Cash awards to CWG medalists: Step-motherly treatment to UP’s bahu?

A controversy has erupted over the entitlement of cash award to UP’s ‘bahu’ Seema Punia who won a silver medal in discus throw in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in Australia.

sports Updated: Apr 26, 2018 16:59 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Cash awards,CWG,UP Athletics Association
A file photo showing Seema Punia collecting a cheque from SP chief Akhilesh Yadav on winning a silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.(File Photo)

A controversy has erupted over the entitlement of cash award to UP’s ‘bahu’ Seema Punia who won a silver medal in discus throw in the recently-concluded Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast in Australia.

The Uttar Pradesh Sports Directorate is still unsure of giving cash award of Rs 30 lakh to Seema who won the medal with the best throw of 60.41 metres.

Though Seema hails from Sonipat in Haryana, she has been winning medals for UP since 2011 after she got married to Olympian athlete Ankush Punia of Meerut.

She represented UP at the trials for the CWG and set up a new record at the Fed Cup Championship in Patiala.

In 2016-17, she was given state government’s highest sports award Rani Laxmi Bai and Rs 3.11 lakh before being given Rs 50 lakh for winning gold at the 2014 Asian Games.

Secretary, Uttar Pradesh Olympic Association, Anandeshwar Pandey claimed that as per the list of the Indian Olympic Association, Seema represented Haryana in the Indian contingent at the Gold Coast event.

“How can an athlete get cash awards from two different governments? I will recommend her name for the award if she gives an undertaking that she would not receive any cash award from Haryana government,” said Pandey.

“There is no problem in giving her name for the cash award if UP Athletics Association as well as the Athletics Federation of India issue letters to prove her credentials for UP,” he added.

Secretary of UP Athletics Association PK Srivastava said, “It is ridiculous even to think of ignoring Seema’s success for the state. She is again representing UP at the final trials for the Asian Games in June”

During the Rani Laxmi Bai award ceremony in 2016, the website of UP Sports Directorate read: “She (Seema) won gold medal in 49th National Athletics Championship in 2009 and won a silver in 50th National Athletics Championship in 2010 making UP and the country proud.”

Her husband and personal coach Ankush also expressed surprise over the reports that there were plans to ignore Seema for the award. “We will lodge a complaint with the CM in this regard. If nothing is done, we will move the court,” he said.

“How can somebody ignore Seema for cash award at a time when she is continuously winning medals for the state? If she was not a part of UP in 2014 Asian Games, why was she given cash award by the sports directorate? Can a policy keep changing just to ignore the success of somebody in the state? She has already applied for the job and her application is pending with the state government since 2015. In such a scenario, her claim would have been rejected at that time,” said Ankush.

Former director, sports, Vijay Singh Chauhan said it was a matter of dispute but questioned the state government’s policy under which the medallists of the 2016 Rio Olympics like PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik and Dipa Karmakar were given cash awards by the government.

“If there are some issues about Punia’s credentials, why the 2016 Olympics sportswomen were given cash awards by the UP government? This money should have been distributed among the UP sportspersons,” said Chauhan, also known as the Iron Man of Asia for setting up a record at the Asian track and field event.

Among the 11 athletes who represented UP at the Gold Coast Games, gold medallist shooter Jitu Rai as well as silver medallist boxer Satish Kumar Yadav from Bulandsahr have been representing Army Sports Institute at the nationals, and barring once, Rai never played for the state. Same is the case with bronze medallist shooter Ravi Kumar of Meerut as he too never played for UP at the nationals.

As per the government policy, gold medallist lifter Punam Yadav of Varanasi and Jitu Rai will be given Rs 50 lakh each, whereas Satish Kumar Yadav will be richer by Rs 30 lakh each. Ravi Kumar is entitled for Rs 15 lakh award.

Besides, Ashish Kumar (gymnastics), Lalit Upadhyay (men’s hockey), Vandana Kataria (women’s hockey), Mohd Asab (shooting), Seema Tomar (shooting) and Vandana Gupta (weightlifting) will be given Rs 5 lakh each as a token of appreciation.

First Published: Apr 26, 2018 16:59 IST