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Crores for movie stars, none for medallists

Players who excelled in National Games await cash awards as politics overshadows sports. Saurabh Duggal reports.

india Updated: Oct 28, 2011 17:37 IST
Saurabh Duggal

The Punjab government has got its sporting priorities all mixed up.

The Akali-BJP coalition has crores of rupees to offer to Bollywood stars who will attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2nd Kabaddi World Cup, but it apparently cannot spare money for Punjab players who shone in the National Games held in December 2002 and February 2007 – when the Congress was in power.

The state government has given the contract for the opening and closing ceremonies to Wizcraft for Rs 5.64 crore. Superstar Shahrukh Khan will be there on the opening day, while Kareena Kapoor or Katrina Kaif will be present at the closing ceremony. However, National Games medallists are yet to get their due, largely due to political reasons.

“We have pleaded the cases of 2002 (Hyderabad) and 2007 (Guwahati) games medallists a number of times, but the state finance department is not ready to clear the file, arguing that the notification for the cash awards was issued after these games - in July 2007,” said a senior sports department official. “The cash awards for the 2011 (Ranchi) games will be given soon,” he added.

Double standards

The Punjab cabinet had approved the cash award policy on November 16, 2006, when the Congress was in power, but the notification was issued in July 2007, when the SAD-BJP government was in charge.

The SAD-led government had honoured medal winners of the Doha Asian Games (held in December 2006) as per this policy on December 8, 2007, to mark chief minister Parkash Singh Badal’s birthday. However, medallists of the 2002 and 2007 National Games were overlooked.

Notably, the 2007 games were held shortly before Parkash Singh Badal took oath as the chief minister., According to deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the sports portfolio, “It is not possible to grant all pending cash awards of events held during the previous Congress government.”

“We will look into their case sympathetically,” Sukhbir said on Thursday on the sidelines of a World Cup-related press conference.

“What sympathy is Sukhbir talking about? We are sportspersons and have won laurels for the state. If he really wants to promote sports, he has to look beyond ruling and opposition parties,” said a player who won medals in the 2002 and 2007 games.

The ball, to say the least, is in the government’s court.

Reality check

Punjab players won 54 gold, 37 silver and 55 bronze medals in the 2002 National Games at Hyderabad; 25 gold, 39 silver and 40 bronze at the 2007 Guwahati games; and 23 gold, 38 silver and 54 bronze at the Ranchi games earlier this year.

The total amount of cash awards to be paid is Rs 2.62 crore, calculated on the basis of the money given to medallists of the 2001 National Games at Ludhiana: Rs 1 lakh (gold), Rs 75,000 (silver) and Rs 50,000 (bronze).