On Wednesday, as Harsha Chhina Ucha Kila village resident Arpinder Singh won the gold medal in the triple jump event in Asian Games in Indonesia, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh tweeted, “It is a proud moment for all Punjabis as our boy from Amritsar, Arpinder Singh, clinched the gold medal in the Men’s Triple Jump category at #AsianGames2018. Proud of you! Keep it up”.
However, Arpinder’s family is not impressed.
In 2015, the 25-year-old had opted to compete for Haryana, which offered a better cash reward and jobs to sportspersons. But here too, he had to face disappointment. This year, when Arpinder applied for the Independence Day cash rewards for international competitors in Haryana, he learnt he was not elgible due to his Punjab origins. His family is now left wondering which state will consider him its “own” after his historic victory.
“Arpinder has won 14 nationals gold medals while playing for Punjab. When he won the bronze in CWG in 2014, he hoped to get a DSP post or a Category A job. Haryana offered a higher cash reward to participating players and here in Punjab, he got Rs 6 lakh. As a retired havildar from Army, I get a pension of Rs 12,000. We mortgaged our gold jewellery to make Arpinder train. When he chose to play for Haryana, it was heart-breaking for us. It was a different feeling when he played for the state where he was born and won medals, getting reward and recognition,” Arpinder’s 63-year-old father Jagbir Singh says.
Arpinder first shot into the limelight when he broke the national record with a jump of 17.17 metres in the nationals at Lucknow in 2014 before winning the triple jump bronze at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The following year saw Singh making the switch to Haryana. While he has a job with ONGC, the athlete still represents Haryana at the national level. Singh’s name was cut off from the list of international medal winners eligible for cash awards to be given on this year’s Independence Day functions as Haryana’s Sports Department termed him a non-Haryana domicile athlete.
“Whatever money Arpinder earned from ONGC or through sports ministry, he spent on training and also helping the family to build a new three-room house in the village. Before the Asian Games too, he got to know about the rejection of cash awards from Haryana. He was disappointed. But this gold medal belongs to Arpinder’s hard work. Players in sports like cricket are given better jobs. The state should have a uniform sports policy,” says Jagbir Singh.
While Haryana has amended its 2015 sports policy, making more than 13 categories with weightage given to events like Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, Punjab players are still awaiting for a new sports policy.
“The level of competition in some sports in CWG is higher than Asian Games and some sports see competition of the Olympics level in Asian Games. Arpinder won bronze in CWG and it was a historic medal for India in an event where countries like England, Canada, South Africa compete. His gold medal in Asian Games has also come after more than three decades in triple jump event. The state should honour and care about the such athletes too,” says S S Pannu, Arpinder’s coach.