NEW DELHI: In what has now developed into a full-blown confrontation with the Union Government, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Tuesday unanimously rejected the 2001 guidelines issued by the Sports Ministry including the amended version circulated on May 1.
At its Special General body meeting held at the Olympic Bhawan, the IOA resolved that no steps would be initiated by either the IOA or the National Sports Federations (NSFs) to amend their constitutions to incorporate any of the guidelines.
Though this was merely a re-iteration of the stand announced by the IOA President, Suresh Kalmadi, immediately after the Government move, the IOA and the federations seemed to have braced themselves for a long haul on the issue.
The IOA claimed in a release that the meeting was held in a transparent manner in the presence of a large number of mediapersons but there was no intimation to the media that the meeting would be open to reporters.
No press conference was also scheduled and none held, the second time since the controversy broke that the top officials of the IOA have evaded questions from the media.
Kalmadi said the autonomy of the IOA and the NSFs could not be eroded. He said that the Olympic Charter gave the responsibility of fixing the tenure of office-bearers to the National Olympic Committees (NOC).
He also wanted to clear the impression being created that the IOA and the NSFs were wasting public money while in fact the amounts being shown as grants to them were for the training of elite athletes. “We get a pittance from the Ministry,” Kalmadi said.
The IOA Secretary-General, Randhir Singh, who is also the IOC member in India, said if the Ministry continued to insist on imposing the guidelines on the IOA and the federations, India could face the embarrassment of being left out from the Olympic Movement.
Randhir was authorised by the house to deal with the autonomy matter both with the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA). The IOA thanked both organisations for their support.
Tarlochan Singh, MP, pointed out that the ministry had been wrongly projecting that Parliament had backed the decision to impose the tenure guidelines.
“During a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the working of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports on April 22, 2010, just two of the 21 members made any mention of tenures of office-bearers of National Sports Federations. To say that Parliament was seized of the issue is to paint a false picture,” he said. He had participated in the Rajya Sabha discussion.
IOA Senior Vice-President Vijay Kumar Malhotra termed the ministry's decision draconian and pointed out the guidelines issued in 1975 were drafted during the days of Emergency. He also said that it was wrong on the part of the ministry to suggest that non-compliance with the guidelines would lead to the National Sports Federations losing the right to select Indian teams.
Cycling Federation of India President Mr. Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, MP, who criticised the ‘dictatorial' ways of Kalmadi in picking his favourites for positions in the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, said that this could be a long-drawn fight and the members would have to be ready to face harassment by a number of Government agencies.
The meeting resolved that the IOA and the NSFs would decline to accept the guidelines issued in August, 2001 and amended on May 1, 2010, to protect their autonomy in accordance with the Olympic Charter and International Federations' statutes;
That they would propose to the Government to appoint its own officials to disburse camp allowances and board and lodging expenses for training of athletes in National camps;
That all NSFs would set up Athletes's Commission to follow the practice of their respective IFs; That the selection of National teams was being done by a panel comprising ex-internationals including Arjuna awardees and the NSFs would continue to accept the presence of Government observer during such selections.