No pension causes heartburns among ex-UP cricketersUpdated: Jul 06, 2020 18:32 IST
In the nine Ranji Trophy matches Hari Daas Bhandari played over four years in the 60s, the Kanpur player earned R5 per match, totalling R45. But more than the money, the “biggest earning” for him was “pride and satisfaction of playing for his state”.
A right-handed batsman and stumper, Bhandari began with a catch and a stumping, besides making two runs in his only innings against Madhya Pradesh at Banaras (now Varanasi). Still, he continued to be backed by his skipper AK Chaturvedi and when he quit in 1960-61, he had 11 catches and eight stumpings to his credit besides scoring 96 runs with 37 being his highest in 14 innings.
“Money was not the issue, it was pride and passion and I enjoyed my four seasons with the UP team with full enthusiasm and excitement,” said Bhandari. “The passion for the game was such then as I used to travel to Lucknow to play Sheesh Mahal Cricket Tournament and for that I used to get trouser, shirt and even shoes from my team-mates.”
Now retired as an executive director from Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL), Bhandari has been a strong voice for the pension to the former cricketers. Now 83, the former junior state selector Bhandari wants that contribution of all 120-odd former cricketers of the state should be recognized by the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association in the form of monthly pension.
“A token amount of R5,000-10,000 as pension to veterans won’t make a big difference to the coffers of the UPCA as they have been getting huge money from the BCCI. They (UPCA) should also copy other state cricket bodies, who have been giving pension to their former cricketers, including those who could play just one match,” said Bhandari.
Only this January in the very second meeting of the Apex Council at Ferozabad, the UPCA had agreed to a pension scheme and Indian Cricketers Association’s representatives in the state --- Ashok Bambi (men’s cricket) and Iti Chaturvedi (women’s cricket) --- were assigned the jobs of finalising the list of genuine beneficiaries.
“Yes, we are waiting for a response from the UPCA and I have been assured to get the things done soon,” Bambi said on Friday. “Have already submitted the list of the beneficiaries to the UPCA and even my suggestions in this regard, but now they are silent over the issue. Even a few among the listed beneficiaries have passed away during the last five months. Financial aid to veteran cricketers in this pandemic COVID19 would be a big help.”
He, however, said that even he told UPCA to give R10,000-20,000 to all such beneficiaries in advance, and the money should be deducted from their accounts when the pension scheme is approved. “If UPCA can R50 lakh to the government’s relief fund it can also give financial help to its veteran heroes. It’s not going to be R1.10 crore a year to run this scheme properly.”
In 2009, UPCA had distributed R50,000 each to veteran cricketers in its maiden endeavor before handing over a similar amount to those beneficiaries as the second installment after a few years, but it never bothered to introduce any pension scheme. “In many states, cricket bodies are giving even pension to their domestic players, who are getting pensions from the BCCI, but here in UP we are struggling for a routine system.”
Women’s cricket representative in UP Chaturvedi said that process to complete the membership with the ICA was on. “Due to the lockdown over the last three months, the scrutiny has been delayed a bit but so far we have identified 37 genuine cricketers, who come under the pension scheme. We are expecting pension for them soon,” said Chaturvedi.
She also said that but so far as many as three cricketers, including Shikha Chatterjee (Kanpur), Kashmira Jain (Lucknow) and Farzana Begum (Kanpur) have been given one-time benefit by the ICA.
Former Ranji cricketer and selector Neeru Kapoor was furious over the delay in pension to the veteran cricketers of UP. “I don’t understand the reason behind this delay. “Many of us have been facing financial hardships in this crisis situation and this is the right time when UPCA should given financial support to its former cricketers,” said Kapoor.
No one from the UPCA, including secretary Yudhveer Singh could come on record to say on the issue, but insiders confirm that process is on and soon things would be finalised.