Punjab government is ignoring Chess: Deaf World Champion Malika Handa's mother
The deaf world chess champion, Malika Handa's mother alleges that the Punjab government is ignoring chess and her daughter.
The Deaf World Champion in Chess, Malika Handa, put out a tweet a couple of days back alleging that the Punjab Sports Ministry has denied giving her a government job or cash reward despite all that she has achieved for her state and country.
The tweet took the Indian sporting Twitter by a storm with more than then thousand likes and six thousand retweets.
The Bridge reached out to Malika Handa's mother, Renu Handa, to understand what transpired that day which forced the 26-year-old to tweet such an emotional video.
"First things first, Malika did not go there uninvited. She was called by the Sports Ministry to come, she was promised a job. But when she went there she was told straight on her face that she will not be given any job or cash rewards because she plays in the deaf category. They said they do not have the policy to give jobs under sports quota to deaf players," Malika's said.
"If that is the case, why does not the government notice that Malika has even won a medal in the disabled category? You do give jobs to para-athletes, right?" an agitated Renu asks.
She mentioned that Punjab's Sports Minister, Rana Sodhi, had repeatedly promised Malika a job, but she has not been provided with me.
"We have been approaching the government regarding this matter for since long, and the Sports Minister himself has promised to give Malika a job, but the promise has not been fulfilled. In fact, some people who do not have as my medals as my daughter as were recently provided jobs. This made her excited, and the response she got from the Ministry has left her heartbroken," she said.
Mrs. Handa even went on to state that while other sports are flourishing in Punjab the government is ignoring chess as a whole.
"It is very clear that they do not wish to encourage chess in the state. Other sports are flourishing, no doubt, but how many good chess players have Punjab produced. Malika had recently applied for the Maharaja Ranjit Singh award and she was ignored for that as well, while athletes in other sports who have not achieved as much were honoured. She was ignored just because she plays chess," the mother alleged.
They have even reached out to the central government, but to no avail.
"The central government supports deaf sports, but then their argument is that they cannot support Malika because chess is not a part of the Deaflympics. This is absurd chess was introduced as a part of the Deaflympics in 2019. In fact, Malika even went to compete in Italy at the Deaflympics then," a dejected Renu points out.
She pointed out that the Sports Authority of India does help financially if Malika has to travel someplace to compete.
"The SAI has been of great help and have always ensured that Malika does not miss out on tournaments."
If one thought it was just about the job, you could not be more wrong.
"I have been behind the government to at least provide her with a coach for the past 6-7 years. There is one coach who even knows sign language and is willing to train Malika, but we cannot ask him to train our daughter for free, no? If not a job at least help us with a coach so that her game improves," Renu Handa pleads.
She then resorts to blaming herself for letting her child take up chess.
"It was probably our fault that we let her take up chess. We should have forced her into some other sport," she breaks down during the conversation.
The mother says that she was told many a time by influential people that she should not let her daughter play sports and spend so much on her.
"I have had people come up to me and ask why am I spending so much money and effort on Malika's chess. She will anyways get married, but we stuck by her. I did not know anything about chess but helped her learn openings and whatnot by reading books myself. She grasped everything very quickly and then got better with self-learning."
By this time her agony has turned into desperation. One could sense it through the telephone from thousands of kilometres away.
"It has reached a point where now Malika does not want us to spend money on her game. She tells us it is about time that she will be married, and we should focus our energies there instead of her game. She tells us she will continue playing only if the government supports her. I do not know how she will survive without chess," Renu said.
Just as the conversation is about to end, it again circles back to the Punjab government.
"Media has been of great support to Malika. So has the All India Chess Federation's (AICF) Chief. But, there is a limit to what one can do. My daughter has won seven national tournaments yet she has not received anything. While those from other states who have finished second and third have received the necessary support, Malika has not."