The Sports Ministry has issued a directive to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to establish a temporary panel to oversee the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). This decision comes in the wake of the suspension of the newly elected WFI management amid disputes with wrestlers, raising serious concerns about governance and integrity.
In an official letter addressed to the IOA chief, Tarun Pareek, undersecretary to the Centre, highlighted the urgency of corrective measures to uphold good governance principles in sports organizations.
The letter stated, “This requires immediate and stringent corrective measures to uphold the principles of good governance in sports organizations.”
The Sports Ministry emphasized the need for the IOA to ensure suitable arrangements for the interim period, preventing any adverse impact on wrestling athletes and safeguarding the principles of good governance within the sports body.
“The IOA should make suitable arrangements for the interim period for managing the affairs of WFI so that sportspersons of wrestling discipline do not suffer in any manner, and the principle of good governance in the sports body does not get jeopardized,” the letter continued.
The directive also hinted at the possibility of another round of elections for the WFI, given the suspension of the current administration led by newly elected chief Sanjay Singh, who is known to be a loyalist of former WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
The temporary panel formed by the IOA is expected to take charge of day-to-day affairs, including the selection of athletes, participation in international events, and the organization of sporting events.
Ace wrestler Sakshee Malikkh’s recent concerns regarding the upcoming junior national competitions played a role in prompting the intervention of the Sports Ministry. Following this, the Centre ordered the newly-elected WFI panel to halt all activities until further notice, citing the “hasty” announcement of the junior national contests.
The Sports Ministry, in a statement, expressed reservations about the newly elected body’s control, stating it “appears to be (in) complete control of former office bearers in complete disregard to the Sports Code.”
Furthermore, the ministry said that the business of WFI is being conducted from premises controlled by former office bearers, where allegations of sexual harassment against players are also being heard in court. The previous WFI chief, Brij Bhushan, a six-time BJP MP, had stepped aside following accusations of sexual harassment by top wrestlers, including Sakshee Malikkh, Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia, and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat.
The recent WFI election saw Sanjay Singh securing a victory against Commonwealth Games gold medallist Anita Sheoran, who had the backing of protesting wrestlers. Despite assurances that close aides and relatives of Brij Bhushan would not be allowed to contest, the nomination of Sanjay Singh was ultimately approved.