Nearly two months after the Haryana government was forced to cancel a felicitation ceremony that was meant to award Commonwealth Games (CWG) medallists from the state, it has come to light that sports department principal secretary Ashok Khemka had, in April, told the government that ‘deduction from cash award is seen as an insult.”
“Award is an honour to the sportsperson. The deduction was suggested in a meeting (under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister) held on 17-04-2018 behind my back. This (decision to deduct award money) would not have been done if the briefing (by) the officers in the CMO and the Director (sports) was proper,” Khemka had said in an official note to the state government on April 25.
The government had planned a felicitation ceremony on April 26 but it had to cancel that event because of boycott call by some sportspersons. The sportspersons were unhappy as the prize money to them was to be given after deducting the amount paid to them by the department or agency where they are working.
In his note, Khemka had referred a news report that appeared in The Indian Express and one more newspaper which had mentioned that CWG medalists may boycott the state function scheduled on April 26.
“Their grievance is regarding the deduction proposed from the cash award amount which they feel to be humiliation,” Khemka had pointed out in the note.
He further explained that he had spoken to Bhim Chopra (uncle of javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra), wrestler Vinesh Phogat, wrestler Bajrang Punia and Punia’s father to persuade the sportspersons not to boycott the event and to join the state award function.
According to Khemka’s note, Bhim Chopra said that cash deduction from award money was an insult to sportspersons while Vinesh Phogat pointed out that her cash award in a past Junior World event had not been cleared. Vinesh also told Khemka that cash award to Olympic medallist wrestler Sakshi Malik, who is employed with Indian Railways, was not subject to deduction earlier.
“She (Vinesh) graciously like a true sportsperson assured me that she would attend the function and not boycott the same,” Khemka mentioned in the note.
In his note, Khemka said, “The sportspersons take up job for job security and to receive special sports training. Deduction from cash award is seen as an insult. Award is the sportspersons’ pride and confers rational recognition. It would be a great moral booster for higher achievements in important forthcoming events. I recommend all CWG medallists from Haryana but playing for Indian Railways, Indian Army or other central organisations to be given cash awards without deduction.”
The note was sent to the Haryana Sports and Youth Affairs Department Minister Anil Vij on April 25. Vij, same day, forwarded the letter to the Chief Minister office. ADC to the Chief Minister, Alok Verma, who looks after sports department in the Chief Minister Office, said on Wednesday that he has not seen the file yet. “I will get it checked tomorrow,” Verma told The Indian Express. The then director of the sports department Jagdeep Singh was not available for comments.
Anil Vij had recently said he would prepare a file and send to the Chief Minister for approval to give cash prizes to 22 medallists without any deduction.
Meanwhile, London Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt said senior players would soon meet Haryana CM over the issue. “Whatever has been happening for the last three months has set a wrong example. Whether it is regarding deduction in cash awards or the decision of taking 33 per cent from the Haryana government’s player endorsement fees. Nothing should be done without consulting the players and medal winners. It was good that Haryana CM put the notification regarding 33 per cent of endorsement money to be given to Sports Council on hold. Regarding the cash awards deduction issue also, senior players are ready to meet the CM and discuss with him. It is not about this year’s CWG or Asian Games. It is also about future medal winners and that’s why we are protesting about the deduction,” said Dutt, who was in Chandigarh for a function.