Haryana govt struggles to keep job promises to elite athletes

WIN AND WAIT: Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and wrestler Bajrang Punia, eligible for Haryana Civil Service cadre jobs, are yet to hear from the government.
Representational image.(File)
Representational image.(File)
Updated on Aug 06, 2020 11:24 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By

Haryana is fertile ground when it comesto reaping medals in international sports. The state though seems to be struggling to fulfill its ambitious job plans for international athletes announced two years ago. Many elite sportspersons are waiting for the state to make good its promise under the Haryana Outstanding Sportspersons scheme.

The policy notified on September 5, 2018 says gold medalists at the Asian Games will be appointed Group A (Class-I) officers while silver winners there and Commonwealth Games gold medallists will be given Group A jobs other than Haryana Civil Service and Haryana Police Service.

Many elite athletes have fulfilled their end of the promise—winning medals. The Haryana government though has not been able to keep its word. Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, boxers Amit Panghal and Manoj Kumar, track stars Neeraj Chopra, Manjit Chahal and Seema Antil-Punia and para athletes Amit Saroha and Ekta Byan, all winners at Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, or in both like Chopra did, await their applications to be accepted.

It is not that the elite athlete struggle for a living and hence wait for the proverbial ‘postman’s knock’; they are busy preparing for the postponed Tokyo Olympics. They say they are entitled to these government jobs, which will add to their stature and chart a career path post-retirement. And the government has also relaxed educational qualifications to make it easier for the athletes.

Last year, Haryana government appointed over 30 sportspersons who won silver (team events) and bronze (team, individual) medals at Asian and Commonwealth Games. Those were in the lower Group B and C categories. The gold medallists though continue to wait.

“When the bronze medalists in the same Games have got jobs, what’s the crime the gold-medal winners have done?” asks Manjit Chahal, 800m winner at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games. “After the Asian Games, I got job offers from central government departments, including railways, but didn’t accept as the Haryana government sports policy made us entitled to a Class-I officer’s job. I am still jobless,” says Chahal.

Bajrang Punia, India’s best wrestling medal bet at Tokyo next year, says: “Anyone can evaluate my sporting credentials and see where I stand in the sports policy. I have two Asian and Commonwealth Games medals, including gold in each, and I have won three medals at world championships. I should get my due.”

Punia, who got the Arjuna award in 2015 and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna last year, says: “I’m ready to work in Haryana provided I get a job commensurate with my credentials.”

“Apart from four successive Commonwealth Games (2006 to 2018) medals, I won gold in the 2014 Asian Games, but I haven’t got my due,” says ace discus thrower Seema Antil Punia, who is training in Russia.

Haryana authorities did invite applications from sportspersons in late 2018.

On July 30, the government appointed 2014 Asian Games kabbadi gold medallist Kavita Devi and wrestler Babita Phogat, triple Commonwealth Games medallist and world championships bronze winner, as deputy directors (Group A job) in the state sports department. Kavita though has petitioned the Haryana high court to get the government to give her a Class-I position.

SS Phulia, director of Haryana’s sports and youth affairs department, says applications were vetted and forwarded to the office of the Chief Secretary, Keshni Anand Arora. In June, Arorareportedly asked 13 department heads for details on vacancies, to make sports quota appointments in Group A category.

Some officials feel the problem is of the government’s own making.

“There are many loopholes in the policy for recruiting outstanding sportspersons. It is largely a populist move to suit the political masters. That’s why till date the government which formed the policy (itself) has failed to make appointments of Class 1 officers,” says a senior Haryana bureaucrat, who didn’t wish to be named. “The government should rework the policy… Nobody is against outstanding sportspersons getting Class-I posts, but the issue is with direct appointment to HCS (executive branch),” the official adds.

“Haryana is a sporting powerhouse… so it wouldn’t be possible to accommodate so many players in HCS… The best option is to give them Group A posts,” says a senior HCS officer, who is not authorised to speak with media.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Saurabh Duggal is based in Chandigarh and has over 15 years experience as sports journalist. He writes on Olympic Sports.

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