The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the National Sports Federations (NSFs) on Monday took a defiant stand against the Union Sports Ministry's order to limit the tenure of the office-bearers of the NSFs.
In a show of solidarity, several heavyweight IOA and NSFs office-bearers addressed the mediapersons after a meeting to review the scenario following the Government order that was released to the media on Sunday.
The IOA, crying foul because of the “infringement of its rights” as per the Olympic Charter, has sent the Ministry's letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
“We have also written to all International Federations (IFs) in support of NSFs, which will continue to reject any form of interference and adhere to a transparent election process as per their constitutions. The IOA has asked all NSFs not to take any step to amend their constitution to include the Ministry's directive as this would leave them seriously vulnerable to disqualification,” IOA President Suresh Kalmadi and Secretary-General Randhir Singh said in a joint statement.
The IOA said the timing of the order had come as a surprise. “We were expecting it, but the timing has amazed us. The Coordination Commission (CoCom of the Commonwealth Games) is here (whose meeting started on Monday) and the Commonwealth Games are just 153 days away. At this juncture, the Sports Ministry is sending this draconian letter!” said Kalmadi, adding that the focus now should be on winning medals in the mega event.
The IOA chief said there was total transparency in NSFs as far as financial transactions and selection of teams were concerned. He asserted that the elections of these bodies were conducted in a free and fair manner as per their respective constitutions.
Contesting the Ministry's order which prohibited the NSFs not complying with the directive from selecting and sending Indian teams for international competitions, the federation office-bearers said the Government did not have the authority to do it as the IOA and NSFs were the only bodies authorised to enter teams.
Kalmadi said the IOA Executive Committee would meet on May 18 to take a decision on the issue. The IOA was also planning to convene its General Assembly soon.
Randhir, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said it was a serious issue which infringed on the working of a National Olympic Committee.
A Senior Vice-President in IOA and the Archery Association of India (AAI) President, V.K. Malhotra, said that in its war against the NSFs the Ministry denying facilities to sportspersons would affect the athletes.
K.P. Singh Deo, President of the Rowing Federation of India, said the Ministry would not enhance the pride of the country by its latest move. He asked why the issue was not mentioned in any of the Houses when Parliament was in session and why Parliament was not informed about it.
Kalmadi said the Sports Ministry had accepted the autonomy of the NSFs and it was on record in the Rajya Sabha.
Jagdish Tytler, President of the Judo Federation of India, slammed Sports Minister M.S. Gill. “This is a bad service to sports… Time will come when he will have to take back his words,” he said.
Several members ridiculed the Ministry specifying an age limit (70 years) for the NSFs office-bearers. “Charity begins at home. So, he (Sports Minister Mr. Gill, who is 74) should resign first,” Hockey India Secretary-General Narinder Batra said.
They said the only thing the Ministry could achieve by implementing the order was to stop the IOA and NSFs from getting financial assistance.
Badminton Association of India President, V.K. Verma, said when India was preparing to bid for a Super Series event, such developments would hamper its chances.
Verma is one of the federation office-bearers who has exceeded/completed the stipulated term. Among the others are Kalmadi, Randhir Singh, Tytler, Malhotra and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (cycling).