India's national hockey players have found a supporter in Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who said the state government is willing to bear the expenses of their salaries and incentives.
Chouhan, while reviewing the working of the sports department Monday, said the state government would speak to Hockey India (HI) on the matter.
"The state government would take necessary steps in the interest of hockey. We would bear the expenses of players who are demanding their salaries and incentives. We would contact Hockey India to finalise the formalities," Chouhan said.
"They (players) play for the country and they should be paid."
Chouhan's political opponent Digvijay Singh has also supported the demands of the players, who are protesting against non-payment of their dues and bonuses.
"The demands of the players are fully justified and something should be done to improve the falling standards of Indian hockey," Singh said at Indore.
"Hockey players get only a pittance while cricketers make crores (of Rupees).
"The match fees of the players should be increased and they should also be provided with better facilities," the Congress general secretary said.
Former hockey players from Bhopal have also voiced their anger, saying the national federation is not concerned about the players.
Olympian Aslam Sher Khan said: "What is the use of a federation like Hockey India, if it is not accountable to the team. The players are paid nominal amount and major part of the federation's budget is spent on the officials."
"The players should be paid substantially and measures should be taken to improve the standards of Indian hockey."
Khan welcomed Chouhan's stand on the issue and said this would lift the team's morale.
"In 1974, the Punjab government had extended a similar support to hockey after which India won the World Cup in 1975."
Another Olympian from the city Jalaluddin Rizvi said: "Their demands are right, but they should not have backtracked after reaching a settlement with the HI officials. It is not fair.
"This reflects that the players are playing into the hands of some politicians whose aim is to finish Indian hockey."
International Umpire Shakeel Qureshi, who is also in-charge of umpires' committee in HI, however, felt the players should have waited for the right time to voice their discontent.
"Their demands are justified but they have raised the issue at a wrong time. The players should improve their performance on field. Remember, we even failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics."