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Protests force Haryana to halt ‘Tughlaki’ order asking for 33% of sportspersons’ earnings

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In April too there was trouble as Commonwealth Games medallists protested against a “cut” on cash prize for athletes who represent Army, Railways in national competitions.

Chandigarh: A Haryana notification calling for sportspersons from the state to deposit 33 per cent of their income with the government was put on hold Friday after athletes spoke out in protest.

“I have asked for the relevant file of the 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,” Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar tweeted Friday evening.

The sports department notification hit headlines Friday but was issued on April 30.

This is the second time in two months that the Khattar government has angered athletes in the state.

On 26 April, the sports department was forced to cancel an award function for Commonwealth Games medallists after they threatened to boycott the ceremony. The medallists were protesting against the department imposing a “cut” on the cash prize for those Haryana athletes who represent other organisations such as the Army and the Railways in national competitions.

The latest notification, issued by Ashok Khemka, principal secretary of the Sports and Youth Affairs Department, was panned by prominent athletes from the state, who have termed the move as being “bizarre” and “bent upon destroying sports in Haryana”.

The state has a reputation of having a robust policy in promoting athletes. Apart from according some of the highest prize money to meritorious athletes, it has handed out government jobs to most of them.

The contentious notification

The 30 April notification was applicable to Haryana athletes, employed with the state government, who participate in professional sports and benefit from commercial endorsements.

It states that athletes will be granted leave without pay for professional tournaments and will have to then deposit a third of their earnings during this period, including from commercial endorsements, with the Haryana State Sports Council. In case a sportsperson is considered on duty during this period (those with prior approval from a competent authority to participate), then the “full income” earned will have to deposited with the council.

The money, the notification states, would be used for the development of sports in the state.

The move will affect a large number of sportspersons employed in the various departments of the state. While the largest numbers are in Haryana police, scores are in the department of rural development and panchayats, education and sports.

Incidentally, sources said, the Haryana sports directorate had no information about the notification nor was the file moved through it. The decision, sources added, had been taken at the level of sports minister Anil Vij and the secretary.

While Vij could not be contacted despite multiple efforts to reach him, Khemka told a television channel Friday that usually government employees are not allowed to take part in commercial endorsements or professional sports but because the “shelf life” of players is short and following a representation received by the government, they were allowed to go in for professional sports and commercial endorsements while being in government employment.

“The notification states that they can retain two thirds of their earning and deposit one third in the Haryana sports development fund,” he said adding that this was in the interest of the players. “This is the unprecedented because the state government is now allowing them to participate in professional events and commercial endorsements,” he said.

Athletes up in arms

The sports world reacted in shock at the move.

Aise afsar se Ram bachaye, jab se khel vibhaag mein aaye hain tab se bina sar-pair ke Tughlaki farmaan jaari kiye ja rahein hain. Haryana ke khel vikaas mein aapka yogdaan shoonya ha kintu ye daawa hai mera iske patan mein aap shat pratishat safal ho rahien hain. Haryana ken naye khiladi bahar palayan kareinge aur sahib ho zimmedar (God save us from such an officer. From the time he has joined the sports department he has been issuing Tughlaqi diktats. Your contribution to sports development in the state is zero but I am sure that your contribution to its fall is cent per cent. Haryana’s players will migrate to other states and you will be responsible),” tweeted wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, an Olympics medallist from the state.

“Does the government even realise how much of hard work a sportsperson puts in? How can they ask for one-third of the income?” wrestler Babita Phogat was quoted saying on TV.

Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar pointed out that most athletes hail from very poor families. “The government should make policies that encourage athletes. I haven’t heard of such a policy anywhere else in the world,” he said.

The opposition Congress too lashed out at the Khattar government. The party MP from Rohtak, Deepinder Hooda, said the Khattar government was “hell bent on destroying Haryana’s acclaimed sports policy and consequent success.”

“The Khattar government in Haryana comes up with bizarre Tughlaki farmans on a daily basis. BJP government in Haryana is in a race to outbid itself in issuance of obnoxiously perverse orders,” party communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said.

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