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Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

Haryana athletes angry at prize money being halved by state

As per the amended policy, a sportsperson winning more than one medal in a year will receive 100 per cent cash award for the “highest” medal, 50 per cent for the “second highest” medal and subsequent medals.

other-sports Updated: Jun 27, 2019 11:39 IST
Sunil Rahar
Sunil Rahar
File photo of Vinesh Phogat.
File photo of Vinesh Phogat.(AFP)

Vinesh Phogat is distraught. As the first anniversary of her gold medal-winning performance at the Jakarta Asian Games approaches, the Haryana wrestler is grappling with the state government “to get the prize money due to me for last year’s performance”.

The state government had in September 2018 revised its prize money policy for athletes winning multiple medals in a calendar year. As per the amended policy, a sportsperson winning more than one medal in a year will receive 100 per cent cash award for the “highest” medal, 50 per cent for the “second highest” medal and subsequent medals.

Phogat had won the Commonwealth Games gold in May for which she was entitled to a cash award of ~1.5 crore (For CWG, the cash award policy is: gold—~1.5 crore, silver—~75 lakh, bronze—~50 lakh).

Months later she became the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold at the Asian Games, which entitled her to ~3 crore in prize money (For Asian Games, the policy is: gold—~3 crore, silver—~2 crore, bronze—~1 crore).

Phogat said over phone from Lucknow that only ~2.25 crore in prize money had been deposited in her account for her Asian Games medal and ~75 lakh had been deducted from the ~1.5 crore Commonwealth Games prize money she had received earlier.

Since the Asian Games is “higher” on the pecking order vis-à-vis the Commonwealth Games, as per the Haryana government policy, she received ~3 crore for the Jakarta gold and 50 per cent of the prize money for the second medal (CWG), which is ~75 lakh. While Phogat says she should have received a total of ~4.5 crore for the CWG and Asian Games medals, she only got ~3.75 crore.

“This is not the way to treat the country’s top sportspersons,” said Phogat. “When I contacted the officials, they said ~75 lakh had been deducted from the ~3 crore Asian Games prize money because as per the new policy, I had been paid more for the Commonwealth Games gold,” said Phogat.

“We never had such problems with the previous government. This government is trying to eliminate sports from the state. I have decided to return the prize money,” said Phogat.

Phogat is not the only one angry.

Wrestler Bajrang Punia, Commonwealth, Asian Games and World Championships gold medallist, too feels shortchanged. “This is step motherly treatment. Haryana is known for its sports culture but the state government thinks we are a liability,” said Bajrang from Sonepat.

Haryana athletes bagged 22 of the 66 medals India won at the Commonwealth Games last year while at the Asian Games, India clinched 61 medals, of which the state’s share was 17.

“The government should do justice to its players. We will not let the government ruin the state’s sports culture,” said Mahavir, Phogat’s coach.

The cancellation of the cash award function twice has infuriated the athletes even more. “After announcing that the ceremony to reward 3,000 sportspersons would be held in Panchkula on June 24, state sports minister Anil Vij said the money will be transferred directly into their accounts,” said an athlete on condition of anonymity.

Last year too, the state government had reportedly cancelled the function after being threatened by Phogat and javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra over a proposed cut in prize money.

A Haryana sports official said on condition of anonymity that the decision to cancel the function was taken to reduce expenditure. “It is not possible to award 3,000 players in a single day. Assuming we give five minutes to each player, it means we spend 11 days distributing awards,” he said.

Vij said that he was surprised at the way “false propaganda was being spread by some people”. “There is no deviation from the rules which have been in force for over two decades. According to rules, in case of more than one medal in a year, 100 per cent award is given for the highest medal; for the second medal it is halved, and that is exactly what we are doing,” he said.

First Published: Jun 27, 2019 11:39 IST

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