The Sports Ministry on Monday stalled the scheduled May 7 elections of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) to constitute an ad-hoc committee to conduct the polls within 45 days of its formation and also manage the sports body.
The ministry’s decision came after the country’s top wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, resumed their sit-in protest here on Sunday and demanded the public disclosure of the findings of the oversight panel that investigated the sexual harassment allegations against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
“… it is understood that the election to the EC (of WFI) has been scheduled on 07th May 2023. In this regard, considering the current situation, it is expedient that the said election process should be treated as null and void, and fresh elections to the EC should be conducted under a neutral body/Returning Officer,” a ministry letter to IOA president PT Usha said.
“… a transitory committee or Ad-Hoc Commitee may be constituted by the IOA to conduct the election of the Executive Council of WFI within 45 days of its formation and to manage the affairs of WFI, including selection of athletes and making of entries for the participation of sportspersons in international events for the interim period till the next EC takes charge,” the letter added.
Following allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation against Brij Bhushan by the top wrestlers, the ministry had formed a six-member oversight committee headed by Olympic medallist boxer MC Mary Kom to run the affairs of WFI and probe into the matter.
The oversight committee “has ceased to exist” after it submitted its report to the government, thereby resulting to an administrative void. The ministry has, therefore, asked the IOA to also make “suitable interim arrangements” for managing the affairs of the WFI.
“Since wrestling is an Olympic sport and WFI is an affiliate of IOA and taking note of the current situation of administrative void in WFI, it becomes incumbent on the part of IOA to make suitable interim arrangements for managing WFI so that sportspersons of wrestling discipline doesnt suffer in any manner,” the ministry letter said.
The ministry also disclosed that Oversight Committee formed on January 23 by the government to inquire into the allegations has submitted its report.
“The OC has submitted its report to the Ministry and is currently under examination. Some major findings include absence of a duly constituted Internal Complaints Committee under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 and lack of adequate mechanism for awareness building among sportspersons for grievance redressal,” the ministry said.
“…need for more transparency and consultation between the Federation and stakeholders, including sportspersons. (And) need for effective communication between the Federation and the sportspersons.” The six-member Oversight Committee has wrestlers Babita Phogat and Yogeshwar Dutt, former badminton player Trupti Murgunde, ex-SAI official Radhica Sreeman and former TOPS CEO Rajesh Rajagopalan as other members.
During WFI’s Emergency General Council and Executive Committee meeting at Gonda on April 16, Brij Bhushan had confirmed that he will not contest for the president’s post but hinted that he might look for a new role within the federation.
Brij Bhushan has already served as WFI president for 12 years, with three terms of four years. He is ineligible to apply for the post again under the Sports Code.
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