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Government runs short of cash to reward medal rush

Promises of cash awards for winning medals were made too easily. Because the sports ministry knew the list of recipients would not be long enough to prove too costly. Navneet Singh report. Graphics: Show them the money

india Updated: Dec 19, 2010 02:00 IST
Navneet Singh

Promises of cash awards for winning medals were made too easily. Because the sports ministry knew the list of recipients would not be long enough to prove too costly.

But trouble began when Indian athletes put up a never-before performance, hauling in 64 medals from Asian Games and 101 from Commonwealth Games, overshooting the babus' expectations, and the budget.

After shelling out Rs 3 crore to Asiad gold winners, the babus are now scrambling for funds to raise Rs 18-odd crore they have to pay to the Asiad silver and bronze winners and CWG medallists.

Ronjan Sodhi, who won the double trap gold at Guangzhou, has received a cheque of Rs 20 lakh from the ministry. But he said, “So far, there is no information on the money for the team bronze.”

To make up for the shortfall, the ministry is reportedly looking to borrow from the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).

And the money can be returned only after the next Union Budget releases it. Given a chance, the ministry would have sat on the payment issue till the Budget, but it has reportedly received a gentle nudge from none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the Asiad medal-winners met him earlier this month.

"The PM urged the officials to give us our award money promptly. It was extremely encouraging,” said an Asiad gold medal winner on condition of anonymity.

Joint secretary (sports), Injeti Srinivas, said he was hopeful that all pending dues would be cleared soon. “Players should be getting their cash incentives within the next fortnight.”

But the tricky bit is that if the ministry borrows the money from NSDF, there will be hardly anything left for the overseas training and exposure of athletes for the 2012 London Olympics.

“Funds from the NSDF scheme should be released timely to those who have already factored it in their training programmes. Or else, their schedules will suffer,” says ace marksman Samresh Jung.

In fact, between 2001 and 2008, NSDF aided as many as 38 top athletes, including rifle shooter Abhinav Bindra and trap shooter Manavjit Singh Sandhu.