norway, Parliament is planning Swedish-style penalties for buying sex.

In San Francisco (USA), residents are being asked to vote for “proposition K” which will bar the police from taking action against the sex workers. Critics feel that this will only have the negative effect of hamstringing the police from dealing with the obvious case of abuse.In New Zealand, however, decriminalisation of sex trade has helped prostitutes with more powers to refuse clients than they did before.

The writer, a former IPS officer, is Senior Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

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Boost to trade, growth
Afghan issue adds impetus to India’s engagement with SCO
by Rup Narayan Das

RUSSIA hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Yektarinburg on June 15 and 16 coinciding with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s participation in the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) meeting as also the SCO meeting. It is for the first time that the Indian Prime Minister participated in the SCO meeting where India enjoys only an observer status.

This is suggestive of two things. First, it is a reflection of importance that India attaches to Russia, the host country. Secondly, it also signifies India’s priority to Central Asia.

In its brief history, the SCO has evolved as one of the most potentially powerful regional organisations to appear in post-cold war Asia. The regional grouping came into being in April 1996, when Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgizstan and Tajikistan met in Shanghai. In June 2004, Mongolia was granted observer status. A year later, India, Iran and Pakistan were granted the rank of observers.

The inclusion of observer members resulted from the confidence that the SCO would expand its strategic and economic interest beyond Central Asia. Choosing which states to admit was the result of delicate political maneuvering and compromise between Beijing and Moscow, with former pushing for admission of India and Pakistan as observers and the latter refusing to consider the question of observers unless Iran was included.

The SCO ever since its inception has emerged as an important forum for strategic cooperation between the former Soviet Central Asian states as well as essential conduit between East and Central Asia. The SCO’s members have repeatedly insisted that it would be considered as a community based on mutual cooperation rather than alliance against any specific adversary.

The Central Asian region currently faces a host of traditional and non- traditional security problems including terrorism and political extremism, weak and sometimes porous states in the region. There is also the concern over the role of West in Eurasia, especially following the events of 9/11 and development of American and other international forces in Afghanistan.

The Organisation’s official Charter was unveiled at its second conference in St. Pettersburg in June 2002, which confirmed the SCO’s mandate to build mutual trust, friendship and good neighborliness.

The other key elements of the document included the confirmation that a Regional Anti-terrorism Structure (RTS) would be created as an information nexus for the regional security and that decision would be based on consensus. As an acknowledgement of the growing influence of Uzbekistan within Central Asian regional dynamics as well as the need to keep Tashkent engaged in SCO’s affairs, the Tashkent based Centre on Anti-terrorism, which was originally planned to open in Bishkek, was instead opened in Tashkent in June 2004.

On security side, India favours exchanging information with the SCO member countries. Besides, issues like the menace of terrorism and energy requirement are important consideration for India’s engagement with the SCO.

India has avoided high profile engagement with the SCO and has calibrated its relationship with the organisation on trade and economic issues. India is not inclined to align with the six-nation grouping in military, strategic and political terms. As an observer, India wants to be a hands-on participant, especially in improving trade and development related forum set up by SCO.

India also offers to share its experiences as well as learn from the SCO about opening up of the banking sector and deepening capital market. It is only after recent developments in the region and particularly after President Barak Obama, initiated his proactive policy of engagement in Afghanistan in which India has a great stake, that New Delhi has evinced greater interest in the regional grouping.

Although India has a low key engagement with the SCO, the Afghanistan issue has, however, added a further impetus to India’s engagement with the SCO. It is against this backdrop that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s Special Envoy Satinder Lamba directly appealed for granting SCO membership to Afghanistan at the last meeting of the SCO on Afghanistan in March this year.

Afghanistan joined SAARC in 2007 but it is neither a member nor observer in the SCO, though it is part of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group established in November 2005 to provide a mechanism for SCO member-states to jointly contribute to re-construction and stability in Afghanistan.

The SCO meeting held at Yektarinburg provided an opportunity to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh not only to interact with the SCO members, but also with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and other leaders.

The writer is Additional Director, Research & Information Division, Lok Sabha Secretariat, New Delhi

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Profile
Haryana’s daughter at the helm
by Harihar Swarup

Badminton prodigy Sania Nehwal has made history by becoming the first Indian to win a Super Series tournament after she clinched the Indonesian Open with a stunning victory over highest ranked Chinese shuttler Lin Wang in Jakarta. It won’t be a surprise if she moves on to dominate the world badminton. Her triumph is the best ever performance by any Indian woman and at par with All England Championship titles won by Prakash Padkune and her current coach Pullla Gopinath.

Nineteen-year-old Saina is truly the daughter of Haryana. Even though born in Hissar, she was brought up and groomed as a badminton genius in Hyderabad. Her foray in the game of shuttle was greatly influenced by her father Dr Harvir Singh, a scientist at the Directorate of Oilseeds Research, Hyderabad and her mother Usha Nehwal. Both were former badminton champions of Haryana.

In 1998, Saina’s father took her to meet Coach Nani Prasad at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad. Having appreciated the potential in the girl, Prasad asked Singh to enroll eight-year-old Saina as a summer trainee. Harvir and Saina would wake up at six every morning and head for the stadium which was 20 km away. After two hours on these journeys, Singh would drop her to school on his way to work. Saina would often fall asleep on these journeys, which prompted her mother to accompany them for the next three months.

