THE HARYANA government’s decision of rewarding medal winners from the state in the recent Commonwealth Games by deducting the prize money that they get from their employer, in case of any, from the total reward money has not gone down well with the medal winners. A total of 13 of the the 22 sportspersons from Haryana represent central government organizations such as Indian Railways and Indian Army.
The Haryana government will felicitate all the 22 medal winners at a state-level function in Panchkula on April 26. A few of the medal winners have hinted at boycotting the state-level function if Haryana government doesn’t withdraw its decision of making the deduction from the prize money. This include gold medalists Vinesh Phogat (Women’s free style), Bajrang Punia (men’s freestyle wrestling 65 Kg) and bronze medallist Manoj Kumar apart from some other players.
“Yeh players ke sammaan ki bat hai and paise ki ladhai nahi hai (This is about prestige of players and not about money). If a players is representing Indian Railways or Indian Army, it is not his mistake. This act of deducting the prize money makes our achievement inferior as compared to other players. When we win medals, the Haryana government takes pride in our accomplishments yet we are given this treatment. Khel kiska hai? Haryana ka ya India ka ya Government ka? If this is the case, we will boycott the state-level function,” said 23-year-old wrestler Vinesh Phogat who won the gold medal in women’s freestyle wrestling in 50 Kg category in Australia and is posted as Senior Clerk with Indian Railways in Delhi.
Bajrang Punia, who won a silver medal in Asian Games in 2014 and was awarded the full prize money at that time, believes that it will set a wrong precedent for younger players. “We respect the government’s decision to award the medal winners. But why this partial treatment? The state government honoured Rio Olympics bronze medallist wrestler Sakshi Malik, who works in Railways, by giving her the full prize money on the day of her arrival in Delhi. I was also given full prize money after my silver medal in 2014 Asian Games. Young players ko kya motivation milegi? Kal ko sarkar kahegi salary bhi katenge (What motivation will young players derive from this? In future, the government can even say that they can cut our salary from Railways),” said the Jhajhar wrestler and 2013 World Championships bronze medallist Punia, who is posted as a TT in Indian Railways in Delhi.
2012 London Olympics bronze medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt has also thrown his weight behind the players. Dutt, who is a DSP with Haryana Police, urged the state government to reconsider their decision. “The Haryana government has always led the way in promoting players and the players should get full prize money. When I won the bronze medal, I too was honoured by other state governments. I urge the Haryana CM and Sports Minister to reconsider this decision,” said Dutt.
Haryana will award Rs 1.5 crore to the gold medal winners, Rs 75 lakh to silver and Rs 50 lakh to bronze medal winners. The state government will also felicitate 16 other players, who represented India in Commonwealth Games in Australia, on April 26.
“This is not even the right for players, who represent other organisations. Yet, we relaxed the sports policy for these players and took decision to award them the cash prize. If a player boycotts the ceremony, we will not give the prize money,” said Anil Vij, Haryana Sports and Youth Affairs Minister.