Questions over EFI’s functioning on poll eve

July 29: It may not quite have the attention-grabbing quality of the imbroglio currently rocking the hockey fraternity, but the Equestrian Federation of India has been witnessing its own share of odd and arbitrary happenings far from the limelight. Consequently, questions are emerging over its functioning and conduct of its events particularly over the last year or so.

The matter has acquired some urgency with the Asian Games scheduled for November in China this year and the selection process for the national squad leading up to the quadrennial games. At the heart of the matter is the fact that it is the Army that controls administration of the sport, and is seeking to keep its hands on the reins. Historically, the forces ran equestrian sports around the world simply by virtue of the fact that they usually had the largest number of horses and riders.

Over the years though, the picture has been changing and federations around the world have been either forced to relinquish charge or have handed over running of the sport to civilians, who have entered the sport in increasing numbers.

In India, the picture is very similar. The Army dominates the sport on the basis of sheer numbers and by tradition, the Quarter Master General takes over the presidency of the Equestrian Federation of India upon his appointment to the post.

This year too, the incumbent, Lt. Gen. S.S. Kumar is expected to retain his seat, though it is clear that the establishment is starting to feel the heat with reports emerging that the EFI had been enrolling the Army’s dog units ahead of the biennial elections that are slated for Saturday, July 31 as a precautionary measure. There was also an attempt to prop up minister of state for Defence, Pallam Raju against Gen. Kumar, but Raju withdrew his candidature a few days ago, possibly keeping in mind the numbers he would have to go up against in challenging the QMG.

Given this background, questions are beginning emerging about the arbitrary way the sport has been run, particularly over the last year or so. Selection processes have been opaque, events cancelled or rescheduled at the very last minute without participants or officials being kept in the loop.

One such example was at the Delhi Horse Show this April when a dressage event was rescheduled and as many as 60 riders along with their mounts — and concerned officials — were left to guess at what had transpired.
This though is only one example of the way the EFI secretariat has been functioning. In the absence of any regular oversight, other irregularities have been reported including sanctioning and expenditure of funds for coaching camps and Asian Games trials, payments to judges of events from sources not known, a three-fold rise in legal fees incurred by the EFI, violations of technical guidelines as suggested or mandated by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) or arbitrary changes in event schedules. etc.

Not only has the FEI been alienated, the EFI secretariat — in the absence of oversight in the form of the executive committee — has gone ahead and made appointments of unqualified coaches to the two Asian Games teams selected, appointed a rider in one Asian Games team as the coach of the other team, ignored selection criteria for at least one team headed to the Asian Games, neglected to hold camps for the event and neglected to reimburse promised payments.
Illustrating this happy mayhem is the example of a rider who has been claiming the ex-sportsmen’s pension for close to two years after having given in writing to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport that he has retired from active participation and yet seen taking part in a national event this April.

Clearly, much setting of the house is in order as far as the Equestrian Federation of India is concerned.

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