Bhupender Singh Bajwa back to head new WFI hoc panel

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The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) named a three-member ad hoc committee on Wednesday to run the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), under suspension by the union sports ministry. Wushu Association of India president Bhupender Singh Bajwa, who headed the earlier panel, returns to the post.

Bhupendra Singh Bajwa(ANI)
Bhupendra Singh Bajwa(ANI)

The new committee also comprises MM Somaya, member of the 1980 Olympics champion hockey team. He is also a member of IOA’s Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Manjusha Kanwar, four-time former national badminton champion and 1998 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, is the other member. She has been nominated for the Major Dhyan Chand Award in lifetime category.

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“Elections to the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) were held on 21 December 2023, in which Shri Sanjay Kumar Singh was elected as President and Shri Prem Chand Lochab as Secretary General amongst other office-bearers of the Executive Committee. The IOA has 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 lOC and further without following due process overturned the rulings of the IOA-appointed ad hoc committee. This not only highlights a governance gap within the federation but also signifies a noticeable departure from established norms,” IOA president PT Usha said in a letter announcing the ad hoc panel.

Wrestling administration has been entrusted to an ad hoc panel for the second time this year. In April, after WFI was suspended by the sports ministry, the first ad hoc panel was named to run the administration. The tenure of that committee ended with the WFI elections held on December 21. However, elite wrestlers Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia protested alleging that people close to the previous WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is facing charges in a court following sexual harassment allegations, have been elected to the body. The sports ministry then suspended the WFI, directing IOA to set up an ad-hoc committee.

“It is a massive responsibility going into the Olympic year. We are committed to work for the betterment of Indian wrestling. All our efforts will be geared towards maximising our medal chances in Paris,” Bajwa said. “Our main focus will be to restart the national camps as soon as possible. National championships, trials, selecting team for the Olympic qualifiers, it’s going to be a busy year.”

The earlier ad-hoc committee had announced the senior nationals in Jaipur from January 2-5, but it was cancelled by Sanjay Singh within hours of his election as WFI president, instead scheduling it at Ahmednagar, Maharashtra from January 28-30. The executive panel headed by him scheduled the U-15 and U-20 nationals, held up since March, at Gonda, Uttar Pradesh from December 28-30 and scrapped the selection criterion set by the ad hoc panel for the Paris Olympics.

“All the decisions that were changed by WFI EC will be reversed,” Bajwa said. “The senior nationals will be conducted in Jaipur next month but at a date later than the one announced earlier. The U-15 and U-20 nationals will also be held in January, but not in Gonda. Three state units have expressed interest. The Olympic selection trial criteria that the new WFI rejected will most likely to be brought back,” he added.

Punia, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist, said: “I don’t know much about the new members, but it really doesn’t matter who they appoint as everyone ends up working for the government. I hope the new committee keeps wrestlers’ interests in mind.”

Sanjay Singh said: “We reject this committee. Formation of such a committee is a violation of WFI by-laws and amounts to needless overreach. Why are they meddling with our affairs? I am the elected president and all committees should be formed with my approval.”

The ad hoc committee’s major responsibilities as mandated by IOA are, “overseeing and supervising WFI’s operations, which include athlete selection, submitting entries for athletes to participate in international events, organising sports activities, handling bank accounts, managing the website and other related responsibilities.”


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