The Haryana government has ordered athletes employed by it to give one-third of their income earned from professional sports or commercial endorsements to the State Sports Council. A government notification has asked sportspersons to deposit 33 per cent of their income to the Council which it says will be used for development of sports in the state. Though Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has said he will review the order, athletes could do without this game of “good taxman-bad taxman” altogether. Even the wiliest of money lenders don’t demand that kind of return on “investment” nor do the most brutal of tax regimes punish money-making with such cynical passion. There’s also a case for moderation when announcing rewards like feudal lords at the outset, rather than diktats of forcible donations.
Olympic sportspersons — of domicile or descent — have brought fame to Haryana in the last two decades. Previous governments have with much fanfare handed out cash prizes, while patting their own backs for being generous. But this attempt to reverse and recover is unprecedented. It’s not uncommon to chalk up where Haryana would stand in medals tallies if it were a nation on its own after each Games.
Subsequently, the government started offering sportspersons jobs in the police department, where many indeed continue to serve after retirement. But to shore up its kitty by demanding a chunk of the earnings’ pie is both dereliction of duty to develop sport from its own purse, as well as an act of arbitrary extortion in lieu of virtually very little ground support offered to athletes in their formative years in terms of infrastructure or sports science.
There is a desperate need to revoke this idea since it is obvious that the state’s book-keepers are keeping a different score and intend to leech off its sportspersons, under the guise of “giving back to sport”. To be sure, no concrete plans of how to use that money are in evidence. The state, hitherto a safety net for its athletes, and admired for its benevolence, should not morph into a devil demanding its dues.