Top wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat and Yogeshwar Dutt Wednesday slammed the Haryana government for “cut in prize money” due to them for winning international medals, an allegation denied by the state sports minister. The Haryana government was already facing flak for scrapping an award function which was to be held on Monday at Panchkula to give away cash prizes worth Rs 90 crore to about 3,000 sportspersons who have won medals in national and international competitions. Instead of rewarding the sportspersons in public, the state government decided to transfer the cash prize directly into their accounts. Some of the players, however, claimed that they got reduced amount in their accounts. State Sports Minister Anil Vij, however, said that there was no cut in prize money.
“Haryana youth gave medals to the country. Haryana may be a small state, but it has made entire country proud on numerous occasions. Their (players’) morale should not be lowered by cut in prize money. My request to Haryana government is to reconsider this,” Asian champion Punia tweeted. Punia reminded the Haryana government that financial incentive was not the sole concern for a player, but they also expect the government to stand behind them. “When you promise rewards to players, at that time it is not the promise of financial incentives you make to them, but of standing solidly behind them. If you cannot stand on your promise, then in future what expectation a player can have from you,” he wrote.
Phogat, a gold winner in 2018 Asian Games, was more vocal, asking the Haryana government to take back their prize money. “I request the Haryana government that they should take back their prize money…don’t insult players by using them for your politics,” she tweeted. “On one hand our Prime Minister says that country will move ahead if we make progress in sports. And on the other hand is Haryana government which is doing politics in sports and leaving no opportunity to finish the sports,” she alleged. 2012 Olympics bronze medallist Dutt said the “cut in prize money of players is quite unfortunate”.
“They should be told the reason behind the prize cut,” he tweeted. Dutt also said that “players bring laurels and make the state and country proud and their morale should be increased so that they can win more medals in future”. On the allegations of cut in prize money, Vij said, “Haryana gives highest reward money to its players. There has been no cut in prize money. In the citation letter which we have sent to the players, we have mentioned that in case of any discrepancy, they can clarify it from our department.” Vij had earlier explained the reason behind cancelling the award function.
“Nearly 3,000 players were to be honoured and it was not possible to do so in a day. Therefore, we felt rather than postponing the event, it was more appropriate to deposit money into their bank accounts,” he had said. Athletes who have won medals at Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Asian Para Games during the years 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 were to be honoured in the function at Panchkula. The sportspersons of senior and junior categories, who could not be honoured previously due to certain reasons, were also to be honoured at the function.
Last August, the Haryana government had cancelled a function to felicitate the state’s Commonwealth Games medal winners following a possibility of boycott by top athletes over a proposed cut in prize money.