Travelling nearly 50 km to accommodate the training schedule, Singh eventually decided to move closer to stadium in 1999. This, however, did end the travelling ordeal as Saina was asked to attend evening training sessions as well. With the extra training sessions, travelling expenditure rose phenomenally. Added to the cost of equipment including shuttles, rackets, shoes, gutting and expenses rose to over Rs 12,000 a month.

To keep up the rising cost of her training, Saina’s father withdrew money from his savings and provident fund. The tightrope walk continued until 2002, when sports brand Yonex offered to sponsor Saina’s kit. As her status and rankings improved, the sponsorships increased. In 2004, the BPCL signed World the rising star onto their payroll, and in 2005, she was spotted by Mittal Championship Trust.

In 2006, Saina appeared on the global scene when she became the first Indian woman to win a four-star tournament — the Philippines Open. Entering the tournament as the 86th seed, she went on to stun several top seeded players including number seed Huaiwen Xu before defeating Julia Xian Pei Wong of Malaysia for the title.

The same year saw her as runner up at the 2006 BFW World Junior Championship, where she lost a hard fought match against top seed Chinese Wang Yihan. She did one better in 2008 by becoming the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championship by defeating 9th seeded Japanese Sayaka Sato.

Saina became the first Indian woman to reach the quarter finals at the Olympic Games when she upset world number five and fourth seed Wang Chen of Hong Kong in a three-game thriller. In the quarterfinals Saina lost a tail biting three-gamer beating Li Ya Kyndia Cheah of Malaysia.

Saina is all set to take the World Top Ten, having been named the most promising player in 2008. She reached the world super series semifinals on June 21, 2008. This month (June 21, 2009) she became the first Indian to win a BWF super series title — the most prominent badminton series of world by winning the Indonesian Open.

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On Record
We will make our programmes attractive: Ambika
by Ashok Tuteja

Ambika SoniUNION Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni gave clearance to as many as 22 new channels at one go this week. In the midst of her hectic schedule in her office at New Delhi’s Shastri Bhavan, Soni spoke to The Sunday Tribune on a wide range of issues.

Excerpts:

Q: How do you feel occupying the chair once occupied by Mrs Indira Gandhi?

A: I feel dwarfed by such a shaksiyat (personality). She was my mentor in politics. She is the one who inspired so many of us in 1969 when we joined politics. It gives me a certain sense of responsibility about what is expected of me — to be transparent and committed as she would have liked us to be.

Q: Do you think the UPA in its second innings has the will to meet the people’s expectations?

A: We are certainly determined to live up to the people’s expectations. They have voted for stability, performance and the leadership of Soniaji and Manmohan Singhji. Young people who have overwhelmingly voted for us ignoring regional and casteist slogans have a lot of expectations from us. I have the mandate from the Prime Minister to help individual ministers and ministries to take their flagship programmes to the people with the help of DAVP, PIB, Doodarshan, Films Division and other information departments. Doordarshan and AIR programmes have to be interesting, reflecting the salient features of UPA schemes on food security, health, education and other social sectors.

Q: What is your agenda for the ministry for 100 days?

A: It will be my endeavour to clear the backlog, adopt modern technology and make our working more innovative. I hope I will be able to get the FM-Phase III passed through Cabinet…it will be very popular. A Cabinet note is also ready for the HITS (head end in the sky) policy which will make it possible for us to reach the farthest corners of the country. We also have to make the Commonwealth Games a success…we have to put up a media centre, information centre and other facilities.

Q: Do you think the Women’s Reservation Bill will get Parliament’s approval soon?

A. Women figure high on the agenda of this government. The President is a woman, the UPA Chairperson is a woman and the Lok Sabha Speaker too is a woman. There is no reason why it should not be passed.

Q: Would you open up the print media to FDI?  

A: The journalist fraternity would like to see more FDI in print media…small and medium newspapers want infusion of more capital. I am confident that after dialogue and persuasion, it can be raised up to 49 per cent. This will only come through persuasion and discussion and I can’t impose my will on anyone.

Q: Making Prasar Bharati a truly autonomous body remains a distant dream. What is your view?

A: I don’t think so. It is an independent autonomous board…it has been put in place by an Act of Parliament. It is unfortunate that there are issues which have taken people in Prasar Bharati to court. Till the case is decided, I would rather not comment on it.

Q: Many private channels often ignore the warnings issued by the government. How do you propose to discipline such channels?

A: There is no intent or proposal to discipline anyone. I am fully conscious of the sensitivity of this sector. There are self-regulatory bodies…it’s good to work with them. I have a plan to set up a National Advisory Council for the ministry. We did that in the Tourism and Culture Ministry also.

Q: How do you propose to popularise DD programmes?

A: It’s the responsibility of Prasar Bharati. I do feel the involvement of people in these programmes in advisory capacity will enhance the content of their content.

Q: How do you view the increasing trend of vulgarity in Hindi and regional films?

A: We have a Censor Board, headed by Sharmila Tagore. It has 25 members. We have regional censor boards. Films go to these boards for clearance. It is our responsibility to see that our values, cultural traditions and societal views are always kept in mind (while clearing films). With regard to television, there are suggestions like parental locks and time schedule for Adult films. As for broadcasting channels, complaints do come to the ministry. Sometimes, warnings are issued to the channels which do not conform and abide by norms.

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