Two months after cancelling the state-level function which was meant to honour Commonwealth Games (CWG) medallists in Haryana, the state government has agreed to give them awards without any deduction but has decided not to hold a state-level function to felicitate them. Now, such ‘Samman Samarohas’ will be held in the districts concerned.
Sources said Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar overruled a proposal by Sports Minister Anil Vij and his department for a state-level function. The sports department had proposed a function at the Haryana Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh in which the Governor, the CM and the sports minister may give away cash awards to the medal winners, but the CM did not agree.
When contacted by The Indian Express on Tuesday, Vij said, “Yes, the Chief Minister has taken a decision that the
Haryana won’t hold state-level function to fete CWG medallists functions will be held at district level and the ministers would be assigned to be present there. Anyone from among us will go there to distribute the prizes. As per the CM’s decision, maximum number of sportspersons should be invited to the proposed district-level functions and the awards should be distributed in their (sportspersons’) presence so that they get inspired,” Vij said. “All such players would be given full amount of cash prize without any deduction, something the CM approved recently. All deputy commissioners have been directed to organise functions to honour sportspersons of their respective districts.”
The felicitation ceremony was earlier planned to be held in Panchkula on April 26. But it had to be cancelled because some players opposed the government’s decision in which the admissible prize money to players was to be given after deducting the amount paid to them by the department or agency where they were working. After major criticism from the sportspersons and the opposition, the government has agreed to give them awards without any deductions.
The latest decision to hold functions at district level has invited sharp reactions from the sportspersons.
Wrestler Babita Phogat, who had won silver medal in this year’s CWG, said, “I still remember when I won the silver medal in 2010 Commonwealth Games and ‘Geeta di’ (Geeta Phogat) won the gold medal. The whole village was excited for the state-level function. While most of the players knew ‘Geeta di’, it was a new experience for me as we also met senior wrestlers like Yogeshwar Dutt and other medal winners during the function. The government should consider giving the awards to all the players together. It will be an honour for all the players. Even at the school level, the annual function is held combined for all the classes and when other children cheer a youngster on getting the award, it is a different feeling. A lot of parents of players do not get to see their wards taking part in the games, they want to see them honoured by dignitaries. Seeing their daughter getting the award from Governor or CM is a dream for every parent and such occasions motivate the players.”
This year, 18-year-old Deepak Lather of village Shadipur (Jind) became the youngest Indian weight-lifter to win a medal when he won bronze in the men’s 62 kg on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games. Reacting over the latest decision, his father Bijender Lathar, who owns just one acre land in the village, said, “In 2014, Deepak saw the medal winners being felicitated by the Haryana Governor and CM on television and also posted some clipping of the award ceremony in his room. When he returned to the village after winning the medal, the whole village organised a function to honour him and danced all evening. A lot of our neighbours and relatives were planning to hire taxis and see the award function in Chandigarh even if it meant to borrow money for the taxis.”
Deepak, who was inducted into the Indian Army as JCO (Junior Commissioned Officer) recently, had become the Youth Commonwealth Games champion in 2015, apart from becoming the senior national champion the same year.
2018 CWG gold medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia too termed the move to hold functions at district level as a “backward step”. Punia (23), who won silver in 2014 Glasgow CWG, is currently training in Georgia ahead of the Asian Games. “Apart from being honoured in a respectable state way, such a function also gives a player chance to meet players from other sport and share their stories. And when the players pose for a joint photograph with the Governor or CM in a state-level function, it is like winning a medal. The CWG/Asian Games happen once in four years. Can’t the state government organize two functions once in four years?” questioned Punia, who is a TTE (travelling ticket examiner) with Indian Railways.
Meanwhile, in a press release, the Sports Minister Anil Vij said that the Chief Minister has given “one time” approval to give award money to the CWG medallists without any deduction.