New Delhi: The Sports Ministry, Ajay Maken on Saturday served Hockey India and Indian Hockey Federation an ultimatum that they either merge into a unified national body in two days or face stern action.

The government took the decision after a meeting of the Sports Minister Ajay Maken with office-bearers of both HI and IHF to work out an amicable solution to the long-standing feud
between the two bodies over recognition and power-sharing.

"We have given a balanced proposal to HI and IHF with equal importance to both the federations. We have given them time till Tuesday evening to send their response in writing.

We have told them to give us a joint response instead of separate ones," Maken told reporters after the meeting here.

"If they don't agree we will take action and also inform the Supreme Court as the matter is sub-judice," he said.

The government's warning could be seen as an infringement on the autonomy of NSFs but Maken said if forced his ministry will have to take action in the larger interest of the game.

"We are not taking side. The government action would be in the larger interest of the game and in the larger interest of the country," he insisted.

In its proposal, the ministry has asked HI to increase its executive board strength and include all the current IHF office bearers in it.

The ministry has also asked HI to make former IHF president KPS Gill as the life-time chief patron with voting rights and said post-settlement HI will assume the status of the sole NSF for hockey in the country.

"In today's meeting we have proposed to almost double the strength of HI executive board from 17 to 33 with equal voting rights in order to provide for co-option of 16 members of IHF.

The reason to give power to HI is because the International Hockey Federation (FIH) recognises it," the Sports Minister said.

"We have also proposed to make KPS Gill to be co-opted as life-time chief patron of HI and one IHF representative as the lone senior vice-president in the board," Maken said.

"This arrangement will continue till the end of 2014.

After that a transparent election will be held to elect the new office bearers of HI," he added.

From HI, the hour-long meeting was attended by secretary general Narinder Batra, treasurer Mushtaq Ahmed and members Rajiv Mehta and Pratap Satpathy, while IHF was represented by president R K Shetty and secretary Ashok Mathur.

Apart from Maken himself, joint secretary (Sports) Injeti Srinivas and secretary (Sports) Sindhushree Khullar also participated in the meeting from the government's side.

Asked how confident he was of an amicable settlement to the dispute after today's meeting, the Sports Minister said, "It is too premature to say anything but I am feel they should accept the proposal.

"They have gone through the proposal and will discuss among themselves before replying."

With the 2012 London Olympics qualifiers less than a year away and with India struggling to make its place in the top league of world hockey, Maken feels an amicable settlement is in the best interest of the game.

"We understand the reason for Indian hockey's decline is the fighting between the two federations. The Olympic qualifier is very important for us but more important is to revive hockey in the country," he said.

A miffed Indian Olympic Association president VK Malhotra on Friday vented his anger over the ministry for not involving it in the merger talks but Maken said IOA will be brought into confidence once the two warring bodies agree to their proposal.

"IOA will definitely come in but after the issues are sorted out between HI and IHF. Without IOA's recognition the government also can't recognise any sports body," he said.

Maken said that in order to resolve disputes prevailing in some of the state associations, the ministry has proposed to constitute a joint committee comprising two elected and two co-opted members of HI executive board.

He also said that in today's meeting the ministry has made it clear to the federations that any commercial deal with FIH or any other body should be transparent and made in the public interest.

(Agencies)