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IOA forms 3-member ad hoc committee to run affairs of suspended WFI; highlights governance gaps

In a statement, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) expressed concern that the recently elected president and officials of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) have made arbitrary decisions, contravening their own constitutional provisions and disregarding principles of good governance.

IOA forms 3-member ad hoc committee to run affairs of suspended WFI; highlights governance gaps snt
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First Published Dec 27, 2023, 5:09 PM IST

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Wednesday established a three-member ad hoc committee to oversee the daily operations of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). The sports ministry had suspended the wrestling national body, citing non-compliance with its own constitution during decision-making processes. Bhupinder Singh Bajwa, the president of the Wushu Association of India, will serve as the chairman of the committee. The other two members are M M Somaya, a hockey Olympian, and Manjusha Kanwar, a former international shuttler.

The Sports Ministry took action three days after the WFI elected new office bearers, including Sanjay Singh as president, a loyalist of Brij Bhushan Singh. The ministry directed the IOA to form an ad-hoc panel to oversee the management of the sports body.

Also read: WFI row: Rahul Gandhi trolled for meeting Bajrang Punia; wrestling and exercising along with Olympian

In a statement, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) expressed concern that the recently elected president and officials of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) have made arbitrary decisions, contravening their own constitutional provisions and disregarding principles of good governance.

"The IOA has recently become aware that the recently appointed President and officials of WFI have made arbitrary decisions in violation of their own constitutional provisions and against the principles of good governance espoused by IOC and further without following due process overturned the rulings of the IOA- appointed Ad hoc Committee," IOA president PT Usha said in the release.

"This not only highlights a governance gap within the federation but also signifies a noticeable departure from established norms. Since the IOA considers adherence to governance norms as vital for ensuring fair play, transparency and accountability and to safeguard the interests of sportspersons as espoused by IOC and to ensure continuity, it has been decided to appoint an Ad hoc committee," it added.

 

The ad hoc committee was assigned the responsibility of overseeing and supervising various aspects of WFI's operations. This includes tasks such as athlete selection, submitting entries for international events, organizing sports activities, managing bank accounts, overseeing the website, and handling other related responsibilities.

"This is an Olympic year, we must start preparing from now. We will conduct all senior and junior championships soon, along with camps, to maximize our chances of winning medals in the (Paris) Olympics," Bajwa told PTI.

"Our goal is to achieve the maximum number of medals in the Olympics for our country, as this is one of the most popular games in India and has significant potential."

Bajwa previously served as a member of the earlier ad hoc committee, formed by the IOA in April, tasked with managing WFI affairs and conducting its elections. Despite repeated delays due to legal proceedings, elections were eventually held on December 21, resulting in Sanjay, a close associate of Brij Bhushan, winning the presidential poll.

Also read: Now, wrestler Vinesh Phogat decides to return Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award to PM Modi

Shortly after being elected as WFI President, Sanjay announced the organization of age group national championships in Gonda, UP, starting from December 28—Brij Bhushan's parliamentary constituency. The government, in suspending WFI, cited the "hasty announcement" of organizing U-15 and U-20 nationals without proper procedure, providing insufficient notice to wrestlers for preparations.

The ministry expressed concern that the new WFI body seemed to operate under the control of its former office-bearers, deviating from the National Sports Code. Sanjay's presidency prompted Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik to retire from wrestling, citing her reluctance to continue in a federation led by a close aide of Brij Bhushan. Bajrang Punia, Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist, returned his Padma Shri, and World Championships medallist Vinesh Phogat returned her Khel Ratna and Arjuna Award in protest. The trio had previously led a five-month-long protest at Jantar Mantar, accusing Brij Bhushan of sexually exploiting several women grapplers.

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