Haryana cancels award function for medallists, athletes welcome move
(Eds: Incorporating athletes' reactions)
New Delhi/Chandigarh, Apr 25 (PTI) Wrestlers Vinesh Phogat and boxer Manoj Kumar today welcomed the Haryana government's decision to cancel the felicitation function for the state's Commonwealth Games medal winners after being threatened with a boycott by top athletes over a proposed cut in prize money.
The function was to be held in Panchkula tomorrow but athletes such as Phogat, Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and Manoj had refused to attend it, citing the cut proposed for athletes employed with units like the Railways and Services. While Phogat and Chopra had won gold medals, Manoj claimed a bronze in the Gold Coast event.
"We have decided to cancel tomorrow's programme. We will be holding a meeting soon wherein we will review the existing policy. Under our sports policy, it is quite clear that we have to give award money to those who have played from the state," Haryana Sports Minister Anil Vij told PTI.
"There is no provision in the present policy to give award to those who have represented other bodies like Railways or the Army," he added.
Vij said even the reduced prize money being planned for the likes of Phogat (Railways) and Chopra (Services) is a departure from the past provision of not awarding athletes belonging to other units.
"...We gave relaxation in our policy and considered even those players who play for bodies like Railways, lest they feel that they got any less than what their counterparts who represent the state get.
"Everyone is aware that Haryana gives highest award money. What we had said is that we will deduct the prize money that they get from their employer, in case of any, from the total reward money," Vij explained.
Vij said that sportspersons' objection to the government plan is not justified.
"If we don't go for deduction of this amount, then those who played from Haryana, their reward money will be reduced whereas those who played from other bodies, they will take Rs one crore, let's say from Railways as well as get Rs 1.5 crore from the Haryana government. We will be holding a meeting. We will review the existing policy," he said.
Phogat, however, said they have been fighting not for money but due recognition.
"It is a welcome step that the Haryana government has decided to re-look at the issue. We have been fighting for our respect and nothing else. The government should have felt something wrong was happening so it has decided to postpone the function," she said.
"If they give us what we want with open heart we will definitely receive them with pride. Everyone is fighting to take claim for our medal but the fact is we are all Indians in the end. Give us respect with open hearts, that's what we only want," Phogat added.
Manoj echoed similar sentiments.
"An athlete plays for his country. I still haven't got my prize money for 2013 Asian Championships bronze medal from the Haryana government because it said that I play for Railways and not the state and it is not in their policy. But I never had any grudge over that," he said.
"A player can only play. I don't mind whether any government give us money or not. That is their decision. I only play for the country and will continue to do so.
"The Haryana government has postponed the event which means they might rethink. I just hope they come up with a better policy now keeping in mind the athletes' interests."
Preparations for organising the mega awards function at Panchkula had almost been completed.
As per earlier programme, Governor Prof Kaptan Singh Solanki was to honour the medal winners in the presence of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Vij.
Of the 22 CWG medallists from Haryana, 13 represent organisations such as Indian Railways and Army. The Haryana government was to felicitate all the 22 medal winners.
However, controversy broke out after a few of the medal winners threatened boycott if the government didn't withdrew its decision of making the deduction from their prize money.
According to Haryana's sports policy, a CWG gold medallist from the state is to get Rs 1.5 crore, a silver-medallist Rs 75 lakh and a bronze-medallist Rs 50 lakh