It is a day of mourning for Indian sports: Aiyar

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New Delhi, Mar 10 (UNI) ''It is a day of mourning for Indian sports'' an anguished Sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said here today,reacting to the national team's failure to qualify for the Beijing Olympic hockey.

''It is a disaster'' a visibly upset sports minister told mediapersons this afternoon saying ''my heart is broken like any Indian.'' ''Since my childhood I had heard stories of Indian Hockey's exploits in the Olympics,which we won eight times.I have heard and read about how our players cook a snook at Hitler in 1936 Olympics,'' he said adding, ''What can we do when Federations don't want us (government). They protect their autonomy with great ferocity.'' The Minister who unveiled an ambitious Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA) said he was thinking of celebrating the occassion but ''fate has been unkind and cruel to me and to the sports lovers of the country''.

''This project-PYKKA- is landmark in the annals of Indian sports history, it will encompass the majority of have nots of country's population,'' he said but it comes on a day when the ''sports lovers are in a state of dispair.'' He ruled out any drastic action against Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) saying,''There is no scope of such action because we have to abide by the constitution.'' ''I will not comment on Hockey team's performance or the functioning of IHF because of the autonomy clause which is so dear to the federations,'' he said adding, ''I share your agony, we are aware of the import of India not qualifying for the Beijing Olympics.'' Asked why the Government is spending spo much of money on federations if it can not hold them accountable, the minister said, ''We don't want to transgess their autonomy. The IOA has been telling us (Government) about the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter, we are obeying that.'' ''It is the federation which has to take action,'' he remarked, ''We have been helping the Federations,there has been some good showings by the Indian sportspersons but hockey failure is a huge calamity.'' He urged the media not to put Cricket in the dock for Hockey team's failure. ''Cricket has become important because of its performance. THe BCCI is self sufficent, they don't ask for government money.'' UNI HSB AB PM1814

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