Facing a strong backlash, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has put on hold a controversial notification issued two months ago asking sportspersons employed with the state government to “deposit one-third of the income earned by them from professional sports or commercial endorsements with the Haryana State Sports Council”.
The notification also said that sportspersons will have to take “leave without pay” to participate in professional sports events. The new norms are applicable to any sportsperson employed with any department of the state government and participates in professional sports or commercial endorsements. According to the government, the funds deposited with the sports council “will be used for the development and welfare of sportspersons” in Haryana.
However, with the notification being severely criticised by several popular sportspersons, Khattar tweeted: “I have asked for the relevant file of Sports Department to be shown to me & the notification dated 30th April to be put on hold till further orders. We are proud of the immense contribution by our sportspersons & I assure them of a just consideration of all issues affecting them.”
The notification was issued by Haryana’s Principal Secretary of Sports and Youths Affairs, Ashok Khemka, on behalf of the Governor. Official sources said Khattar’s approval was obtained for the move but Alok Verma, ADC (Tours) to the Chief Minister, said he did not “remember the date (of approval) off-hand”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Khemka said, “Any athlete who is employed with the Haryana government and wants to play professionally falls under the category. We are asking for only one-third of the income from professional contracts. It’s a concession that we have given to players who want to turn professionals.”
The notification also states that “in case the sportsperson is treated on duty with the prior approval of the competent authority while taking part in professional sports or commercial endorsements, the full income earned by the sportsperson on this account will be deposited with the Haryana State Sports Council”.
Sports Department officers told The Indian Express that a High Court case related to boxer and Haryana Police DySP Vijender Singh, who had turned professional, had led to the notification.
“If you are employed with the state and you want to sell your services to someone else, then you need to pay the state. This is normal and we are asking for just 33 per cent. See Vijender’s example. He went to England to box professionally and he is employed with Haryana Police. He is free to do whatever he wants but now, he has to pay 33 per cent of his professional earnings,” Khemka said.
The notification covers a number of sportspersons in Haryana, including hockey player Sardar Singh, former boxers Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar, and amateur boxers Vikas Yadav and Manoj Kumar. Among the others affected are wrestlers Geeta Phogat, Yogeshwar Dutt, Mausam Khatri and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Sakshi Malik.
“God save us from such officials, who are taking senseless decisions like this. Their contribution to development of sports in Haryana has been zero but I am sure they will play a big role in the decline of sports in the state,” Dutt tweeted. “Now, athletes will move to other states and these officials will be responsible for this.”