Plough To Tractor Is The Only Change

Updated: Jul 26 2004, 05:35am hrs
Although he has been in public life for decades, as a popular cine star, social activist and as sheriff of Bombay, and has been elected member of Parliament no less than five times since he first contested in 1984, this is the first time that Sunil Dutt has held a ministerial position. The newly appointed minister for youth affairs and sports spoke exclusively to Sangeeta Singh of FE on his hopes for the youth of the country and his plans for the ministry. Excerpts:

The Common Minimum Programme (CMP) brought out by the UPA government has talked about generating employment. With more than 45% of the population comprising youth, what initiatives has your ministry taken on this front
The ministry is not into providing employment. We believe more in developing the character of our youth nurturing them to be good and respected citizens. There are other ministries to take care of employment opportunities. Our objective is also to see that more and more youth represent India at different international fora.

The ministry has an annual budget of Rs 400 crore, but your expenditure is much more. How does your ministry plan to meet the deficit How much money generated by Doordarshan through sponsorship of sports events or through other private channels come to your ministry
Yes, that is true. The ministrys expenditure is much more, for which we get support from the Central government. Unfortunately, this ministry does not have too many sources of revenue and it runs more on the principles of altruism.

It is also unfortunate that we do not get any money from Doordarshan which sponsors sporting events. Even when private sports channels have an arrangement with Doordarshan, the ministry of sports and youth affairs does not get any money from sponsorships.

Do you think sportsmen should share the money they earn through endorsements to raise the levels of under-priviledged players Per-haps it could be raised in the form of a cess
Yes, we would like this to happen. After all, they play for the nation. But the problem is that only cricket players earn such money and they pay to the government only through taxes. There are players who come from the under-privileged sector and their development only seems to be the responsibility of the government, not the citizens.

There is an annual budget of Rs 70 crore for the 500 hundred-odd Nehru Yuvak Kendras. But what is the kind of revenue they earn for the ministry Dont you think they join the team of other white elephants that the government owns
See, we should not go by the revenue earning model. These kendras are driven by the spirit of inculcating unity and fraternity of the youth which cannot be measured cardinally or in terms of money that they earn to the ministry. These 500 kendras are also affiliated to 22 lakh clubs all over India. Also, they work in close association with the National Social Service and non-government organisations. So you should see how many youth they get together to develop common thinking and are working for the nation as volunteers. While I agree that the Nehru Yuvak Kendras do not earn revenue for the ministry, I certainly dont agree that they are white elephants. They were not raised as profit centres.

Why were the Youth Commission and the Sports Council of India scrapped after the UPA government came to power Is that one way of removing people close to the BJP who were heading these organisations
No, that is not true. The two bodies had no specific purpose and their jobs were overlapping with existing bodies like Nehru Yuvak Kendras and the Sports Authority of India. So why have extra heads after all, so much goes into their maintenance. We would rather have a slim structure and use the money we have for the development of sports persons.

But when it comes to developing sports, the money is spent on developing stadia. Hardly anything is spent on development of talented sports persons
Stadia are developed in partnership with the state governments. Almost 50% of the money used in the construction of a stadium is put in by the respective state governments. But for training and coaching of players, we have training centres in places like Patiala and Mumbai. Also, the ministry is very active in organising training camps from time to time.

There have been allegations of corruption levelled against the Sports Authority of India. For instance, some time back, there were some 10,000 footballs that had come from Bangkok which were found lying idle which were meant for distribution to children from rural areas. Please comment
No, there were no vested interests in that. In a routine survey we found that they were kept in one of the complexes but we found out that the distribution of those footballs were about to start. As for allegations of corruption against the Sports Authority, so far nothing has come up.

If one were to put a clipping of a village from your movie Mother India and a picture of todays village, there is hardly any discernable difference. Nothing seems to have changed in 40 years.
Yes, that is really unfortunate. The very backbone of our country comprises rural areas and the only change that we see today are replacements of ploughs with tractors or a kuchha road with a pucca road. The rest remains very much the same, including the poverty. But the Congress government has an agenda and Soniaji has a vision for the rural areas. I am sure something will be done for these areas.