Opinion » Lead

How to feed your billionaires
P. Sainath

BIG BET: Kings XI Punjab team’s co-owner Preity Zinta gestures to Mumbai Indians’ owners Mukesh Ambani and his wife Neeta Ambani after a match at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on April 09. Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

Freebies for the IPL — at a time of savage food subsidy cuts for the poor — benefit four men who make the Forbes Billionaire List of 2010 and a few other, mere multi-millionaires.

And so the IPL fracas is now heading for its own Champions League. Union Cabinet Ministers, Union Ministers of

We have no picture of their full scope. That too had its centre of gravity in Indian cities. are still reluctant to ask larger. Leave aside the narrow money details or the fact that some franchisees are thought to be losing tens of crores each year. after all. despite being a State whose debt will cross Rs. It has scandal-waiting-to-happen written all over it and the media say “wow! This looks great. Only a tiny band of journalists have at all shown the scepticism demanded of their profession. But along comes a new hypercommercialised version of the game.” Many in the media and politics are happy to reduce it all to issues of propriety or personality. which is yet to be quantified. newer franchisees between them put up over Rs. and “we-know-how-to-deal-with-you” threats. We don't even know what the total bill to the public is: just that it is probably in tens of crores.State. a secular. possibly. large-scale tax evasion. Here was Big Business in open embrace with its political patrons. No questions asked about issues ranging from super-cheap land leases and stadia rentals and low-cost stadia security.3. For. It was just 10 years ago that cricket was rocked by the game's biggest-ever match-fixing scandal. big advertising and corporate power. How about questions on public subsidies going to some of the richest people in the world? The BCCI-IPL cost the public crores of rupees each year in several ways. Of shady investors. There were obvious conflicts of interest (apart from what it did to cricket. Of franchisees alleging they were offered a $50 million bribe to exit. murky dealings and. and involved Indian bookies and Indian businessmen. though now compelled to give the IPL's underbelly some coverage. The waiving of entertainment tax worth Rs 10 crore -12 crore for the IPL in Maharashtra alone was discussed in the State's Assembly. And there are similar subsidies and write-offs extended to the BCCI-IPL in other States.000 crore in the coming year. This venture had the right names. mocked as party-poopers and the recipients of threats and abusive mail. Chief Ministers (and who knows a Governor or two might pop up yet) are being named as people trying to influence the bidding process. high glamour and. Or claiming that a Union Minister warned them to withdraw from the rodeo with grave threats. Maharashtra has extended other support to the IPL. It all leads to things much bigger than Modi versus Tharoor or issues of “impropriety” (a nice. above all. We do know that these supports to the IPL from public money come at a time when . the game) from day one. To go beyond their Modi-Tharoor feeding frenzy.000 crore for two teams that don't exist. No questions either on why a public sector company should be billing itself as the “sponsor” of a team owned by the fourth richest man in the planet. Big money is. 200. Both houses of Parliament are in uproar. harder questions. A whole raft of concealed freebies from public resources to the BCCI-IPL is also not discussed. And to avoid induced amnesia. Skip the fact that despite those losses. The taxmen have launched a “survey.” promptly going into the “willing suspension of disbelief” mode. This. other venues. Now there's a forced discussion of opaque dealings.) It's also interesting that the media. But few serious questions came up in the media. normally with ease. genteel word). There were also those who did not give the public office they held a fraction of the time or importance they gave to the BCCI-IPL. bribes. It was little reported and less discussed in the media. These few have stuck at it gamely only to find themselves isolated. bi-partisan space. the BCCI-IPL is one platform where the Congress and the BJP cohabit. (Or tri-partisan: let's not deny the central contribution of the NCP to this phenomenon.

Something that always devastates the performance of their poorer children in the examinations. Mumbai's elite recently preened themselves on Earth Hour where the city saved some power by switching off lights for 60 minutes. more directly. He has criticised the tax concessions and security subsidies that have hurt public security in the cities concerned while the IPL is on. One IPL team is owned by a . Who stand to gain from the public wet-nursing of the IPL? Among others. “This is a poor country.subsidies to the poor are being savaged. but none to electricity. I think the legitimate tax should be taken and should be used for the country maybe even for sports. But the BCCI and the IPL preside over huge sums in advertising. So even when the IPL angers the media by pushing them around on coverage restrictions.. Even as they slash food subsidies in a period of rising hunger. Street argot has already begun to brand the IPL as Indian Paisa League or. For all these and other worthy people. India Paisa Loot. Only look who is paying for that. Not from the media that cover the IPL.” Far from that happening. Bollywood and Corporate Power. Nothing could be further removed from the lives of the ‘cricket crazy public' — whose supposed interests are invoked for every new spin to the game. Three of them are team owners and one is a title sponsor.S. Fire brigades in the cities have been muted or overruled in their objections to the IPL's ‘hospitality boxes' (where seats can cost you Rs. The Sports Minister pointed out a long time ago that there were dangerous conflicts of interests at the top levels of the BCCI-IPL. we are taking it from the public and handing it out to the billionaires. There is something ugly about that much electricity consumed by a private profit entity (guzzling public money) in a season when Marathwada and Vidarbha suffer 12-15 hour power cuts. governments bend over backwards to make concessions. IPL does not come cheap.” And went on to say that: “when business is earning it in the shape of these teams and whatever the structure. four gentlemen who make the Forbes Billionaires List of 2010. Gill. I never forget that.000) as fire hazards. the media cave in. But some of these tickets also get you to a late night party with IPL stars and other dubious benefits. Great savings could be made if all IPL games were played in daylight. Then there are the mere millionaires in the shape of Bollywood stars. Gill is the one Minister (of the four Ministers on your TV screens in the present drama) actually connected with sports in a legitimate way — and not tainted by scandal. 40. But maybe that's natural: the IPL has little to do with sports. Some have raised the question of what this does to the players' performance the next day. All dollar billionaires and long-time residents on the Forbes List. But we don't want to go down that road. Big time partying is an integral part of the IPL show. There is a huge deficit in the budget even this year . It's also worth pointing out that Mr. The larger silence continues.. But the party goes on. The strongest criticism of what has been going on (till the Kochi chaos) has come from Sports Minister M. With the IPL comes the convergence of the most important media trends: the ABC of Media — Advertising. other sports. He also told Karan Thapar on television that he found the idea of “letting off tax” (waivers for IPL) quite unacceptable. an old-fashioned cricket lover actually worried about the game. They could end up having (on paper at least) a Right to Education. An inquiry into the IPL must cover the BCCI as well and must record all the open and hidden write-offs and subsidies that both get. Corporate barons and Bollywood stars own cricket teams.

from a national passion to a hyper-commercial nightmare.in/Mobile_Recharge . IPL owners Share Tweet 1 Tweet 0 5 Ads by Google Mobile Recharge Made Free Freecharge & Get McDonald Coupons. And are linked to the former in other ways. cricket's top icons are now ‘capital assets' of the franchise owners. Once proud of their disavowal of tobacco and liquor advertising.” Once national heroes. Win Coupons on Every Recharge! www. the icons now plug for the latter in surrogate form.freecharge. Keywords: Indian Premier League. Some Bollywood stars have ‘promotional agreements' for their films with TV channels who disguise their paid-for gushing over those films as “news. Other dailies have become ‘media partners' of IPL teams. And a once great game moves from heartfelt public ownership to a pocket-driven private one.newspaper. IPL controversy.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful