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Why the wrestlers' protest is a wake-up call for Indian sports

The protest taken up by India's elite wrestlers is not an isolated incident, but rather a reflection of the larger issues facing Indian sports.

Why the wrestlers protest is a wake-up call for Indian sports

Olympian wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat speak at the site of the wrestlers' protest (PTI)


Manisha Malhotra

Updated: 3 May 2023 9:22 AM GMT

In recent years, a plethora of issues related to bad governance in Indian sports have cropped up. Whether it's lack of transparency, favouritism, poor treatment of athletes or issues related to harassment, the problems have persisted for far too long.

One of the latest events to highlight this issue is the ongoing wrestlers' protest, which needs to be seen as a wake-up call for change.

Wrestlers from across the country have been staging a sit-in protest at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, demanding resignation and arrest of the incumbent Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. They have filed an FIR at the Connaught Place Police Station for alleged sexual harassment against women wrestlers, including a minor.

The protest, which resumed on April 13, has gained support from various sports organisations and athletes, including Olympic champions Abhinav Bindra and Neeraj Chopra, Cricket World Cup winner Kapil Dev amongst others.

This protest is not an isolated incident, but rather a reflection of the larger issues facing Indian sports.

The problem within sports federations

The country's sports federations are often criticised for being poorly managed, with allegations of corruption, nepotism, and favouritism. The selection process for national teams and funding for athletes are often opaque, leaving many talented athletes without opportunities.

One of the main issues is the lack of autonomy of the National Sports Federations (NSFs). The federations are supposed to govern and manage their respective sports, but they are often controlled by politicians and bureaucrats who have little or no experience in sports administration. As a result, decisions are often made based on personal interests rather than the welfare of the sport or the athletes.

Another issue is the lack of funding and support for athletes. Despite the government's claims of increasing funding for sports, athletes often struggle to make ends meet. They are expected to cover their own expenses, including training, equipment, and travel, which can be prohibitive for many.

The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these issues, with many athletes eventually calling it a day and looking for other options for make ends meet.

Way forward for Indian sports administration

And this is why the ongoing wrestlers' protest is a wake-up call for change in Indian sports. It highlights the urgent need for transparency, accountability, good governance and the need to create a safe space for athletes - especially women athletes.

The government and sports authorities must take note of the athletes' demands and work towards addressing their concerns. The NSFs must be made more autonomous and accountable, with experienced professionals appointed to oversee their management.

Indian Wrestlers' protests are ongoing protests by top Indian wrestlers against the alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers by the BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh during his tenure as the president of the Wrestling Federation of India

Funding and support for athletes must also be increased, with a focus on ensuring that they have access to the resources they need to compete at the highest level. This includes funding for training, equipment, and travel, as well as financial assistance during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

In conclusion, the wrestling protest is a clear indication that bad governance in Indian sports needs to be addressed urgently. The government and sports authorities must take concrete steps towards ensuring transparency, accountability, and good governance. Only then can India truly become a sporting powerhouse and fulfil the aspirations of its talented athletes.

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