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Rift widens between athletes and Haryana government over prize money

Rift widens between athletes and Haryana government over prize money

Md Imtiaz

Published: 26 Jun 2019 12:42 PM GMT
The rift continues to widen between Haryana's medal-winning athletes and the Manohar Lal Khattar government. In a recent development, athletes from the state hit out at the government for what they feel as constant disrespect towards the sports fraternity. The Haryana government freshly drew flak after they called off a programme on 24th June, which was proposed to felicitate the athletes formally. In fact, 3,000 athletes from the state were to be honoured at this ceremony with cash rewards worth Rs 90 crore. The government on Tuesday announced that the money would be transferred to the respective bank accounts of the athletes. The government argued that if five minutes are taken to honour a single player, then it would take 15,000 minutes to honour 3,000 of them and it was not possible to honour so many players in one day. Further, the government also announced a cut in the prize money of the medal-winning athletes. The athletes, who won medals in last year’s Asian Games as well as the Commonwealth Games, received reduced prize money owing to more than one victories at international events in the same financial year. The deduction in the prize money came in accordance with the new sports policy. The new sports policy states,
“In case a sportsperson wins more than one medal during a financial year, he/she will receive full award money for the highest medal and at 50 per cent of the award money for the second and subsequent medals.”
It implies that if a player wins a medal in a world championship in the same year as Olympics or Asian Games/CWG, the medal in the higher category will alone be given the full cash prize. Athletes from the state -- world number one wrestler and Asian Games champion Bajrang Punia and Asian Games champion Vinesh Phogat got reduced prize money. Taking to Twitter on Wednesday, Bajrang Punia, the gold medallist at the 2018 Asian Games, said
"The youths from Haryana have given such splendid medals to the state. Even if the state is a bit small, athletes from the state have made India proud all over the world. Their morale should not be broken by cutting down the prize money given to them. I urge the Haryana government to rethink on the decision."
https://twitter.com/BajrangPunia/status/1143455977087406081 Joining the bandwagon, Gold medalist wrestler at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Vinesh Phogat voiced her discontent against Haryana Sports Minister Anil Vij, saying "Dear sir, it seems like you had decided five years ago when you came to power that neither you will leave any athlete in Haryana, nor their respect. Be it a small or a big athlete, none of the athletes is happy with your policies."
https://twitter.com/Phogat_Vinesh/status/1143474765987848192 In her second tweet, she alleged Vij of disrespect towards the athletes. "Every time you try to disrespect the athlete. I have never such government which disrespects athletes in Haryana. I want to ask the government how many athletes have been given the prize money or have been given job," she tweeted. Haryana athletes won one-third -- 22 of 66 -- medals at the CWG held in Australia last year. In the Asian Games held in Indonesia, they accounted for 17 medals out of India's 61 medals. Wrestlers Punia and Phogat, javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra had clinched gold medals. In an interview with
The Indian Express
, Phogat said: “As a player, we prepare the same for every event, and it takes the same effort to win medal whether it be Olympics, World Championship or Asian Games or Commonwealth Games. How can the Haryana government term an event higher or lower and give the players reduced prize money for the second event in the same year? When we contacted the sports department officials today, we were told that the Rs 75 lakh deduction from the Rs 3 crore prize money of Asian Games is for the deduction for the prize money of Rs 1.5 crore given in CWG as we have now won Asian Games medal. Is it a crime to win medals in two events? Also, as per the sports policy, the cash prize for the youth/cadet category have also been stopped. They have also not informed or given us any jobs for winning medals in CWG/Asian Games.”
On Wednesday morning, Anij Vij, responded to Punia and Phogat's tweet saying they have never disrespected sportspersons. "On the basis of sports policy prize money has been distributed. If there is some discrepancy, they can speak to the department. We have never disrespected our sportspersons," he said to ANI. https://twitter.com/ANI/status/1143762130887413760

 Haryana's long-drawn rift with athletes

The tiny state of Haryana has been an athlete factory for India. The medal tally of the state is higher than the combined haul of India's other states, which has earned it the reputation of India's medal magnet, particularly in the discipline of wrestling. Despite being honoured with such accolades, athletes often battle with administrative apathy of the government. Last year, the state government had asked all the athletes to give 33 per cent of their income to Haryana State Sports Council for development of sports. After severe criticism, the Khattar government had to take down such a clause. But the apathy continues to haunt the athletes. Manu Bhaker, the Youth Olympics gold medallist in 2018, had criticised the government in January this year over a promise of a cash prize announced by the sports department. The 16-year-old had earlier lashed out at the government, saying someone in the government has been playing games with the prize money that was announced for the Youth Olympics medal winners from the state. Although sports remain a significant aspect of the Haryana's social and economic framework, the government has time and again proved that they are yet to look at it with the seriousness sportspersons believe they ought to.
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