New Delhi: It took some persuasion from the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to force the Sports Ministry to re-think on its policy of allowing only Indian citizens to represent the country in sporting events.
The Sports Ministry said on Friday that only Indian citizens can represent the country in sporting events and they will be entitled to government assistance.
"AITA had replied to the Government that we have three players who will be affected by such an order and at the same time AITA will abide by the policy of the government in the larger interest of Indian Sport," AITA secretary-general Anil Khanna said in a statement.
"The new policy has been discussed and the Sports Minister has agreed to have a re-look at the participation rights, if a possibility exists for dual citizenship for players. In case a player is willing to change his/her passport, he/she will obviously not be in any difficulty in representing India in Fed Cup and Davis Cup and the government would welcome the same," Khanna added.
But in such a situation lot of Indian origin players, who are not a citizen of the country but are representing the nation, will now lose out.
The worst affected was Indian tennis as some top players like Prakash Amritraj, Shikha Uberoi, and Sunitha Rao, who are the core of the national team, are American citizens and will now not represent the country. Sunitha has represented India in the Olympics and Prakash in the Davis Cup while Shikha along with Sania Mirza won the silver in 2006 Doha Asian Games.
The ministry took the decision after it was directed by the Delhi High Court to formulate a uniform policy whether Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) are eligible to represent the country, the ministry said in a statement.
The matter came up in the court after the Squash Racquets Federation of India's (SRFI) decision to restrict the representation to only Indian citizens was challenged by 17-year-old Karm Kumar.
Karm's name was taken off the list for the 2010 Commonwealth Games probables by the Squash Racquets Federation of India (SRFI) because the teenager holds a British passport. Karm, who was born and brought up in Delhi, is a British citizen. Though he has never ever visited UK, he got a British passport because his father also holds a British passport. His mother is an Indian citizen and both parents are of Indian origin.
On the court's direction, the ministry consulted the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and national sports federations and sought their opinion on the issues involved.
While the majority opinion emerged in favour of restricting the representation to Indian citizens, some federations didn't offer any opinion and indicated that they would adhere to the policy laid down by the ministry.
After getting the responses, the ministry carefully examined the matter and took the decision.