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Haryana CM forgets PV Sindhu's full name and home state; India's unique model of funding after win continues

The CM's mistake reveals apathy, there is more than apathy that keeps India at 68th place in the medal winners tally.

Silver medalist PV Sindhu and bronze medalist Sakshi Malik – could their prize money have been utilised better?

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar forgot Olympic silver medalist PV Sindhu’s full name and mistook her home state to be Karnataka, while addressing a gathering that had collected to give bronze medalist Sakshi Malik a warm welcome as she returned to Haryana. On Wednesday, as Sakshi reached her home state, a grand felicitation was arranged, where she was handed a cheque of Rs. 2.5 crore and appointed ambassador of the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ programme.

A reward of Rs. 50 lakh for Sindhu was also announced by the Haryana CM at this event, but it was made evidently clear that the minister’s knowledge about Sindhu did not go beyond the fact that she was going to get the reward.

“It’s a proud moment for us that two of our daughters won medals on Raksha Bandhan festival. Sakshi Malik from Haryana and Sindhu (he asked around for her full name)...PV Sindhu from Karnataka (Sindhu is in fact from Hyderabad),” he said.

The fact that the minister did not know much about Sindhu despite thinking that she had done something worthy of a 50 lakh reward mirrors the apathy of the Indian mass towards non-cricketing athletes. Stars such as Sindhu and Sakshi burn bright every once in four years in the national consciousness, only to flicker and die away once the shine of the medal has worn out.

A model of funding unique to India – when money pours in after a win

However, there is more than apathy that keeps India at 68th place in the medal winners’ tally.

Sindhu has already been promised Rs. 13 crores from various sources. Sakshi has been promised Rs. 6 crores. However, it is natural to wonder whether this system of rewarding medal winners, though well intentioned, is really meant to have an effect on the state of Indian sports. Is it not more designed for some people to bask in the medalist’s glory?

If this same reward money had been handed out to the 118 Indian athletes before Rio 2016, could we have had more joy now?

This model of funding is unique to India – where there is no money when athletes need it the most, but money pours in after a win. A total of Rs. 17.1 crore was spent on the Indian athletes by way of the Sports Ministry’s TOP (Target Olympic Podium) scheme before Rio 2016, an amount less than the prize money being showered on Sindhu and Sakshi.

Great Britain, in contrast, spent approximately $1 million behind every athlete competing at Rio 2016 – roughly four times the amount spent on each individual Indian athlete at the Games. GBR have won a total of 67 medals at Rio 2016, beating China to second place behind USA in the final standings.

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