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Punjab sports minister Pargat Singh says hearing-impaired chess player Malika Handa hasn’t submitted certificates

Gold medal winner at the World Deaf Chess Championship had taken to social media to slam Punjab government for denial of job and promised cash award.

Written by Pratyush Raj | New Delhi |
Updated: January 5, 2022 7:44:19 am
malika hanndaMalika Handa is a hearing-impaired chess player from Jalandhar, Punjab. (Twitter/Malika Handa)

Malika Handa, a hearing-impaired chess player from Jalandhar, has alleged that the Punjab government has gone back on its promise of a cash award after she won medals at international competitions.

Malika, who won the gold medal at the World Deaf Chess Championship and a silver medal at the Asian Championship in 2017, was promised a cash award of Rs 11 lakh by then sports minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi in September last year.

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The announcement came after Malika, accompanied by family members, met then Punjab sports director DPS Kharbanda seeking a job and financial assistance.

The sports director took up her case with the sports and youth services minister and said that he would issue her a sports gradation ‘C’ category certificate, after which she could apply for various jobs.

It would have allowed Malika to apply for jobs in the four per cent reservation quota for specially-abled persons. There is a three per cent sports quota in jobs, out of which one per cent is reserved for women athletes.

Four months down the line, she says she hasn’t received the prize money promised to her by the state government.

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On Sunday, Malika had tweeted that she met current Punjab sports minister Pargat Singh on December 31, who told her that the state government couldn’t give her a job and cash awards as they do not have a policy for deaf sportspersons.

“I’m feeling hurt,” Malika said in the tweet, with which she posted a video of herself expressing anger while showing her medals and awards.

“I am only asking why it was announced. They fooled me… not caring about deaf persons’ sports. Why is Punjab govt doing this ?” she added.

Malika’s mother, Renu Handa, too expressed her displeasure while speaking to The Indian Express. “We were assured of a cash reward by multiple government officials, but are still waiting for it.”

Pargat clarifies

The Indian Express reached out to Pargat, who denied the allegations and said the player is yet to submit relevant documents.

“She and her family members met me on Friday, and I told her to come to Chandigarh on Monday and submit her documents, but she didn’t turn up,” Pargat said.

“The hearing-impaired players are not covered directly under the state government’s sports policy for jobs and cash awards. Therefore, I have spoken to the chief minister (Charanjit Singh Chani) to make it a special case.

“Instead of bringing her certificates, she is slamming us on Twitter, which is very unfortunate. I specifically told her to submit her certificates because we’ll need to verify it. Today was our cabinet meeting. I was trying to get it done today itself. But to represent her case in front of the cabinet, I needed her documents. Her mother told the director of sports that they will submit the documents on Tuesday, but they again didn’t turn up,” he added.

Pargat also said that the policy couldn’t be changed overnight. “There is a system in place; we have to follow it. We have drafted her case very carefully. You can’t change a policy overnight; it takes time. In future, we’ll make policies for the hearing-impaired players where we can give them more money so that they can live their life comfortably.”

“I have no idea why they have created such a fuss. I’ve been a sportsperson myself, and I always want athlete’s welfare,” he said.

Telangana minister to help Malika

Telangana Information Technology minister KT Rama Rao has now promised support for Malika.

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“Please pass on the young champion’s details if you can. I will contribute in my personal capacity,” he tweeted.

Rama Rao also requested Telangana sports minister V Srinivas Goud to come up with a policy for differently-abled champions.

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